FEW Kicks off with Record Crowd

The 30th annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) has official kicked off with a record-breaking number of ethanol producers from around the world attending. The attendees represent more than 500 producers from 194 facilities representing more than 15 billion gallons of ethanol produced per year. Producers represent traditional and advanced ethanol facilities from the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Norway and Hungary.

30th Annual FEWEthanol enthusiasts may note the significance of the 15 gallons of ethanol produced per year – the amount called for in the first-gen ethanol category of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). A hot topic for the past few months and sure to be a hot topic during FEW, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to finalize the 2014 RFS rules and announced yesterday that they were delaying compliance for 2013 obligated parties until September 30, 2014.

The host of this year’s FEW is Indianapolis, Indiana. “The record level of ethanol producers at this year’s event has created an unprecedented opportunity for industry suppliers and supporters to network with ethanol producers and share their products or services,” said John Nelson, marketing director at BBI International. “We have 520 ethanol producers representing 194 ethanol production facilities already registered and we are expecting that number to grow.”

Drawing nearly 2,000 attendees, there will be at least 25 countries represented, 43 U.S. states represented and six Canadian provinces. During the course of the event, attendees will discuss issues categorized into four tracks:

  • Track 1: Production and Operations
  • Track 2: Leadership and Financial Management
  • Track 3: Coproducts and Product Diversification
  • Track 4: Cellulosic and Advanced Ethanol

DomesticFuel.com will be bringing you coverage of FEW throughout the week.

Edeniq Stresses Cellulosic Ethanol is Here

edeniqAt the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference last week, Steve Rust with Edeniq talked about new processing technology and products taking ethanol to the next level.

“Cellulosic ethanol is for real now,” says Rust. “People need to know that because this is key right now with discussions on the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

rust-headRust says new technology like Edeniq’s PATHWAY Platform is helping to make cellulosic ethanol a reality. “We have a piece of equipment that pre-treats the slurry in a corn ethanol plant and then we add a helper enzyme in it that we co-fermentate cellulosic and corn ethanol in the same fermenter,” he explained. “The nice thing about our technology is that it can be used in any dry mill ethanol plant for them to be able to get cellulosic gallons for a small capitol investment.”

Interview with Steve Rust, Edeniq


2014 CUTC Photo Album

USDA Announces BCAP Funding

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that the USDA will begin accepting applications June 16 through July 14, 2014 from energy facilities interested in receiving forest or agricultural residues to generate clean energy. The support comes through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Agriculture residues, such as corn cobs and stalks, also may qualify as energy-producing feedstock.

BCAP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility. Of the forest residuetotal $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, the 2014 Farm Bill provides up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) each year for matching payments for the harvest and transportation of biomass residues. BCAP matching payments will resume this summer, while crop incentives will begin in 2015. Some matching payments will support the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands. This will be turned into renewable energy while reducing the risk of forest fire.

“Removing dead or diseased trees from forests to use for biomass production creates clean energy while reducing the threat of forest fires and the spread of harmful insects and disease,” said Vilsack. “Increasing our country’s production of biomass energy also helps grow our economy. Food is made in rural America, but fuel is made in rural America, too. This program is yet another USDA investment in expanding markets for agricultural products made in rural places across the country.”

With the 2014 Farm Bill requiring several regulatory updates to BCAP, the resumption of payments for starting and maintaining new sources of biomass (Project Areas) has been deferred until a later date when the regulatory updates occur.

Patriot Hires Leifmark for Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

patriot1Patriot Renewable Fuels has hired Leifmark to plan the first stage of its cellulosic ethanol plant in Illinois. This news release from Patriot says the Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology will be the centerpiece of the platform on the site of Patriot’s 130 million gallon per year grain ethanol plant.

“Leifmark’s analysis will give us a clear picture of the overall technical and economic factors,” says [Gene Griffith, Co-Founder & President of Patriot]. “Their study will provide a sound basis for deciding whether Patriot should go ahead with the engineering phase of the project.”

Paul Kamp, Leifmark co-founding partner in Chicago, says, “Patriot has a history of innovation since its Annawan plant opened in 2008. Adding cellulosic ethanol production is a natural next step.”

At the centerpiece of the technology platform is the Inbicon biomass conversion technology, which Denmark’s DONG Energy began developing in the late 1990s and has demonstrated for over 15,000 hours at its Inbicon Biomass Refinery in Kalundborg, where it typically processes 4.4 tons an hour of wheat straw.

About 1320 tons per day of corn stover will be turned into cellulosic ethanol using the Inbicon’s technology.

REPREVE Launches Biomass Crop System

A North Carolina-based biomass company has launched a brand new system for the production of high-yielding energy crops that can be used for biofuels and other bio-based products.

repreveREPREVE® RENEWABLES LLC is collaborating with farmers and landowners across the country to use the innovative biomass crop system grow giant miscanthus grass on marginal and underutilized land.

REPREVE developed a comprehensive solution to the challenge of planting rhizome-propagated crops like miscanthus on a commercial scale, according to Jeff Wheeler, chief executive officer. “We’re really excited to be launching this year our new ACCU YIELD™ system,” said Wheeler, explaining that they had to develop specialized equipment to extract and process the rhizomes for planting, and then develop a precision planter to accurately and efficiently plant the crop for the highest yields.

ACCUDROP planter in fieldThe system is comprised of three elements: the ACCU LIFTER™ machine lifts rhizomes from a field in such a manner that reduces damage to the rhizomes thus increasing viability; the ACCU PROCESSOR™ unit sizes and cleans rhizomes for improved germination and quality and the ACCU DROP® planter provides optimal row spacing at varying planting densities to ensure a uniform, consistent and rapid stand establishment.

Farmers and landowners in Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Wisconsin are among the first to adopt this inventive approach to diversified land management. “These early adopters of commercial-scale biomass are trailblazers,” Wheeler says. “We provide turnkey solutions to farmers and landowners whereby we plant and harvest the crop. Plus we provide the market for the harvested crop each year.”

The crop is marketed to end users for a variety of renewable products, from biofuel to animal bedding. “Biofuels is one of the markets that we are working to develop,” said Wheeler, who says they have projects ongoing with companies in the advanced cellulosic biofuels arena. “There’s been such great progress made in those technologies and they hold such great promise for energy independence … but the biggest thing the industry needs is consistent and stable policy from Washington.”

Learn more in this interview with Wheeler: Interview with Jeff Wheeler, REPREVE Renewables

EPA and USDA Dispute Corn Stover Study

Two federal agencies joined the biofuels industry last week in seriously questioning the results of a University of Nebraska study that claims negative greenhouse gas emissions impacts in using corn stover for ethanol production.

corn_stover03 Photo: USDOE-NRELA statement by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Liz Purchia about the report noted problems with “hypothetical assumption that 100 percent of corn stover in a field is harvested” which she calls “an extremely unlikely scenario that is inconsistent with recommended agricultural practices. As such, it does not provide useful information relevant to the lifecycle GHG emissions from corn stover ethanol. EPA’s lifecycle analysis assumes up to 50 percent corn stover harvest. EPA selected this assumption based on data in the literature and in consultation with agronomy experts at USDA to reflect current agricultural practices.”

During a forum on climate change right after the study hit the headlines last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also pointed out that it is based on a false premise. “The study started with an assumption about the way corn stover would be removed from the land. The problem with the assumption is no farmer in the country would actually take that much crop residue,” Vilsack said. “It’s not what’s happening on the ground. If you make the wrong assumption, you’re going to come up with the wrong conclusions.”

Work done by Dr. Douglas Karlen with the USDA Agricultural Research Service was cited several times in the UNL study. In response to questions from POET-DSM, which is using corn stover as feedstock at a plant in Iowa, Karlen said the study “makes unrealistic assumptions and uses citations out of context to reinforce the authors’ viewpoint.”

According to Dr. Karlen, the research fails to differentiate between responsible biomass removal and “excessive” biomass removal, projecting a removal rate of approximately 75% across the entire Corn Belt.

“Harvesting 75% of all corn stover produced in the 10 Corn Belt states is unrealistic, far greater than any projections made by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in their projections for developing a sustainable bioenergy industry, and would certainly result in the depletion of soil organic matter.”

Get a Piece of the Renewable Energy Funding Pie

Find Grant Funding Now coverProsperity Consulting, LLC has identified two grant programs from the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) that could make significant investments in alternative forms of energy.

EERE has announced the Biological and Chemical Upgrading for Advanced Biofuels and Products Grant. The grant is focused on supporting production of the fuels from cellulosic sugars, lignocellulose derivatives, lignin, cellulosic alcohols, bio-solids and biogases. Awards range from $1 million to $3.5 million. Concept papers are due on May 1, 2014, and full proposals are due June 13, 2014.

The second grant program from EERE focuses on solar energy. The Solar Market Pathways Grant seeks to drive down solar energy costs and encourage a significant increase in solar deployment. The funding includes costs for planning and stakeholder meetings. Awards range from $1 million to $4 million. Concept papers are due on May 28, 2014, and full proposals are due July 3, 2014.

For companies, universities, communities and others interested in applying for these grants who are seeking assistance, Prosperity Consulting is available to assist. The company aids it clients in market research and feasibility study development as well as the development of strategic plans.

Ethanol Groups Fight Back with “Oil Rigged”

fuels-americaA coalition of biofuels organizations is fighting back against the oil industry by launching a new campaign called “Oil Rigged.”

Members of Fuels America today unveiled the details of its new “Oil Rigged” television and digital ad campaign and OilRigged.com designed to “expose the many ways the oil industry is rigging the system to protect their profits and block the transition to clean, American renewable fuels.” The announcement included representatives of member organizations Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Growth Energy, and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

“They’ve rigged Washington,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, noting the oil industry has spent $855 million on lobbyists and campaign contributions over the past five years “more than a million dollars for every member of the House and Senate.” He added that the oil industry has also rigged the market “by refusing to invest in the infrastructure” to sell higher blends of ethanol, rigged the tax code and rigged the debate over renewable fuels.

oil-rigged“They are trying to rig the debate with misinformation, junk science and misleading ads all designed to scare consumers and Congress about ethanol to protect their market share,” said RFA president Bob Dinneen.

The group chose Earth Day for starting the campaign to make the point that biofuels are making a positive difference for the environment. “What we’re really talking about here is doing the right thing for the planet,” said Brent Erickson, BIO Executive Vice President. “Of everything the United States is doing from a policy standpoint to reduce carbon pollution, the Renewable Fuel Standard is making the biggest impact by far.”

Listen to all the comments from Buis, Dinneen and Erickson here: Fuels America Oil Rigged Campaign

USDA Rural Development Supports Biofuel Investment

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno went on a three-state Midwest tour last week to highlight USDA investments that are helping expand business opportunities in the bio-economy, including biofuels.

usda-salerno“Creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity for rural small businesses are top priorities for the Obama Administration,” said Salerno, who visited companies in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “The new Farm Bill expands the potential for economic growth in rural America by maintaining momentum for the emerging bio-based industry and the more than 3,000 bio-based companies across the country.”

Salerno’s tour started with a visit to Quad County Corn Processors near Galva, Iowa where they are working on a process to turn corn kernel fibers into cellulosic ethanol and as a result boost the plant’s ethanol production. “It’s a co-op, so all the farmers around there have a vested interest in making this processing unit work,” she said. The company has received nearly $22 million in USDA Rural Development loan guarantees since it opened 13 years ago.

Salerno noted that the United States has the capacity to provide one billion tons of biomass per year by 2030. “This has a possibility of hundreds of thousands of jobs – actually 1.7 million estimated,” she said.

Americans Vote for Biofuels

According to a new national poll conducted by American Viewpoint on behalf of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Americans support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and other key federal initiatives that support the expanded use of biofuels such as ethanol. Sixty-five percent of adults support the RFS, up from 61 percent in 2012.

E85 pump in Ottumwa Iowa

Photo: Joanna Schroeder

Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO said of the poll results, “It is telling that support for the RFS continues to grow in spite of the relentless attacks on ethanol and the RFS financed by Big Oil’s deep pockets. Repeatedly Americans have decisively said they place a premium on energy independence, job creation, and a cleaner environment.”

For these reasons and more, Americans overwhelmingly support the RFS for its ability to strengthen this great nation,” continued Dinneen. “Members of Congress and the Obama Administration should review this data before taking action to reduce or eliminate a program with broad national appeal and tangible energy and environmental benefits.”

Expanding on the polling results, Dinneen added, “Americans see great value in investing in the next generation of fuel, cellulosic ethanol, and they support the idea of an open fuel standard which encourages the manufacturing of cars that run on any number of alternatives to petroleum. In fact, Americans appear to have a visceral dislike for the billions and billions of dollars in government subsidies and special tax treatment that Big Oil has enjoyed for 100 years.”

Sixty-six percent of the respondents favor incentives for the expansion of cellulosic ethanol while 78 percent of respondents favor auto manufacturers to build cars that will run on fuel other than oil. In addition, 66 percent of respondents oppose oil company subsidies while only 22 percent favor oil subsidies.

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DuPont Calls for Support of RFS

In testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Jan Koninckx, global business director for Biorefineries at DuPont, called on Congress to preserve the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which Koninckx said has spurred hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment in advanced biofuels and is expediting the transition from a petroleum-based to a bio-based global economy.

Koninckx delivered his testimony as part of a Committee hearing on advanced biofuels’ role in creating jobs and lowering gasoline prices. He emphasized the scope of the opportunity and also how quickly the promise of biofuels has been realized.

“The bottom line here is that driven by the RFS, we have completely re-imagined how we fuel our planet. We do so with renewable resources without adding any additional CO2 into the atmosphere. It is a remarkable DuPont Logoachievement. And when you look at this from the perspective of a science company – this has actually gone quite fast,” said Koninckx.

“Certainly faster than the fossil fuel industry developed over a century ago and with a footprint they still can’t come close to achieving today. DuPont has over 210 years of bringing scientific innovation to market. In my estimation, we’ve never delivered this type of disruptive technology so quickly,” he added.

Koninckx cited DuPont’s investment in biofuels, including cellulosic technologies that use corn stover – or the crop waste left over after a corn harvest – to produce ethanol.

“For the past four years we have brought together growers, academia, public institutions like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and custom equipment makers to conduct harvest trials on corn stover. Together, we have developed an entirely new model for biomass harvest, transportation and supply to a biorefinery. It is cost competitive and fully sustainable – preserving the land for generations to come.”

DuPont also is leading the industry in the development of another type of advanced renewable fuel, biobutanol, Koninckx noted, pointing out that the company’s joint venture Butamax with partner BP, is on track for commercial scale production in the United States around 2015. Biobutanol, with advanced fuel properties and high energy density helps to further secure U.S. leadership in the global biofuels market.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard is working as intended. 2014 is a watershed in our history as an industry – the year we take this technology commercial – and a critical year for all parties to remain steadfast in their commitment to biofuels,” Koninckx concluded.

Syngenta Partners with Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies

Syngenta has reached an agreement with Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC, to license its Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology, a new process for ethanol plants. Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology has been shown to significantly increase a plant’s ethanol production while delivering other benefits such as increased corn oil production and higher protein content in dried distillers grains (DDGs).

Quad County Corn Processors SignCellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP), and is currently being added to the QCCP ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa. The process is expected to go online in May 2014. Testing to date demonstrates the concept will run successfully at full commercial scale.

“We are continuously looking at new technologies that will contribute to the future success of the ethanol industry, and we are very excited about the opportunities that are emerging,” said David Witherspoon, head of renewable fuels for Syngenta. “We believe the new Adding Cellulosic Ethanol process will be a critical component in the development and commercialization of advanced and cellulosic ethanol.”

By converting corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol in a bolt-on process, Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology is designed to increase a plant’s ethanol production. In combination with the Enogen corn trait from Syngenta, Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology allows the corn kernel fiber and starch to be converted into ethanol. Syngenta says Enogen trait technology is the only corn output trait designed specifically to enhance ethanol production.

“The integration of the Adding Cellulosic Ethanol process into the QCCP plant operation will help create a higher protein feed, 2.5 times more corn oil and more ethanol out of the same kernel of corn,” said Delayne Johnson, chief executive officer of QCCP. “This launch represents a major advance in the production of cellulosic ethanol.”

“The combination of Adding Cellulosic Ethanol and Enogen corn is expected to generate significant synergies when used together in dry grind ethanol plants,” Johnson added. “It will produce advanced and cellulosic ethanol while decreasing natural gas usage, increasing ethanol throughput and reducing an ethanol plant’s carbon footprint. These advantages, combined with increased corn oil production and high-protein DDGs, make the technology package appealing for ethanol plants looking to improve their bottom line.”

Advanced Biofuels in Tax Extenders Bill

aeclogoThe cellulosic biofuels industry was very pleased to see the Senate Finance Committee markup of a package of tax extenders that includes the Producer Tax Credit (PTC) and the special depreciation allowance for advanced biofuels.

“The cellulosic biofuel industry is just breaking through at commercial scale. Today’s markup sends a clear signal to the marketplace that Congress is making progress on extending its support for one of the most innovative, low carbon industries in the world,” said Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC). “It will be very important to move this package along quickly, as executives in our industry are weighing the pros and cons of developing the next wave of projects here or abroad.”

Advanced-Biofuels-Association-Logo“We applaud the Finance Committee and Chairman Wyden for supporting the advanced biofuels tax incentives included in the extenders legislation,” added Advanced Biofuels Association president Michael McAdams. “These extenders send a significant signal to the advanced and cellulosic industry and to the markets regarding the sustained support at the federal level, and our members appreciate the certainty of a two-year extension.”

Companies like Novozymes that are members of these organizations are very happy with the action. “When you’re on a road trip, you don’t stop every 10 minutes to put in one gallon—you fill up for the long haul. That’s what these tax credits and renewable fuel policies like the RFS need too: Fuel for the long haul to drive investment, create jobs and move our economy forward.” said Adam Monroe, Novozymes President, Americas.

The Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit all expired at the end of 2013. This package extends them through 2015 adding certainty for the advanced biofuel industry and its investors.

BIO Calls on EPA to Approve New Biofuel Pathways

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will halt new petitions for renewable fuel pathways for six months or so. In response, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) urged the agency to speed up rather than slow down the Petition Process for New Renewable Fuel Pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The petition process was established in March of 2010 during the process of finalizing the rules for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“EPA’s effort to improve the petition process for new renewable fuel pathways under the RFS is welcome. But the agency should aim to complete this review process in a more timely manner,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “Advanced biofuel companies need a pathway to the fuel market in order to attract necessary investment to build and start up new production facilities that create new jobs. The lengthy wait for approval of new pathways chills job creation and investment in the sector.”

alamo_switchgrass_2Erickson noted that in the last four years, the EPA has completed less than half of the 62 petitions it has received for approvals for new renewable fuel pathways. In fact, he said there are 36 petitions are still waiting action with an average wait time of nearly 17 months. Companies filing cellulosic biofuel pathway petitions have faced the longest wait times, an average of 24 months. Erickson said this delay has slowed deployment of new advanced biofuel technologies.

Erickson concluded, “Combined with the proposed rule the proposed delay of the petition process may further undermine the development of advanced and cellulosic biofuels just as they are set to produce millions of commercial gallons and launch a rapid scale up.”

POET-DSM Joins Advanced Ethanol Council

aeclogoPOET-DSM Advanced Biofuels is the newest member to join the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC).

“As cellulosic ethanol becomes a growing force in fulfilling biofuel requirements in the U.S., it’s important for POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels to work with other industry leaders to help shape policies that ensure consumer understanding of – and access to – its environmental, economic and energy-security benefits,” said Steve Hartig, General Manager – Licensing for POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels.

The joint venture between ethanol production company POET and Royal DSM, a Netherlands-based bio science company, is nearing completion of a 25 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol biorefinery called Project LIBERTY, located in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The technology developed for the facility is available for licensing to develop other low-carbon, cellulosic ethanol production plants.

“As a key player in the industry that has the proven know-how to scale up its advanced technology to commercial scale, POET-DSM is a strong, strategic addition to the Council’s ranks as cellulosic ethanol moves from the development stage to full-scale commercial production in 2014,” said Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the AEC.