Cellulosic on the Fast Track

CorvetteThe Ethanol Promotion and Information Council and KL Process Design Group teamed up today to announce the first use of cellulosic ethanol in the 2008 American Le Mans Series. Corvette Racing, sponsored by EPIC, will be the first team to use the cellulosic-based E85 in competition.

“We could really find no greater stage to have the first use of cellulosic ethanol than the American Le Mans Series,” said Reece Nanfito, senior director of marketing for EPIC. “Obviously this is going to be a great demonstration that this fuel is available here and now, it is not a fuel that is five years or ten years down the road. The next generation of ethanol has really arrived today with this announcement.”

Tom Slunecka, Vice President of Business Development for KL Process Design Group, says providing cellulosic ethanol for the Le Mans Series brings it one step closer to consumer use.

“The reason that we brought the very first, very valuable gallons of this fuel to the American Le Mans Series was to demonstrate the power that this fuel has at home with every consumer,” Slunecka said. “Because the American Le Mans Series cars are the closest to production-style cars in the world of racing the relevancy of performance here is immediate and direct to that of consumers.”

Listen to Nanfito and Slunecka make the announcement in a press conference today from Sebring, Florida where during the fuel will be used first during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 15.

Renewable Fuels Have Place in State of Union

In his final State of the Union address to the nation, President Bush once again acknowledged the importance of domestic fuels for energy security and the environment.

Bush State of Union 08To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil. Last year, I asked you to pass legislation to reduce oil consumption over the next decade, and you responded. Together we should take the next steps: Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. Let us increase the use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power. Let us continue investing in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future. Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources. And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.

New Approach to Cellulosic Ethanol

ZeachemA California company claims to have a new way to convert biomass into ethanol.

According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News, ZeaChem’s technique uses a proprietary combination of biotechnology and chemistry.

Zeachem’s “secret sauce,” according to co-founder and research executive vice president Dan Verser, is both how it breaks down biomass – waste wood from poplar trees at first – as well as how it uses wood residue to produce the hydrogen it mixes with acetic acid to make ethanol.

One key: A bacteria commonly found in the gut of a termite or in pond scum helps convert the trees to fuel. “Our bug is very tough,” said Jim Imbler, Zeachem’s president and chief executive officer.

ZeaChem has reported started designing a small-scale production facility in Oregon where they hopes to start making cellulosic ethanol using the process next year.

ND Biomass Research Work

NDSUNorth Dakota State University and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are working on ways to convert cropland to biomass production for energy use.

According to a university news release, the research is working to determine what crops would maximize biofuels production and to develop economically feasible management systems for transitioning in and out of bioenergy crop production.

“This project will strengthen and enhance ongoing research efforts on dedicated energy crop production,” says D.C. Coston, NDSU vice president for Agriculture and University Extension. “This agreement continues our effort to pull together the full set of capabilities within NDSU and position ourselves to be partners with others, such as the ARS’s Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, to develop and grow biobased production.”

Biofuels Dominating Renewable Energy Patents

patentofficeseal.jpgPatents for biofuels dominated renewable energy patents in 2007… outdistancing patents for solar and wind combined.

According to this article on cleantech.com, since 2001, nearly 2,800 biofuel patents were published in the U.S. with 1,045 of those coming in 2007 alone. That compares to 555 for solar and 282 for wind power last year. Overall, the number of patents for biofuels jumped by 150 percent over the last couple of years:

From the biofuel related patents published in 2006 to 2007, we have analyzed the following technologies: agricultural biotechnology, biodiesel, biomass, ethanol and other alcohols, and enzymes.

The number of patents published in these technologies in 2006 – 2007 was biodiesel (299), agricultural biotechnology (110), ethanol and other alcohols (42), enzymes (35) and biomass (41).

We also assessed the number of cellulosic related patents published in 2006 to 2007 and found the following distribution: biodiesel (1), agricultural biotechnology (1), ethanol and other alcohols (4), enzymes (5) and biomass (5).

Broken down by ownership entity, the patents published in the selected technologies in 2006 to 2007 were 57 percent owned by corporate entities, 11 percent owned by universities or other academic institutions and 32 percent undesignated, where the patent applications do not list the patent owner.

This follows a worldwide trend of the number of biofuel patents rising. The greatest growth in the U.S. was, not surprisingly, in the Midwest.

With venture and government funding expected to increase in the future, the authors believe the number of biofuel patents will continue to grow with the largest growth coming in the cellulosic area.

“Fields of Fuel” Debut at Sundance

Fields of FuelA documentary about biofuels makes its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah this week.

Fields of Fuel“Fields of Fuel”
is directed by Josh Tickell, who also wrote “Biodiesel America,” which was introduced at the 2006 Biodiesel Conference. Tickell is a long-time advocate of biodiesel who became known for his “Veggie Van” tours in the late 1990′s. While his main focus is on biodiesel, he is also a fan of ethanol – especially the cellulosic variety.

“Fields of Fuel” is a natural for Robert Redford’s Sundance, which has become the greenest of all film festivals since former U.S. Vice President Al Gore premiered “An Inconvenient Truth” there in 2006. Tickell has been busy doing media interviews all week with the likes of Dan Rather, NPR, and the American Movie Channel, getting lots of good press for biofuels.

Ethanol Boosts Bottom Line for Farmers

ReutersAccording to a Reuters poll done this week
U.S. farmers overwhelmingly said they have benefited from the demand for corn to produce ethanol, with 71 percent of those surveyed saying the renewable fuel has helped boost their bottom line.

The poll also showed that 90 percent of those farmers said they would not reduce their corn plantings this year because of an increased supply of ethanol in the Midwest.

In addition, 54 percent of farmers were interested in growing a biomass crop. They were willing to embrace the crop because it required less management than traditional crops while allowing them to diversify their plantings.

The survey was done at the American Farm Bureau Federation‘s annual meeting in New Orleans, where the 686 farmers sampled were responding voluntarily from about 5,000 in attendance.

Biomass Conference Slated for April

Minneapolis, Minnesota will play host to the International Biomass ’08 Conference and Trade Show… a three-day gathering on April 15th-17th to look at the potential and future of biofuels produced from biomass.

Biofuel producer and consultant BBI International is the host for the event that includes:

Conference Features
International Panel
This panel will cover the opportunities and challenges of biomass utilization around the world. Invitations for this panel have been sent to key individuals in Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, and South America.

Technical Workshops
Attend educational panels on new technologies, government policies, alternative feedstocks, and financing as they relate to the biomass utilization industry.

Trade Show
Experience a world class trade show featuring over 100 exhibiting companies, two lunches, two networking receptions, and endless business development and networking opportunities.

Industry Tour
See biomass utilization first hand. Spend the day and tour District Energy St. Paul and a number of facilities affiliated with the University of Minnesota’s Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE). Additional fee applies and includes shuttle from the conference site and lunch.

Green Event
BBI International understands that environmental stewardship is an integral part of the biomass industry. We are dedicated to operating our entire company and all of our events with a zero waste and carbon neutral mission. Our focus is on the 4R’s of Sustainability – Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Early registration is by January 23rd, 2008 and can be done by clicking here.

Reuters Biofuels Summit Focus on Cellulosic

Cellulosic was all the buzz at the Reuters Global Agriculture and Biofuels Summit this week and prognosticators are now saying it is much closer to reality than ever before.

ReutersOne speaker at the summit said that biomass ethanol is just 2-3 years away. “We should see the first commercial-scale plants coming on line in late-2009, early-2010,” said Richard Hamilton, President and CEO of California-based Ceres.

Ceres develops high biomass yielding crops such as switchgrass and miscanthus for future use as dedicated energy crops.

A US Department of Energy official speaking at the summit said that researchers are on track to make cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with conventional gasoline supplies by 2012.

“We are on our way to meeting that,” said Katharine Fredriksen, principal deputy assistant secretary at the Energy Department’s Office of Policy and International Affairs.

And the head of the nation’s largest ethanol producer POET told the summit they are focusing on making next-generation ethanol by 2011 from corn-cob waste.

“Our facilities are surrounded by a significant supply of cellulose … we’ve chosen to focus on corn cobs,” said POET CEO Jeff Broin.

GM Makes Cellulosic Investment

GMAn announcement by General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner at the opening of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit yesterday made for big alternative energy news nationwide.

CoskataWagoner announced GM’s partnership with Coskata, an Illinois company that has a process for for turning wood chips, grasses, or municipal waste into ethanol.

Coskata uses a proprietary process that leverages patented microorganisms and bioreactor designs to produce ethanol for less than $1 a gallon, about half of today’s cost of producing gasoline.

“We are very excited about what this breakthrough will mean to the viability of biofuels and, more importantly, to our ability to reduce dependence on petroleum,” GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said.

GM will receive the first ethanol from Coskata’s pilot plant in the fourth quarter of 2008. The fuel will be used in testing vehicles at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds.

Melon Fuel Still in Development

Melon EthanolThe National Watermelon Association is still working on making fuel from melons.

Executive Director Bob Morrissey says they still believe there is a future in the idea, which we first reported on here in September 2006. “We still have to do some homework on the logistics portion and the economics portion,” he said.

“Our initial idea is to get a test project going in Florida and a test project going in Georgia and see how those work and then we can branch out to other producing states,” Morrissey said, adding that it may not work out, but at least they are trying to see if it will.

The association has been doing some research with USDA, the University of Georgia and an ethanol plant in Florida to use the estimated 700 million pounds of watermelons that are wasted each year for ethanol production.

Listen to the story from USDA Radio News reporter Gary Crawford.

Senate Passes Energy Bill

After stripping the bill of a $21 billion tax package, he U.S. Senate has passed an amended energy bill that includes an expansion of the Renewable Fuels Standard to 36 billion gallons of annual renewable fuel use by 2022. The bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for approval before it can be sent to the president for his signature. Removal of the tax increases for oil companies should remove the threat of a presidential veto. The Senate also removed another provision the White House had objected to which would have required that 15 percent of America’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020.

RFARenewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen says the Senate bill takes a big step forward in making the nation more energy stable and environmentally sustainable.

“This bill, and the Renewable Fuels Standard specifically, is an affirmation of what is possible when we work together to achieve a common goal,” said Dinneen in a statement. “By relying more heavily on domestically produced renewable fuels, including next generation technologies such as cellulosic ethanol, we can begin the hard work necessary to mitigate the impact of global climate changes, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and leave a more stable and sustainable future for generations that follow.”

ACEBrian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Ethanol Coalition, commended the Senate for its action. “This may be the most profoundly important step in support of energy security ever taken by the U.S., an unmistakable shift toward renewable fuels and energy conservation and away from our dangerous and expensive reliance on fossil fuels,” Jennings said.

AE Biofuels Now Publicly Traded

AE BiofuelsAE Biofuels, formerly known as American Ethanol, has completed its plans to become a publicly traded company by merging with a firm known as Marwich II Ltd.

The California-based company is involved in both ethanol and biodiesel, with majority ownership of a plant in India that is designed to produce 50 million gallons of biodiesel per year and plans to commercialize a patent-pending next-generation ethanol technology that the company intends to use at its permitted ethanol plant sites in the United States.

AE Biofuels has six permitted ethanol plant sites in Illinois and Nebraska in addition to its biodiesel production facility in India.

AE Biofuels is also developing a pilot plant in Montana that will test a process for converting a wide range of plant materials into ethanol.

Allegro Gets on Board with Biomass

Continental Energy CorporationInvestments in bioenergy are smart investments for Allegro Biodiesel. Allegro is moving to diversify the bio-energy sector and acquire a biomass energy company in Colorado.

Allegro Biodiesel Corporation has announced that it has extended a $500,000 bridge loan to Littleton, Colorado-based Community Power Corporation as a first step in potentially acquiring the company.

Established in 1995, privately-held CPC is a leading developer of small modular bioenergy technology and products, which gasify a wide range of biomass residues for generation of power, heat, and synthetic fuels as a substitute for fossil fuels such as natural gas, propane and diesel. The company’s proprietary gasification system has successfully processed over 30 different biomass feedstocks including wood, nutshells, grasses, paper and plastics. The company has received more than $12 million in R&D funding and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Defense, the California Energy Commission, and other organizations. Under these R&D projects, since 1998 CPC has built and shipped 24 modular biopower units to product development and demonstration sites in the U.S., the Philippines and El Salvador.

“Our agreement paves the way for Allegro to add biomass conversion to our core competency of biofuels production,” said Allegro Biodiesel Chief Executive Officer Bruce Comer. “CPC is a top player in this space with proven, environmentally-sound modular bio-energy technology.”

CPC develops automated, modular energy systems under the BioMax(R) trade name. These systems are designed for on-site conversion of biomass residues to clean energy for farms, schools, small manufacturing enterprises, communities, military encampments and other on-grid and off-grid applications.

CPC says the potential market for its modular biopower systems is more than $3 billion per year. Comer says Allegro will aim to drive CPC technology to the next level of commercialzation.

Renewing Cheese Water for Renewable Fuels

thenorthwestern.comA Wisconsin entrepreneur says producers don´t have to rely on corn, or even cellulosic waste, to create ethanol. Joe Van Groll, Owner of Grand Meadow Energy, LLC, says he can create ethanol from cheese water waste. Joe says this new method for creating ethanol is a great alternative. He points out that the ethanol industry is the target of negative publicity because critics say the use of corn takes water out of the water table and the food supply and shifts it to the energy market. But, Joe says water
is already a waste byproduct of the cheese making process, with 75 percent or greater water. Joe says using that waste to create ethanol removes that water, purifies it and puts it back into the environment.

Joe also uses canola oil for the production of biodiesel. He says there is no one “silver bullet” for creating renewable fuels. You can read more about Joe´s alternative production of alternative fuels at thenorthwestern.com.