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.

Georgia Groundbreaking Marks Cellulosic Milestone

Range Fuels PerdueGeorgia Governor Sonny Perdue welcomed a new phase in ethanol production to his state with Range Fuels’ groundbreaking of the nation’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant this week.

“Georgia is proud to partner with Range Fuels to lead the nation in delivering cellulosic ethanol as a solution to America’s dependence on foreign and fossil fuels,” said Governor Perdue. “Our abundance of natural resources, as well as our growing bioenergy research and development community and access to global markets firmly establish Georgia at the forefront of the national movement to a higher level of renewable energy.”

U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman also attended the ceremony Tuesday at the site of the plant in Soperton, Georgia.

“Together, the Department of Energy and Range Fuels are blending science and technology in order to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. The biorefinery soon to stand on this site is the result of President Bush’s initiatives to expand the use of homegrown alternative fuels, protect the environment, and enhance the nation’s energy security,” Bodman said.

The first two phases of the Range Fuels project, in which the Department of Energy is playing a cost-sharing role, is projected to process 1000 tons per day of wastewood to produce about 30 million gallons of biofuels and chemicals.

Could Biobutanol Beat Cellulosic to Market?

BiobutanolDuPont and BP are working to bring a next generation biofuel to market on a commercial scale and officials are optimistic that it might get there before cellulosic ethanol.

Philip NewIn an interview with Ethanol Statistics, Philip New, President of BP Biofuels, said “he wants to avoid setting expectations that are inappropriate on the basis of cutting edge biotech. We (BP) have our targets, but I hope that we will have butanol available on a commercial scale, before we have cellulosic ethanol on an economically sound basis.”

New says biobutanol potentially has some advantages over traditional ethanol and yet is still a corn-based fuel. “There is an interesting dilemma facing the biofuels industry called the E10 wall. Some countries will want or need to go beyond a 10% ethanol blend, but we have a car fleet that is overwhelmingly E5 or E10 capable. Flex-fuel vehicle sales are increasing in the United States, but not enough to increase consumption significantly beyond 10%. The properties of butanol allow you to blend it with gasoline up to 18%, which buys you time to increase the market share of flex-fuel vehicles. In addition, you can transport butanol through pipelines and it has 88% of the mileage of gasoline, compared to under 70% for ethanol.”

New addressed an audience of managers and CEO’s about the future of biofuels at a next generation biofuels market conference in Amsterdam last month.

Legislation Would Increase RFS Without Energy Bill

Concerns about a languishing energy bill in Congress are motivating Senators to take action that would increase the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) even without it.

U.S. Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) have introduced legislation called the Renewable Fuels Strategy Act of 2007 that contains several provisions including a larger Renewable Fuels Standard of 36 billion gallons of annual renewable fuel use by 2022.

ACEThe 20th annual American Coalition for Ethanol praised the act, according to Executive Vice President Brian Jennings, “A comprehensive approach to the production, distribution, and consumption of ethanol is absolutely crucial to advancing this country’s energy situation from its current state to a more positive, diversified future.”

The bill also calls for increased production of Flexible Fuel Vehicles and expanded renewable fuels infrastructure, including an increase in the tax credit from 30% to 50%. The infrastructure provisions apply to E85 pumps, but also to Blender Pumps, which dispense mid-level ethanol blends between 10% and 85%.

The Renewable Fuels Strategy Act is co-sponsored by Senators Lugar (R-IN), Cantwell (D-WA), Craig (R-ID), Johnson (D-SD), McCaskill (D-MO), and Klobuchar (D-MN).

In addition, Senators Domenici (R-NM), Nelson (D-NE), Grassley (R-IA) and Thune (R-SD), introduced a Renewable Fuels Standard amendment to the 2007 Farm Bill that specifically calls for the production of 21 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by the year 2022.

Georgia Cellulosic Plant Groundbreaking

Range FuelsA cellulosic ethanol company funded by California-based Khosla Ventures is holding a groundbreaking this week for its first planned facility in Georgia.

The Tuesday event at Range Fuels in Soperton, Georgia will include remarks from Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Range Fuels CEO Mitch Mandich and Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla.

The facility has a goal of producing 100 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol from wood residues and wood-based energy crops, with a first phase of producing 20 million gallons annually sometime in 2008. Range Fuels is receiving a $76 million grant from the US Department of Energy to help fund the project.

Executive Director Leaves EPIC on Solid Ground

e-podcastIt seems ethanol is on the lips of just about every politician both nationwide and at the state level. The fuel has broken into two major motorsports arenas. Environmentalists are touting ethanol as a major player in the development of renewable fuels. Much of the credit for the industrial, political and consumer awareness of ethanol belongs to the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, and to the man who has lead the organization since it’s beginning. Executive Director Tom Slunecka says the first three years of EPIC’s operation has marked a tremendous start, and he’s confident the organization will move full steam ahead with exciting projects for 2008… just, with a new leader at the helm. Tom has announced his departure from the organization, after directing it for it’s first three years. He says he’s the kind of guy who likes step in, get things off the ground and then leave a successful opportunity open for someone else. The go-getter isn’t straying too far though. Tom will be moving into a new opportunity with one of EPIC’s members: The KL Process Design Group.

This edition features comments from interviews conducted at the Cellulosic Ethanol Summit in Washington, DC.

The “Fill up, Feel Good” podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here (5:30 MP3 File):

The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.

“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.

Yellowstone Bacteria Could Be Hot for Ethanol

A heat-loving bacteria discovered in Yellowstone Park has potential for the ethanol industry.

YellowstoneAccording to an article in the Jackson Hole News, Scientists found the bacteria, called Candidatus Chloracidobacterium termophilum, in Octopus and Mushroom springs and the Green Finger Pool, not far from Old Faithful. The bacterium grows best in temperatures between 120 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit and could help researchers drastically increase production of biofuels, according to Don Bryant, a professor of biotechnology, biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State University.

Since his initial discovery, Bryant has gathered evidence that suggests Chloracidobacterium termophilum is aerobic, or breathes oxygen (another anomaly for a photosynthetic bacteria), and doesn’t take carbon from the atmosphere to increase its cell size and reproduce. Instead, Chloracidobacterium termophilum likely gets its carbon from the waste of other bacteria.

By removing waste products, Chloracidobacterium termophilum probably helps other bacteria grow much faster, a prospect that could lead to practical applications. Scientists are currently growing bacterial mats that they ferment to make ethanol. A bacteria that could double the production of biomass for ethanol production could be commercially valuable, Bryant said.

Green Vision Goes Online

GreenEnergyTV.comAlternative energy enthusiasts looking to see some renewable fuels in action can now access a vast array of demonstrations online. GreenEnergyTV.com describes itself as an Online Television Channel that allows millions of viewers worldwide to get plugged in to what’s going on with alternative energy.

Though having been launched only in January 2007, Green Energy TV now has viewers from 104 countries and 6 continents going to www.greenenergytv.com (Source: Google Analytics as of 10/07).

We know that people can and want to make a difference by showing and sharing with the world what they are doing to be green. We welcome companies, individuals, families, schools, kids, teachers and organizations to Upload & Watch videos on the site. It’s free to Upload & Watch videos. Our viewers can search and view the solutions that address their specific need. Videos are also sought from companies, inventors, colleges and universities with existing or breakthrough green energy technology that is waiting to be discovered and marketed to the world. We are a community and a network that is changing the world through Green Media coverage.

Videos we air include: Solar Energy, Wind Power, Hydro Power, Hydrogen, Fuels, Geothermal, Wave/Tidal Energy, Energy Conservation, Recycling, Hybrid vehicles, Organic, Green Building, Recycling, and more.

Energy and Farm Bill Updates

ACEEthanol interests are hoping that Congress might finally get the energy bill into conference committee this week.

Brian Jennings with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) says, “It sounds like Democrats and Republicans are beginning to work out some of the political differences and procedural differences they had in moving forward,” Jennings says. “I would predict that hopefully this week we will have an agreement to move forward on a bi-partisan, bi-cameral conference.”

There are some major differences to be worked out. For one, the House does not have the Renewable Fuel Standard that is present in the Senate bill. The Renewable Fuel Standard is a major goal of many in Congress. Senators Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Barack Obama, D-Ill., have introduced stand-alone legislation that would immediately update the Renewable Fuels Standard and require three-billion gallons of biofuels from cellulosic sources.

John ThuneMeanwhile, the Senate Agriculture Committee is finally scheduled to mark up a farm bill Wednesday morning, with chairman Tom Harkin announcing agreement on structure last week.

Senator John Thune (R-SD) says the Senate version of the farm bill will include his legislation designed to promote the production of cellulosic ethanol produced from switchgrass, other native grasses and biomass feedstocks such as wood chips. Thune’s cellulosic ethanol bill, officially known as the Biofuels Innovation Program (BIP), was introduced in May.

Thune’s legislation includes cost-sharing for establishing energy-dedicated crops and paying competitive rent until the energy dedicated crops are sold. The legislation also encourages feedstock production by providing per-ton payments to producers of biomass, such as corn cobs, perennial grasses, and wood chips.

Blue Fire Gets Biomass Funding

Blue Fire EthanolBlueFire Ethanol Fuels of California has been approved to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee program for clean energy projects..

According to a company release, BlueFire Ethanol was recognized for its proposed project to build a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in California using an array of low-cost feedstocks including landfill waste.

“The Department of Energy’s continued encouragement of BlueFire Ethanol’s innovative clean energy technology is a key step toward full-scale commercial production of cellulosic ethanol and a testament to the management team’s work over the past 15 years to deploy an economic cellulosic ethanol technology using an array of low-cost cellulosic waste feedstocks,” said BlueFire Ethanol CEO Arnold Klann.


BlueFire Ethanol holds the exclusive North American license to employ the Arkenol Process Technology, a patented, commercially viable and profitable system that transforms cellulosic waste into usable ethanol. As a result, BlueFire is uniquely positioned to set the industry standard in converting waste materials — such as wood waste, green waste, straw, switchgrass, and corn stover — into ethanol.

KL Process Design Group First Cellulosic Plant

KL Process Design Management TeamWhile we’ve been listening to people talking about when someone will build a commercially viable cellulosic ethanol production plant one company has actually gone ahead and done it. That’s what KL Process Design Group claims. I met with their leadership team at the Cellulosic Ethanol Summit. Pictured are (L-R) Dave Litzen, Tom Slunecka, Randy Kramer and Steve Healey.

I sat down with Dave and Randy for an interview to learn more about how they’ve been able to accomplish this. For one thing they’ve been working with the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, the Wyoming Business Council and the Wyoming Department of Forestry. Through experimentation and research they’ve been able to produce ethanol from their Western Biomass Energy plant in Upton, WY. They get their feedstock from ponderosa pine wood chips/waste in the foothills of the Black Hills of Eastern Wyoming. Basically, they’re not only making ethanol from the wood waste but they’re helping with the forest management which includes thinning to prevent forest fires. That sounds like a two-fer to me.

They’re going to be going at this cellulosic business in a kind of non-traditional way as you’ll hear in the interview. For example, they’re looking at smaller plants and customers who have a need to take care of waste products that pile up and become a problem like wood mills and anyone involved in silviculture. This means that the ethanol they produce will come from many sources. I think you’ll find the interview very interesting.

You can listen to my interview with Randy and Dave here: