KiOR Looks to Double Capacity at Cellulosic Facility

kior_logo_CMYKCommercial scale cellulosic gasoline and diesel producer KiOR has announced plans to double the capacity of its Columbus, Mississippi facility. Officials expect the project, dubbed Columbus II, will cost approximately $225 million, will break ground within 90 days of raising the money needed and be finished building 18 months later.

Once completed with its latest technology improvements, KiOR expects that the Columbus II project will allow each Columbus facility to achieve greater yields, production capacity and feedstock flexibility than the original design basis for the existing Columbus facility, enabling KiOR to more quickly make progress towards its long-term goal of 92 gallons per bone dry ton of biomass.

Fred Cannon, KiOR’s President and CEO, says this project is an important step in the company’s long-term business plan, as it will make them profitable with lower capital costs and will take advantage of “operational and technological synergies between the two Columbus facilities.” He says it will also help accelerate plans for next year’s groundbreaking of another standard scale commercial production facility in Natchez, Mississippi.

Project LIBERTY Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Update

POETplant1A 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant is on track to start cranking out the advanced biofuel early next year. Officials with POET-DSM Advanced Biofuel’s Project LIBERTY updated progress on the refinery in Northwest Iowa during the Platts Biofuels and Chemicals conference.

“We had a great summer for construction and have been able to stay on track to start producing cellulosic bio-ethanol early next year,” [Steve Hartig, General Manager – Licensing for POET-DSM] said. “It’s impressive to see this technology coming to life in Emmetsburg.”

[The plant] will be one of the first plants of its kind in the nation. It will use cob bales – made up of corn cobs, leaves, husks and some stalk – to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic bio-ethanol annually, later ramping up to 25 million gallons.

Hartig said the progress to date includes:

Biomass receiving and grinding building is complete and biomass processing equipment is nearly installed.
Saccharification, fermentation tanks are complete.
Equipment installation and pipe work is ongoing.
Cooling tower construction is underway.
Underground utilities are nearing completion.

About 300 workers are on the site daily, making preparations for the early 2014 start.

The most recent construction photos are available on POET-DSM’s Flickr site.

Novozymes & Raízen Partner on Cellulosic Ethanol

Novozymes and Raízen Energia S/A, Brazil’s largest sugarcane crusher, have announced plans to collaborate on the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Brazil. Novozymes will be supplying enzyme technology for the plant, expected to begin production by the end of 2014.

Sugarcane in BrazilThe plant will be a bolt-on facility to Raízen’s Costa Pinto sugarcane mill in the state of São Paulo and will have the capacity to produce 40 million liters of cellulosic ethanol a year from sugarcane bagasse and straw. The agreement also provides for Novozymes to supply enzyme technology to Raízen’s second cellulosic ethanol plant, should such a plant be constructed.

To support Raízen in its efforts to advance cellulosic ethanol, Novozymes will develop enzyme technology optimized for Raízen’s process. In addition, Novozymes intends to establish new enzyme-manufacturing capacity in Brazil. The exact size, location and investment budget for this enzyme-manufacturing facility are not yet determined and will depend on the level of estimated demand for enzyme technology in Brazil.

“This first plant developed by one of the world’s largest sugarcane ethanol producers marks an important step in the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol in Brazil,” said Thomas Videbæk, Novozymes’ Executive Vice President of Business Development. “We look forward to sharing the journey with Raízen and enabling this exciting development for Brazil through the delivery of world-leading enzyme technology.”

USDA Announces Support for Advanced Biofuel Producers

usda-logoUSDA announced Thursday that the agency is making nearly $15.5 million in payments to support the production of advanced biofuel.

At the National Advanced Biofuels Conference in Omaha, USDA Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O’Brien said 188 producers will received payments through the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program.

“Producing advanced biofuels is a major component of the drive to take control of America’s energy future by developing domestic, renewable energy sources,” O’Brien said. “These payments represent the Obama Administration’s commitment to support an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy.”

The funding is being provided through USDA’s Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, which was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. Under this program, payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of advanced biofuels produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Examples of eligible feedstocks include but are not limited to: crop residue; animal, food and yard waste; vegetable oil; and animal fat.

Read more from USDA.

Agronomic Data Shows Viability of Biomass Harvesting

The Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is in full swing in Omaha, Nebraska with several hundred industry members on hand for the event. Today POET-DSM, an event sponsor, has announced that according to the latest data from researchers with Iowa State University and the United States Department of Agriculture (UDSA) harvesting crop residue for cellulosic ethanol production is consistent with good farm management.

Biomass Harvest for Project LIBERTY

The work was commissioned by POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels to ensure the sustainability of the joint venture’s plans to build cellulosic ethanol plants and license technology to producers in the U.S. and abroad. The research, led by Dr. Doug Karlen with USDA and Dr. Stuart Birrell with ISU, was conducted in fields near Emmetsburg, Iowa, the site of Project LIBERTY, POET-DSM’s 20 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant currently under construction. The facility will use corn-crop residue – cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk – to produce renewable fuel. It is expected to come online in early 2014.

Now in its fifth year, the research evaluated the possible effects of biomass removal on soil nutrient levels and grain yields over various rates of removal. POET-DSM’s proposed rate of removal is approximately 1 ton per acre, which is 20-25 percent of the above-ground biomass.

“In summary, both grain yields and soil nutrient levels were not significantly affected by stover harvest treatments,” Birrell said in a research summary.

Fields with yields above 175 bushels per acre could remove up to 2 tons of biomass per acre, according to Birrell and Karlen. Based on the data, POET-DSM recommends no changes in nitrogen or phosphorous applications, due to residue removal. Some biomass providers could benefit from adding a small amount of potassium. Continue reading

Neil Young Rocks for Ethanol

Rocker Neil Young showed he has a “heart of gold” for ethanol during a press event in Washington D.C. Monday with the National Farmers Union.

nfu-neil-young“I love ethanol. I love how it smells, I love the way it makes my car go, everything about it is great, it’s clean,” said Young. “It’s a beautiful fuel.”

But, Young told an audience of 300 farmers and numerous media outlets, America does not have freedom of choice when it comes to its fuel. “There’s a monopoly in existence,” he said. “Every time you get off the road, you enter a monopoly zone – it’s called Big Oil. There’s no reason why every fuel stop that has more than four fuel pumps cannot have an E85 pump…it gives Americans the freedom to choose the fuel they use.”

Young, who recently traveled cross country in a vehicle powered by cellulosic ethanol and electricity, says he is not being paid to support biofuels. “We have a very big problem, CO2 is going to be a huge issue in the next couple of years,” he said. “Ethanol and other biofuels, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, are the answer to this problem.”

The Grammy-winning recording artist believes the misinformation campaign against ethanol is fueled by the oil industry. “And the only thing that’s green about their product is the money that goes into campaigns,” he said to strong applause from the crowd.

Young also encouraged those who support alternative fuels to contact their lawmakers and urge them to maintain the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Listen to some of Young’s comments here and watch the cell phone video sent by NFU staffer Melisa Augusto below: Neil Young for Ethanol

Argonne Take Cues From Nature

Scientists working at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) are looking to nature’s catalysts, enzymes, for inspiration in their quest to find a more effective means of converting biomass into renewable fuel. The research is focused on inedible plant materials that contain cellulose (such as wood chips and switchgrass), which can be broken down into sugars and then converted into biofuels.

According to the researchers, it is a challenging process to commercialize because plant cell walls are tough and recalcitrant, meaning they naturally resist being broken down into sugars. Therefore this obstacle has made it difficult to produce biofuels at a cost and pace that can compete with petroleum-based transportation fuels.

ALCF researchTo address this issue, the research team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado is using Mira, the ALCF’s 10-petaflops supercomputer, to conduct large-scale simulations of the physical behavior of cellulase enzymes. Naturally produced by some fungi and bacteria, these particular enzymes are being modeled because they effectively trigger the chemical changes necessary to degrade hardy plant materials into life-sustaining sugars.

“Through our studies at the ALCF, we hope to uncover how these enzymes can be manipulated to develop superior biological catalysts for improved biofuel production,” said Michael Crowley, NREL senior scientist and project principal investigator.

Crowley and his colleagues are carrying out the simulations to gain a fundamental understanding of the complex cellulose-to-sugar conversion process, known as enzymatic hydrolysis. With this information, researchers will be able to identify potential enzyme modifications and then feed their discoveries into experiments aimed at developing and validating improved catalysts. Continue reading

ACE Tries to Outgun the Big Bucks of Big Oil

Steve Petersen3Members of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) have been in Des Moines, Iowa this week to “Unite and Ignite” for their 26th annual conference. But even before they got together, they knew their message of the good ethanol does for the entire country was coming up against some pretty deep pockets of their opponents.

“We don’t have the resources that some of our opponents have in terms of dollars, in terms of personnel, to get our message to the people who make the decisions and make the policy,” Steve Petersen, a small livestock producer from Chelsea, Iowa and an advocate for ethanol, told Joanna during last March’s Biofuels Beltway event when about 70 ethanol backers gathered in Washington, D.C. to tell ethanol’s story to lawmakers. But he’s not deterred, because many congressional staffers told him they wanted to hear from people actively involved in agriculture. “We did a lot of education.”

Steve admitted that it can be a bit disconcerting that so many of those who vote on the policies that affect ethanol don’t understand the process. But he said ethanol advocates just need to work a bit harder to get that message out, and he believes if they can show these lawmakers the impacts on rural areas, they’ll win them over.

“We had a great pictorial this time of walking through the process of ethanol. I’d like to have some actual pictures from Iowa, from Wisconsin, from all of the plants around it, and all of the impact it has on jobs and the tangible benefits it has brought to our communities in the Midwest: the additional tax base, the additional jobs that a lot of these communities haven’t seen for 25 years. Ethanol and biofuels have been a tremendous boon to the Midwest … and all of our country,” he said.

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Steve here: Steve Petersen

Visit the ACE 26th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

ACE: When Telling the Truth About Ethanol, It’s Easy

Troy Prescott Cardinal EthanolAs members of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) gather in Des Moines, Iowa this week to “Unite and Ignite” for their 26th annual conference, we’re reminded of some previous advice from Troy Prescott with Cardinal Ethanol about telling the good news story of ethanol.

“When you’re telling the truth, it isn’t hard to keep telling the story,” he told Joanna back when she talked to him during ACE’s Biofuels Beltway event last March in Washington, D.C., as about 70 ethanol backers gathered on Capitol Hill to tell that ethanol story (and you thought no one ever spoke the truth in Washington!).

Troy said they faced some real doubters in the Nation’s capital, including Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who had just sponsored legislation to keep E15 from going to the marketplace. But he said they stuck to the facts about ethanol, and giving credit to the senator, Hatch’s office listened. Troy explained that while Utah is not a cornbelt state, it’s still in the senator’s and his constituents’ best interests to see ethanol succeed now, because today’s support of corn ethanol will pay off when the industry is able to move more to cellulosic, and places like Utah can reap the benefits.

“You just have to find the niche that gets them to start thinking, ‘Hey, this could be good for my state.’”

While he realizes he’s not going to convert everyone, Troy believes continuing to tell ethanol’s factual story, even to those in the cornbelt, will pay off in the long run, bit-by-bit.

“You just gotta keep chippin’ away, getting your word out,” he concluded.

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Troy here: Troy Prescott, Cardinal Ethanol

Visit the ACE 26th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

DF Cast: Agencies Work Together on Biofuels Targets

On August 6, 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final rule for the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) based on analysis provided by, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which revised downward its cellulosic biofuel forecast for 2013 to 4 million gallons (or 6 million ethanol-equivalent gallons) target for cellulosic biofuels use in 2013, less than half what was proposed just six months ago… and well below the 1 billion gallon target specified in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

But how did the EIA come up with its numbers, which ended up being part of the basis for what the EPA projected in its 2013 RFS final rule? In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we talk with Mindi Farber-DeAnda, Team Lead, Biofuels and Emerging Technologies, Office of Petroleum, Natural Gas, and Biofuels Analysis at EIA, who explains how the two agencies work together.

Hear more of the conversation here: Domestic Fuel Cast - EIA & EPA Work Together on Biofuels Targets

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

How the Make the RFS Attainable

According to Purdue University energy policy specialist Wally Tyner, the U.S. can likely produce federally mandated levels of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2014 if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reduces its requirements by 2.3 billion gallons. The RFS requires a minimum amount of biofuels to be blended into transportation fuels such as gasoline and diesel. For 2013, that level is 16.55 billion gallons. As it stands now, the volume requirement continues to rise each year until 2022.

tyner-w10Tyner projects that refiners could reasonably expect to produce 15.85 billion gallons of biofuels, less than the 18.15 billion that the EPA requires in its RFS for 2014. The EPA said on Aug. 6 that it will “propose adjustments” to next year’s volume requirements in the next few weeks. One element that has caused the EPA to change required volumes is the lack of commercially available “advanced” and “cellulosic” biofuels. However, despite the lowering of these category volumes, the EPA has maintained the overall biofuels production requirement.

“The devil is in the details. However, it is clear that if the EPA does what is implied … the RFS moves from being unworkable to quite manageable,” Tyner says in his article, “The Biofuels Renewable Fuel Standard – EPA to the Rescue.”

The RFS has been a topic of debate for several years in part because of the corn ethanol “blend wall,” the point at which the market cannot consume as much ethanol as the EPA requires to be produced. One reason, and one that was not factored in during the development of the RFS, is the decreased consumption of gasoline nationwide -  from 141 billion gallons in 2007, when the RFS mandates were last updated, to a rate of 133 billion now.

Tyner calculates in the report that 15.85 billion gallons of biofuels can be produced in 2014 if the EPA reduces its volume targets for corn ethanol to better align with the blend wall, Wheat Straw credit: Flickr Creative Commons:and by lowering its requirements for production of cellulosic biofuels such as from corn stover, straw and Miscanthus grass to what the EPA might deem to be available.

He said blend requirements could be met in 2015 and 2016 with similar reductions. With no changes in the RFS, the energy industry would have to blend 20.5 billion gallons of biofuels into gasoline in 2015 and 22.25 billion gallons in 2016. His calculations would reduce those totals to 16.58 billion in 2015 and 17.3 billion the following year.

The EPA has shown willingness to reconsider the blend mandates and using information it has at hand, along with analyses done by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), plans to announce final 2014 volumes sometime this fall.

Edeniq & Pacific Ag to Colloborate

Edeniq and Pacific Ag, have announced today a five-year exclusive collaboration agreement to assist existing corn-based ethanol production facilities to add cellulosic ethanol production. The technology will help corn-based ethanol plants diversify their feedstock sources and enhance long-term production margins. In addition, the cellulosic ethanol produced will qualify for as “cellulosic” fuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

edeniq“This collaboration holds the potential to enhance the commercial viability of cellulosic ethanol production in the US,” said Brian Thome, the President and CEO of Edeniq. “By combining Edeniq’s bolt-on production technologies for corn ethanol plants with Pacific Ag’s agricultural biomass supply capabilities, we will provide the best turnkey solution for today’s producers to economically integrate cellulosic production into their existing facilities.”

Today there are about 200 operating ethanol plants in the U.S. in 28 states. They produce nearly 14 billion gallons annually representing approximately 10 percent of all gasoline sold. The majority of these plants use corn as their primary feedstock, a commodity grain that has been subject to wide fluctuations in price and supply over the past decade, driven by competing end uses, market speculation and weather.

In an effort to diversify the feedstock pool, the Department of Energy issued its “billion ton” study in 2005. That study determined that U.S. agriculture and forest resources have the capability to produce at least one billion dry tons of biomass annually in a sustainable manner, enough to produce biofuels to meet more than one-third of the current demand for transportation fuels. Yet today, only a small amount of biofuels are produced using biomass and much more is needed.

PACAG-001 Final Logo CMYK “This collaboration agreement brings together two companies at the forefront of solving a big risk factor to commercial production of cellulosic ethanol: getting biomass from the field to the plant with maximum reliability and efficiency and successfully converting that biomass at a low per gallon capital investment for existing production facilities,” added Bill Levy, founder and CEO of Pacific Ag. “For Pacific Ag, this potential market represents a key additional sector in our strategy to maximize the role of ag biomass in the nation’s energy supply.”

Government Lowers Cellulosic Biofuels Targets

eiaIn the wake of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issuing its final rule for the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the government revised down targets for cellulosic biofuel use this year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports the new rule sets a 6 million gallon target for cellulosic biofuels use in 2013, less than half what was proposed just six months ago… and well below the 1 billion gallon target specified in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007:

By law, EPA can lower the required volumes of advanced biofuels and total renewable fuels by up to the amount that it reduces the required volume of cellulosic biofuels. EPA chose not to reduce the advanced biofuels and total renewable fuels targets for 2013, leaving the required volume of total renewable fuels in 2013 at the 16.55 billion gallons specified in EISA 2007. However, the final rule states that EPA anticipates the need to adjust those targets for the 2014 RFS program year, for which EISA 2007 specifies a total renewable fuels target of 18.15 billion gallons. EPA’s forthcoming notice of proposed rulemaking for the 2014 RFS program year will provide further information.

As discussed in previous TIE articles, a May 2013 letter from EIA cited in EPA’s final RFS rule, and recent testimony by EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski, production of cellulosic biofuels has grown at a much slower pace than envisioned in EISA 2007. The RFS consists of four nested volumetric targets for specific types of biofuels. By 2022, EISA 2007 specifies a 36 billion gallon target for total renewable fuels in transportation fuel, including 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels, of which 16 billion gallons are cellulosic biofuels.
EIArfs
The EIA goes on to say that some parts of the RFS have been hard to implement because of lower-than-anticipated gasoline consumption, as well as issues with the E10 blend wall and using higher blends in current vehicles and infrastructure.

Praj Cellulosic Plant Breaks Ground

Praj Industries is set to be the first company in South Asia to produce bioethanol. The company has broken ground on its integrated 2nd Generation (2G) Cellulosic ethanol plant. Praj’s Executive Chairman Mr. Pramod Chaudhari, was at the groundbreaking ceremony at Shirala in Sangli District in Maharashtra (India) along with Chairman of Viraj Alcohols & Allied Industries Limited (VAAIL), Mr. Mansinghrao Naik.

The 2G Cellulosic ethanol demo plant will operate on different varieties of biomasss with a capacity of 100 dry tonnes of biomass per day, which includes agricultural wastes such as corn stover, cobs and bagasse. The demo plant will enable Praj to consolidate its 6 years of R&D efforts, starting with laboratory trials to pilot scale trials. The same plant will also enable Praj to develop various biochemicals and bioproducts.

The demo plant will seek to demonstrate various technical parameters including optimization of water and energy integration and its impact on the capex and opex. The plant will also develop the entire value chain including biomass handling and biomass composition and its impact on the operations. Praj expects the project cost to be in the region of US$ 25 million (Rs. 145-150 crore).

For this project, Praj will associate with VAAIL, an existing ethanol producer located in Western Maharashtra and a long term client of Praj. VAAIL will provide the land and allied services for the smooth operation of the project.

Commenting on the ground-breaking, Chaudhari said, “Ground breaking of 2G Cellulosic ethanol plant is a giant leap in biotechnology and towards a more sustainable world. The greenhouse gas savings from cellulosic ethanol is greater than those from 1st Generation crop-based biofuels as well as fossil-based fuel and hence this project will play a vital role in reducing carbon footprints.  The project site at Shirala gives us a locational advantage in terms of sourcing of biomass, utilities and manpower. We are delighted to work with VAAIL who has been our long term client.”

Naik, added, “Viraj has more than a decade’s experience in operating ethanol plants based on both, molasses as well as grains. Praj has supplied both these plant. It gives me great pride to be associated with Praj as it will give us the opportunity of participating in a path- breaking project.”

EPA Publishes 2013 RVOs

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published the final 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumetric blending requirements, or Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO). The EPA determined that based on an evaluation of the volumes of cellulosic biofuel expected to be available for 2013, the 2013 standard for cellulosic biofuel will be 6 million ethanol-equivalent gallons.

The renewable fuels industry has come out in support of the rule. Following are some brief statements from several leading biofuel organizations.

aeclogoBrooke Coleman, Executive Director, Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC): “It is clear that U.S. EPA has done its homework when it comes to setting the 2013 standard. The commercial cellulosic biofuel facilities that U.S. EPA projected to start up in 2013 are indeed operating, and the adjusted targets reflect the number of actual gallons expected to be available through the end of the year. We agree with U.S. EPA that there will be sufficient quantities of advanced biofuels in the market to maintain the broader advanced biofuel standard, which is consistent with the legislative intent of the RFS to promote advanced renewable fuels.

nbb-logoAnne Steckel, Vice President of Federal Affairs, National Biodiesel Board (NBB): “With this decision, the EPA is helping consumers, creating jobs and reducing emissions. This target will clearly be met, and it will continue to diversify our fuel supplies so that we’re not at the mercy of global oil markets every time we fill up at the pump.”

Growth_Energy_logo-1Tom Buis, CEO, Growth Energy: Tom Buis CEO of Growth Energy:  “Growth Energy is pleased that the EPA has finalized the 2013 biofuel volumes and has continued to show its strong commitment to the RFS.  We look forward to closely reviewing the final rule and we strongly support increasing levels of renewable fuel into our nation’s fuel supply. The RFS continues to be a resounding success, helping create jobs in America that cannot be outsourced, revitalizing rural economies across the country in addition to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and improving our environment, all while providing consumers with a choice and savings at the pump.”

RFA-logo-13Bob Dinneen, CEO and President, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA): “First and foremost, by decreasing the cellulosic requirement by 99.4 percent to a very realistic, achievable number, the EPA has totally obliterated Big Oil’s myth that the RFS is inflexible and unworkable. As in years past, the finalized annual requirements are a testament to the inherent flexibility that is the backbone of the RFS.”

ACElogoBrian Jennings, Executive Vice President, American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE): “ACE appreciates that the EPA has issued the final volumes for 2013, keeping the total volume intact and thoughtfully used the flexibility given to it by Congress to set the final cellulosic target at 6 million gallons. We think that total is realistic to reach this year. To ensure that the RFS drives sufficient demand for E15 and higher blends of ethanol, and serves as a catalyst for innovation in advanced and cellulosic biofuels, ACE will continue our constructive dialogue with EPA as it considers its flexibility to address the volumes for 2014 and beyond.”

Advanced Biofuels Association LogoMichael McAdams, President of the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA): “ABFA salutes the EPA and today’s announcement of the 2013 RVOs. We are delighted to see EPA validate the significant contributions that advanced and cellulosic biofuels are making to the American biofuels sector. Today’s announcement of 6 million gallons of cellulosic fuels should put to an end the argument that refiners are being taxed to pay for phantom fuels.  Advanced and cellulosic biofuels will continue to grow over time, giving Americans a diversity of lower carbon fuels for our future.”