POET-DSM Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Ready in ’14

The POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels’ first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant is on track to start in 2014. The announcement for the plant was made at the recent Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) in St. Louis, Mo., where Wade Roby from POET took part in a panel discussion.

FEW13-poetdsm-hartigSteve Hartig, General Manager for POET-DSM, talked with Joanna and said Project LIBERTY, currently under construction and co-located with POET’s grain ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, will turn bales of corn cobs, leaves, husks and some stalk into 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year, with plans to move that amount up to 25 million gallons.

“We’re in the middle of construction, so we have a lot of the concrete done, the large biomass building, a lot of the tanks for the fermentation are up and running, and basically we’re on schedule to start up end of first quarter, second quarter next year,” Steve said.

He said they’ve been working with the local farmers over the past five years on how to collect and bring in the corn stover biomass, bringing in 70,000 tons last year and expecting to bring in 120,000 tons this year and up to 250,000 tons next year. Steve points out that the biomass can be stored out in the weather for at least a year, and he defends against criticisms that they are taking valuable nutrients off the field.

“The fields with the high productivity, high-yield corn crops, you have about five tons of stover per acre that’s left on the field after the harvest. We’re taking about one ton of that,” and citing their work with Iowa State University, he said that taking some stover off the field is actually good for it. “If we can take a bit more we will, but we’ll do it slow, steady and in a conservative way, working closely with the farmers and local universities.”

Steve said they’re building this plant together with DSM, and that’s the model they’re carrying forward – taking the technology to other companies and partnering with existing facilities, especially corn ethanol plants, and he believes they could even take the technology internationally.

Finally, he concluded that they have learned a lot building this plant and look forward to their next project going up next year. And they’re sticking with cellulosic ethanol.

“Cellulosic ethanol is real. It’s been called the ‘fictional fuel,’ [but] big companies like ours are putting a lot of commitment to it.”

Listen to more of Joanna’s interview with Steve here: Steve Hartig, General Manager for POET-DSM

DuPont Exec Talks Food and Fuel

ifama-13-dupontFood security was the topic for an address last week to the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) World Forum by DuPont Executive Vice President Jim Borel.

“We need a new generation of food visionaries who can see the tremendous opportunity made possible by the simple fact that people have to eat,” Borel told the group of more than 450 attendees during his address.

The DuPont executive talked about the need for local solutions, information transfer, sustainability in a broad sense, and collaboration. His best quote was about technology. “There’s more technology in a kernel of seed corn than there is in an iPhone,” and even more than that, there’s more hope to feed the world.

After his talk, I had a chance to interview Mr. Borel and I asked him about one issue that he did not touch on during his address – how agriculture can produce both food and fuel and how biofuels have been blamed for food shortages in the world. “This is an important debate,” he said. “First of all, food security and energy security and sustainability are both important issues and each country and government need to come up with the policies and approaches that work best for them.”

Borel believes that at this point, grain-based ethanol production has pretty much reached a peak in the United States. “I think the growth in biofuels production is largely going to be coming from cellulosic sources,” he said. “Our activity in DuPont through our industrial biosciences business is we’re working on enzymes that can help the grain ethanol producers be even more efficient at getting more ethanol out of every bushel of corn.”

He adds that they are working on the next generation of biofuels. “We just broke ground last fall on a commercial scale demonstration facility in Iowa … to take corn stover and convert is to ethanol,” said Borel. “It’s using an agricultural waste to produce something of real value.”

Interview with DuPont Exec Jim Borel

IFAMA 23rd World Forum Photo Album

Turning Plant Matter into Fuel

Charles Wyman, a University of California Riverside professor in the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department, recently edited a book, “Aqueous Pretreatment of Aqueous Biomass BookPlant Biomass for Biological and Chemical Conversion to Fuels,” that provides in-depth information on aqueous processing of cellulosic biomass into fuel.

The just-published book focuses on aqueous pretreatment of cellulosic biomass to promote sugar release for biological, catalytic, or thermochemical conversion into fuels and chemicals. Introductory chapters provide the rationale for converting biomass to fuels; its importance to national security, balance of trade, and the environment; and insights into biological and catalytic processing to fuels. Also included are in-depth information on the chemistry and biology of cellulosic biomass, leading pretreatments to facilitate its biological and chemical conversion to sugars, and methods important to assess the effectiveness of biomass conversion technologies.

In recent decades, interest in converting cellulosic biomass to fuels has closely tracked the price of petroleum: support jumps when petroleum prices are high and wanes when prices drop.

“That creates a big challenge,” Wyman said. “The volatility of oil prices and associated enthusiasm for alternatives results in a very unstable environment in which to build a business.”

Yet, cellulosic biomass conversion has unique and powerful benefits. It has the potential to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and imported petroleum dependence and is widely available and inexpensive. For example, cellulosic biomass costing $60 per dry ton has about the same cost per energy content as petroleum at about $20 per barrel. Continue reading

ICM’s 2.0 Tech to Add More Value to Ethanol Plants

Kurt Dieker head shotRecently, we told you about ICM, Inc.’s Generation 1.5 Integrated Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology that will help produce cellulosic ethanol at existing grain ethanol plants. Now the company has announced its Generation 2.0 technology that will allow ethanol plants to also produce cellulosic ethanol from the stover from those same corn fields where the grain comes from.

“ICM sees that as a co-location facility, next to Generation 1 facilities,” explained Kurt Dieker, ICM’s Director of Product Development during an interview with Joanna. He said they’ll see a differentiated feedstock going in, so the process won’t be that much different than their 1.5 technology, with corn stover and other cellulosic crops being turned into fuel. And the 1.5 technology would serve as a cheaper proving ground before stepping up to the more expensive 2.0 technology. And since the 2.0 can be located in existing ethanol plants, farmers can have one stop to bring their corn and stover to make the two generations of ethanol. “Our mission is to add value to sustainable agriculture through renewable fuels and chemicals. Not only can the plants make more money, but also the farmer make more money per acre.”

Another benefit of ICM’s Generation 2.0 technology is using the existing infrastructure, such as power and water, which can make up to 30 percent of the costs of building a plant, and using a first generation plant’s steam, making the second generation plant cheaper.

Kurt said they’ll be doing the first integrated run of the Generation 2.0 technology in the third quarter of this year, and the market will drive the future.

“The bigger thing for us is to continue to add value for our customers, continue to invest into the industry as a whole, and to give overall producers options for the future and a positive outlook.”

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Kurt here: Kurt Dieker, ICM

All the World’s A Stage

With debate on Capitol Hill on the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and pressure from oil companies to lower cellulosic fuel mandates as part of the legislation, BBI FEW-13-World-Stagerealized that the time was right to feature a panel discussing the progress to commercialization of several major renewable fuels players to bring advanced biofuels to market.

All the World’s a Stage: A Front Row Seat to the Construction and Commissioning of the Industry’s First Cellulosic Facilities panel during the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Missouri, was moderated by Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council. Also on the panel (from left to right):

  • Henrik Maimann, CEO New Bio Solutions Section & VP, Dong Energy Power
  • Mark Niederschulte, Chief Operating Officer, INEOS Bio
  • Steve Mirshak, Global Business Director – Cellulosic Ethanol, DuPont Industrial Biosciences
  • Chris Standlee, Executive Vice President, Abengoa Bioenergy
  • Wade Roby, POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels

Each panelist gave an update on their company’s project and from there, an open question and answer dialogue occurred. One of the major themes: how to bring and keep investments in the advanced biofuels sector to ensure commercialization is achieved.

Listen to the full panel discussion here: All the World's A Stage

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

Mike Bryan’s Call to Arms

FEW13-mbyranMike Bryan, CEO of BBI International kicked off the 29th International Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) with a call for action for not only the biofuel associations, but for every single person who attended the event. He began by asking the standing room only crowd if they were getting angry, frustrated and a little nervous over the bashing from some legislators as well as ethanol detractors such as Big Oil.

“Ladies and gentleman, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, we are at war,” said Bryan. “And this morning, I’m going to issue a call to arms. We are in a battle for the very survival of this industry.”

Listen to Mike Byran’s opening session remarks here: Mike Bryan, BBI

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

ICM Gen 1.5 Improves Ethanol Output, Oil Recovery

ICMlogo1Kansas-based ICM Inc. announces a new process that promises to enhance yields and oil recovery for ethanol plant, while expecting to also produce the higher value Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) for the fuel that comes from those plants. In an interview with Joanna in advance of next week’s Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Mo., Kurt Dieker, ICM’s Director of Product Development, said their new integrated technology, dubbed Generation 1.5 Integrated Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology, will help produce cellulosic ethanol at existing grain ethanol plants.

ICMGen15-1“We have an enabling technology that is a yield-enhancing technology for starch-based ethanol that goes into our platform that enables us to concentrate and clean up the fibers taken out of the normal stream,” Kurt said. Then, they take that to their Generation 1.5 technology to boost the yields of ethanol. “The payback is a yield enhancement of 5-6 percent, as well as an oil enhancement of 20-50 percent higher rates [because] the technology frees up more starch for fermentation and release from mechanical bond from the germ itself to be later separated.”

The technology development was funded by a U.S. Department of Energy grant, and Kurt said the technology can be easily added to a current ethanol operation, boosting overall yields by as much as 10 percent. In addition, he believes the fuel produced from this process, made at a 60 percent reduction in the typical ethanol plant’s greenhouse gas emissions, will soon be approved as a cellulosic ethanol eligible for higher value RINs.

“If the EPA rules that the RINs should be given, then the value of the ethanol should be higher,” while also intensifying the protein in the co-products [such as dried distillers grains] and allows more oil to be taken off, Kurt said. Even if it doesn’t get the EPA approval, the net 10 percent increase in value for an ethanol plant would make it worth it.

Kurt said the technology is ready to go into standing ethanol plants today. He says ICM will be at next week’s FEW in St. Louis and ready to answer what he expects to be a lot of questions from ethanol producers there.

“If people are interested in talking about it, we’re definitely interested in talking to customers on how we can add value to their plants and their bottom lines.”

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Kurt here: Kurt Dieker, ICM

EPA Proposes RFS Amendments

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced proposed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) amendments and clarifications, which include new pathway determinations for advanced biofuels such as isobutanol and ethanol from crop residues.

epaThe EPA proposal also includes “various changes to the E15 misfueling mitigation regulations (E15 MMR) which are minor technical corrections and amendments to sections dealing with labeling, E15 surveys, product transfer documents, and prohibited acts” as well as changes to the survey requirements associated with the ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) program.

EPA is proposing to allow renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable electricity (used in electric vehicles) produced from landll biogas to generate cellulosic or advanced biofuel RINs. Renewable compressed natural gas (CNG)/liquified natural gas (LNG) produced from landfill biogas are also proposed to generate cellulosic RINs. EPA is also proposing to allow butanol that meets the 50% GHG emission reduction threshold to qualify as advanced biofuel. The rulemaking also proposes a clarication regarding the definition of crop residue to include corn kernel ber and proposes an approach to determining the volume of cellulosic renewable identication numbers (RINs) produced from various cellulosic feedstocks. Further, this proposal discusses and seeks comment on the potential to allow for commingling of compliant products at the retail facility level as long as the environmental perfor­mance of the commingled fuels would not be detrimental. The action also addresses “nameplate capacity” issues for certain production facilities that do not claim ex­emption from the 20% GHG reduction threshold. Several other amendments to the RFS program are included.

“This proposed rulemaking package is essentially a collection of ‘housekeeping amendments’ that will address several odds and ends that needed to be addressed in the regulatory text,” commented Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We are pleased that among these proposed amendments is a provision clarifying that ethanol produced from the cellulosic portions of the corn kernel can qualify as cellulosic biofuel under the RFS2.”

“Companies continue to make investments, put steel in the ground, create jobs and develop technologies that reduce dependence on foreign oil and contribute to a cleaner environment,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s (BIO) Industrial & Environmental Section. “They are preparing to make additional investments with assurance that U.S. policy is committed to energy security and production of biofuels.”

The proposal has been submitted to the Federal Register for public comment.

Foreign Fuels Reduction Act – Good for Biofuels?

Joe_Manchin_official_portrait_112th_CongressA fancy title does not good biofuels policy make.

Mixed emotions are emanating from the introduction of the “Foreign Fuels Reduction Act,” introduced by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn). The legislation would allow only domestically-sourced fuels to be used to meet the requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“It is time for America to create an all-of-the-above energy policy that will help lead us to energy independence,” Manchin said. “It’s simply common sense to use all of our resources, and that includes non-food based biofuels. I am proud to cosponsor this bill with my good friend Senator Bob Corker to make sure that we continue to develop domestic non-food based biofuels while stopping the current system’s incentives to import food-based ethanol products from foreign countries.”

Corker-090707-18364- 0004According to Corker, the RFS is having some unintended consequences. “This bill is a common sense step toward potentially mitigating gasoline price increases the RFS may contribute to in the near future,” he said. “Because its mandated biofuels volumes are too high, the RFS is also unintentionally incentivizing ethanol imports.  Our bill helps to correct that problem by more properly aligning mandated levels with what we produce domestically.”

The potential challenge with the bill? It would require a reduction in the volume of cellulosic biofuel required under the RFS. It would also result in a pro rata reduction to the total volume of renewable fuel and advanced biofuels,a fight many anti-biofuel camps have been engaged in for years. While this would “ensure” only domestically produced biofuels are used, it would lower the total amount required until production levels ramp up significantly. Continue reading

Visalia Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Surpasses 1,000 Hours

The demonstration cellulosic ethanol plant owned by Edeniq and located in Visalia, California has exceeded 1,000 hours of continuous operation. The corn-to-cellulosic migration plant uses the company’s proprietary technology to process more than one metric ton of feedstock per day into cellulosic ethanol. According to the company, this achievement exceeded the plant’s initial target. The project, funded in part by a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant, is being used to demonstrate the viability of producing ethanol in a cost-effective manner from non-food sources including corn stover, switchgrass and woodchips.

Edeniq Plant Employee3In addition to achieving over 1,000 hours of continuous operation, the plant sustained and exceeded the DOE’s target of at least 90 percent up time demonstrating over 95 percent operational reliability. In addition, the facility promotes the use of sustainable resources including reusing or recycling substantial portions of its water to meet process demands, according to a company press release.

“While we have been developing these ethanol technology solutions for years, being able to fully integrate and operate our own plant has given us invaluable, deeper insight into the intricacies of the process and has enabled us to continuously improve our core technologies and operations,” said Thomas P. Griffin, chief technology officer at Edeniq. “The DOE has been a tremendous leader and driver in moving US interests toward the commercialization of advanced biofuels, and we look forward to further collaboration with them in the pursuit of this shared mission.”

The next step for Edeniq is to continue operations of the plant under the co-sponsorship of the California Energy Commission. The plant will undergo further process enhancements toward the production of low-cost sugars from a range of biomass and agricultural waste sources, including those indigenous to California. Edeniq is also working with companies to implement larger scale facilities based on the successful testing and operations of its demonstration plant.

New Yeast Strain Could Cut Cellulosic Ethanol Costs

Liu1Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have developed a new strain of yeast that could cut the costs of cellulosic ethanol production. This Agricultural Research Service (ARS) news release says the work is being done at the agency’s National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill.

ARS molecular biologist Zonglin Lewis Liu and his colleagues determined that this yeast strain can break down and ferment the sugars in corn cobs left behind after the compound xylose—which is sometimes used for industrial activities—has been extracted. The new strain of yeast, Clavispora NRRL Y-50464 (Y-50464), can tolerate cob-derived compounds that interfere with yeast growth and fermentation rates.

It is able to grow rapidly at 98.6 °F, so it thrives at the higher temperatures needed to optimize simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) rates. SSF is a one-step process in cellulosic ethanol production that combines releasing and fermenting feedstock sugars…

The scientists added the enzymes cellulase and beta-glucosidase, which are often used to break down residues and extract sugars, and observed that Y-50464 reached its peak ethanol production rate of 25.7 grams per liter 5 days after the experiment began. But the yeast actually produced more ethanol, 26.6 grams per liter in 5 days, without the addition of beta-glucosidase.

Confirmation of beta-glucosidase in Y-50464 will eliminate the need to include the cost of that additional enzyme to the process.

Neil Young Fills ‘er Up with Cellulosic Ethanol

Earlier this month, Hall of Fame recording artist Neil Young stopped by Sioux Falls, South Dakota to fill up his LincVolt with POET-DSM cellulosic ethanol. LincVolt is a hybrid-electric 1959 Lincoln Continental with onboard charging powered by cellulosic ethanol. He’s on a cross-country tour to highlight renewable energy.

During his visit, Young said you don’t see much about what is going on with the climate in the media. “It’s just not a fast moving subject. It’s a slow moving big story. But it’s not going to be going away unless we do something.”

He supports American-made fuel and noted that when he filled up with cellulosic ethanol, his vehicle is able to get an 80 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) over traditional gasoline. “This is just incredible for the planet,” added Young.

Check out the video here and I must say his refurbished Lincoln is “DYNOMITE”.

Dyadic Talks Enzyme Production for Biofuels at ABLC

MarkEmalfarbA big issue for biofuels producers, especially those in the cellulosic branch, is trying to come up with enzymes that can crack the multitude of biomass structures to unlock the sugars within, and thus, unlock the fuel trapped within.

“The enzymes have always been one of the Achilles’ heels of the cellulosic side,” Mark Emalfarb, CEO of Dyadic International, a biotech company that turns DNA into the proteins and enzymes for a variety of uses, including biofuels production, told me at the recent Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference. “We have a fungal cell that we have created from a Russian fungus that for the last 20 years we’ve developed into a protein factory,” encoding genes with different enzymes to get the sugars for biofuel production.

Because there are differences in what will unlock the sugars every biomass variety, Mark says Dyadic’s process is helpful because it can make all these different enzymes from one fungal cell and one fermentation. “We’re not making five different fermentations and blending five different enzymes together, it’s all produced simultaneously out of the same cell line.” He points to one of their licensees, Abengoa Bioenergy, building a 25 million gallon cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas, which using this technology allows them to make their own enzymes for half the cost … sometimes the difference between operating in the red or in the black.

“This enables you to do things you couldn’t do before, and to do them on-site without the profit margins the enzyme companies want to charge will make the difference,” Mark says.

Listen to more of my interview with Mark here: Mark Emalfarb, CEO of Dyadic

GlobalData: BioEthanol Car Fuel of Future

According to a new report by @GlobalDataEnergy, #bioethanol is the car fuel of the future. The report, “#Cellulosic Ethanol – Global Production, Major Trends, Regulations, and Key Country Analysis to 2020,” finds that #ethanol is the most widely acclaimed alternative or additive for gasoline used for running vehicles. In addition, the U.S. ranked number one in biofuel production using natural waste feedstocks. According to the latest report, the U.S. is the global leader in cellulosic ethanol production, manufacturing 5.42 million gallons in 2012.

bioethanolBioethanol is produced through the fermentation of cellulosic feedstock such as forest and agricultural waste. The reports finds that the U.S. has an abundance of biomass feedstock, and dedicated energy crops such as #switchgrass and #miscanthus that are grown exclusively for conversion into cellulosic ethanol to help the nation’s ambition to meet fuel needs while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The U.S. is the only country currently working to promote the cellulosic ethanol market, says the report, with the U.S. Department of Energy (US DOE) providing grants to help companies establish a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. As a result, several companies have set up pilot and demonstration plants and a few commercial plants are expected to be commissioned in late 2013. The report also finds that the U.S. have also mandated the addition of 10% ethanol in gasoline fuel, setting steady domestic demand for the industry, while certain recently released cars are able to run on a 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline mix.

The report finds corn stover and wheat straw are among the most freely available types of feedstock used in countries producing cellulosic ethanol, and growing ethanol demand may see these nations utilizing the residue of their corn crop for ethanol production, creating a sizable market for agricultural waste. GlobalData expects that the growing feedstock demand will create a structured market, in which biomass feedstock prices will be set based on their ethanol yield and the prevailing trading price of ethanol.

Some EU countries such as France and Italy have cellulosic ethanol production infrastructure, but a limited supply of biomass feedstock. Growth of commercial production in these countries may fuel the need to import feedstock from nearby countries or expand production to other countries with ample feedstock availability. A few producers with upcoming commercial scale plants in the U.S. have already started signing agreements to procure agricultural residue and other kinds of cellulosic feedstock.

Global cellulosic ethanol is expected to increase from 14.25m gallons in 2012 to 412.25m gallons in 2020, with commercial production anticipated to take off on a large scale in late 2013 and 2014, thanks to major players adding substantial production capacity and new companies joining the market. The report finds that the U.S. is expected to retain its market dominance until 2020.

RFS Shown to Work Because It Makes Big Oil Nervous

coleman1How can we tell the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) is working? By how nervous it’s making the big oil companies. That was the message attendees at the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference near Washington, D.C. heard.

“We are disrupting an existing marketplace,” says Brooke Coleman, Executive Director of the Advanced Ethanol Council. “We are not social media. We are not creating a new search engine. We are not doing something new… we just happen to be doing what other people are doing, better.”

Brooke says that has made some pretty powerful enemies of biofuels, who are spending a lot of money to destroy the biofuel brand … from corn ethanol to biodiesel to cellulosic biofuels. But he’s confident their attempt to change the Clean Air Act, and thus the RFS, will fail, ultimately because of the political allies biofuels have made.

“You’ve got Republicans and Democrats who see this thing [RFS] work, create jobs … just shy of 400,000 … and it’s just hard to change,” adding the political environment is not conducive to wholesale changes to either the Clean Air Act or the RFS.

Brooke says the diverse group that makes up the biofuels coalition is more together than ever, with efforts like Fuels America, a coalition to protect the RFS and the renewable fuels industry, and more collaboration than ever … without getting hung up on differences within the biofuels sector.

“We don’t agree on everything, [but] the trick is not to get so focused on the one or two things we don’t agree on … and focus on what we DO agree on.”

Listen to more of my interview with Brooke here: Brooke Coleman, AEC