ZeaChem Claims Successful Ethanol Conversion

ZeachemBiomass refinery developer ZeaChem today announced the successful production of ethanol at a capacity that can be scaled to commercial production.

According to a news release, ZeaChem’s results have been confirmed by third party vendors and the company will now demonstrate the integration of its biorefining processes at its 250,000 gallon per year Boardman, Oregon biorefinery, announced earlier this month. The company plans begin cellulosic ethanol production at the plant next year.

Using off-the-shelf catalysts and standard equipment in an innovative way, ZeaChem produced ethanol from ethyl acetate through a process called hydrogenation –a common industrial practice that is readily scaled to commercial levels.

“Through the successful production of ethanol, we’ve completed ZeaChem’s C2 carbon chain suite of products, which includes acetic acid, ethyl acetate, and ethanol,” said Jim Imbler, president and CEO of ZeaChem. “The next step is to integrate these known processes to achieve the ultimate target of commercial production of economical and sustainable biofuels and bio-based chemicals.”

ZeaChem’s technology uses a bacteria found in termite guts in an anaerobic fermentation process that produces no CO2 emissions.

EPAC’s 20th Annual Conference Kicks Off

Ethanol Producers and Consumers (EPAC), an educational outreach non-profit organization who supports the production and use of biofuels as a renwable alternative fuel, kicked off their 20th annual conference today in Missoula, MT. “The Biofuel Journey” conference held a number of sessions focusing on ethanol, biodiesel and small grains.

“Twenty years! Who would have thought it?” noted Chairman of the EPAC board, Shirley Ball in her welcome. “Thanks for being here in 2010 to help us celebrate!”

Montana’s Director of Agriculture Ron De Yong presented opening remarks this morning followed by a video greeting from Senator Max Baucus, Senator Jon Tester and Representative Dennis Rehberg. The session that followed, The Journey Begins. . . “The OFEC (Old Fogie Ethanol Coalition) Perspective” included presentations from Shirley Ball, Larry Johnson of LLJ Consulting and Business Development, Dave Hallberg of PRIME BioSolutions, Patsy Reimche of EPAC, and Todd Sneller of the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

Sessions following included speakers on the topics of: Early Years – Early Support – The Industry Grows, Air Quality, Biodiesel, and Small Grains.

The EPAC conference concludes tomorrow with presentations on: Cellulosic Ethanol, DDG’s, Beyond the Blend Wall: E85, Green Jobs and more.

Need For Research On Grain Quality and Ethanol Production

Leland McKinneyYou may be interested to know how grain quality affects ethanol production and DDGs. If so, then you would interested in Leland McKinney’s presentation at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference, held recently in Atlanta. I spoke with him to learn about his research on this topic. Leland is Extension State Leader in the Dept. of Grain Science at Kansas State University.

To start with he says that getting information presented a challenge since there’s not a lot of it publicly available. So, without much data to work with he visited personally with industry representatives to find out their thoughts and put together an overview presentation on the subject. He says moisture and how it impacts grinding efficiency and water balance in an ethanol plant were mentioned as well as quality attributes like fermentable starch and test weight. When it comes to the DDGs he says mycotoxins came up frequently as a concern. The bottom line though is that research is needed on how grain quality effects the production of ethanol. Hopefully that will be done before another CUTC!

Leland McKinney Interview

Corn Growers Say Now is Time for Ethanol

NCGANo time like Independence Day to renew the call for renewables to increase our energy independence.

This week, with Congress preparing for an Independence Day recess prior to debate on a new energy bill, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is stepping up its campaign to ensure that corn-based ethanol is part of the formula that brings our country to energy security and independence. That includes a new television ad stressing the importance of ethanol that starts airing today on local news programs in Washington and on major cable channels such as Fox, CNN and MSNBC.

“It’s now clear that events both here at home and abroad demand a different solution to our energy needs,” the ad states. “One that protects our national security, safeguards our environment and promotes economic growth. One answer grows in our own backyard. Turning American corn into America’s energy. It’s renewable, efficient, abundant and safe. And it creates American jobs. We feed the world; we can fuel it, too. Ethanol. Now is the time.”

Watch the ad below and read more about the NCGA campaign here.

Senators Call for Increasing Ethanol Blend Rate

Midwestern senators are calling on the Obama administration to stop delaying testing that would allow an increase in the blend rate of ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent.

amy klobucharIn a letter to President Obama, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and six other senators expressed concern that the Department of Energy (DOE) has not yet completed testing higher blends of ethanol gasoline, which would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a waiver for gasoline with blends of ethanol higher than 10 percent.

“In the wake of the worst oil spill in our nation’s history, we believe our government should operate with a great sense of urgency to utilize more homegrown biofuels,” the senators wrote in the letter. “We urge you to use all available means to ensure that the DOE’s testing is completed as soon as possible so that both consumers and our biofuels industry are not further harmed by this delay.”

In addition to Klobuchar, the letter was signed by Democratic senators from Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana.

Growth Energy Sets Key Ethanol Policy Issues

There are many key priorities for the ethanol industry right now and so I spent some time with Growth Energy’s CEO, Tom Buis to learn more about the political priorities the association is currently working on. Buis began by explaining that a lot depends on what actions Congress will take on the energy front. He mentioned that our country has recently come off the highest gas prices in 2008 the country has ever witnessed and that Congress has taken no steps to address this problem. “We feel they need to address the fuel issues,” said Buis.

There are many elements involved in addressing fuel issues and here are some of Growth Energy’s top priorities.

  1. 1) Our country needs to mandate flex-fuel vehicles and blender pumps at every gas station across the country.
  2. 2) On the market access side, they want to see an ethanol pipeline built. This will lower transportation costs, lower the industry’s carbon footprint and ultimately help consumers save more money at the pump.
  3. 3) The association would like to see some previous legislation re-visited specifically as part of the 2007 Energy Bill. First, they want to see indirect land use change removed. Second, they would like to see the corn discrimination clause reviewed. This clause states that under no circumstance can corn (or starch-based) ethanol, ever be considered an advanced fuel.
  4. 4) VETC, or the blender’s credit, is set to expire soon and Buis noted that they would like to see this extended for multiple years.
  5. 5) The ethanol tariff is under review. The sets a “fee” on ethanol imported from other countries that offsets the blender’s tax credit. It is designed, explained, Buis, to keep American’s from subsidizing foreign ethanol.

There are several more issues that the association is working on and you can learn about them by listening to the full interview with Tom, who is joined by Steve McNich, the CEO of Western Plains Energy in Oakley, Kansas.

Ethanol Industry Pleased With USDA Biofuels Report

USDA’s “Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022″ released on Wednesday gives all the right directions as far as the ethanol industry is concerned, now they want to see it actually hit the road and make it to the destination.

USDAReleasing the report, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “The current ethanol industry provides a solid foundation to build upon and reach the 36 billion gallon goal. As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to bring our country closer to complete energy independence and this report provides a roadmap to achieve that goal.”

The report acknowledges the significant role of corn ethanol in meeting future goals, outlines a regional analysis of feedstocks that can be utilized for biofuels production, and stresses the need for more blender pumps and flex fuel vehicles (FFVs). All of the nation’s ethanol industry organizations issued responses that they were pleased with USDA’s report.

Renewable Fuels Association LogoRenewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen calls the goals of the RFS ambitious, but achievable. “Secretary Vilsack and USDA have rightfully identified the crucial areas in which the department can help accelerate the growth of the industry and ensure the RFS delivers on the goals provided when Congress passed the legislation,” said Dinneen.

The USDA report says the agency “can immediately offer assistance on infrastructure” such as blender pumps to add to what the ethanol industry is already doing. RFA has joined with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) on the Blend Your Own campaign aimed at installing 5,000 blender pumps in the next three years, and Growth Energy recently began a grant program for retailers to install the pumps.

ACEHowever, the organizations all note that increasing the blend rate for ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent is still a critical step that is needed. “Until the regulations are modernized to allow more than 10 percent biofuels in a gallon of gasoline, petroleum still has a 90 percent mandate at the pump,” said ACE executive vice president Brian Jennings. USDA’s report acknowledges the “blend wall” as one of the challenges in expanding the use of biofuels, but beyond that says only that “EPA is in the process of evaluating whether a decision to blend up to 15 percent ethanol into gasoline is justifiable based on the latest science, its effect on engines, and its effect on air quality.”

Growth EnergyGrowth Energy CEO Tom Buis commended Secretary Vilsack for “looking down the road to help America achieve its energy independence” with a long term plan, but noted that interim measures are needed, such as approval of Growth Energy’s petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to increase the allowable blend of ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.

Switzer Performance Reveals E85 Nissan

According to autoevolution.com, Switzer Performance has produced a Nissan GTR that runs on E85. The Switzer E900 is named so because it runs on ethanol fuel and produces no less than 900 horsepower.

Working in New Zealand, the group partnered with Dodson Motorsports to beef up the horsepower. The obious fuel to use was 85 percent ethanol which assists in boosting the car from 60 to 130 mph in under 6 seconds.

“E85 isn’t without its trade-offs. We had to modify the fuel system to handle the fuel and significantly increase the size of the injectors, also, but in the end we had a fuel that gave us everything we needed to crank up the boost on this car and deliver over 900 hp,” Tym Switzer said in a statement for the press.

Other vehicle traits include an Amuse carbon fiber aero package, 3-way adjustable suspension, and 20-inch BBS wheels that are an inch wider than stock at all four corners.

“With most high-horsepower cars, you can barely breathe after just a few dyno runs,” Switzer added. “With the E85, we were able to run pull after pull to dial in the tune without feeling any effects of the usual emissions. It’s hardly scientific, but there was a noticeable improvement in the air quality in the shop compared to race gas.”

USDA Releasing Report on Biofuels

The USDA is releasing a report on renewable transportation fuels and the role the agency will play in development of those biofuels.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the report comes as the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) gets ready to kick in on July 1st and will require that 36 billion gallons of biofuel per year be in America’s fuel supply by 2022:

“The Obama Administration has made domestic production of renewable energy a national priority because it will create jobs, combat global warming, reduce fossil fuel dependence and lay a strong foundation for a strong 21st Century rural economy, and I am confident that we can meet the threshold of producing 36 billion gallons of biofuel annually by 2022,” Vilsack said. “As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to bring our country closer to complete energy independence and this report provides a roadmap to achieve that goal.”

Vilsack says the ag department’s role will be to identify numerous biomass feedstocks to be utilized in developing biofuels and to call for the funding of further investments in research and development of feedstocks, sustainable production and management systems, efficient conversion technologies & high-value bioproducts, and decision support and policy analysis tools.

“Our focus at USDA is primarily on how do you build biorefineries in all parts of the country, how do you take advantage of the most efficient and effective feedtsocks that are available in each region of the country, and how do you create enough blender pumps so there’s customer convenience to build greater demand on Detroit and other auto manufacturers to produce the kinds of cars to use more ethanol.” He adds the program needs to go national, on a governmental and private business level, for the biggest impact.

You can read the report at www.USDA.gov.

USDA: Ethanol Plants Gain in Net Energy Output

A new report shows that ethanol plants are becoming even more efficient in turning energy into more energy, showing great energy gains.

The USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey of corn growers for the year 2005 and the 2008 survey of dry mill ethanol plants show that dry grind ethanol plants that produce and sell dry distiller’s grains and use conventional fossil fuel power for thermal energy and electricity produces nearly two times more energy in the form of ethanol delivered to customers than it uses for corn, processing, and transportation. The ratio is about 2.3 BTU of ethanol for 1 BTU of energy in inputs, when a more generous means of removing byproduct energy is employed.

Just back in 2004, the ratio was only 1.76 BTUs for every 1 BTU of energy inputs. And the report shows that some dry mills that use 50 percent biomass power have an energy output of 2.8 times the energy it takes to make one unit of energy. The news was welcomed by Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association:

“This study clearly demonstrates the technological advancements that have taken place in ethanol production in just a short period of time,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “The findings prove that ethanol production is becoming cleaner and more efficient at a time when oil production continues to become dirtier and more difficult to extract.”

“If previous ethanol energy analyses have been nails in the coffin of the stale and distorted ‘negative energy balance’ myth, this report serves as the final burial,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “As better and more current data become available, there can be no doubt that ethanol offers tremendous energy benefits while greatly reducing consumption of crude oil. American ethanol producers continue to evolve, becoming more efficient and producing greater environmental benefit. This evolution stands in stark contrast to the worsening profile of oil production.”

The full report is available here.

Iowa Ethanol and Tony Kanaan Win Indy Style

Tony Kanaan Iowa Corn Indy 250Iowa corn growers are big winners again on race day in Newton, IA. Actually the winner of the Iowa Corn Indy 250 is Tony Kanaan, #11 the 7-11 Car. He lifted the big gas pump trophy in joy since he’s had some tough luck here on this track in the past.

The Iowa Corn Growers and Pioneer Hi-Bred have got to be thrilled that the bad weather of late held off today so that racing fans got to enjoy a very good one. At the same time they got full value for their investment in the race as it was televised in its entirety. Ethanol and corn grower messages were aired frequently throughout the broadcast and the announcers really did a great job of thanking and pointing out all the green shirts in the crowd.

I’m just about to upload the last of my photos for the day before heading home to ZimmComm World Headquarters. I hope you’ve enjoyed the coverage. I’ve still got several interviews to post here and on Domestic Fuel in the next few days.

Tony Kanaan held a press conference following the race and all the picture taking and you can listen to it below.

Iowa Corn Indy 250 Photo Album.

Ethanol Burning The Track At Iowa Corn Indy 250

Iowa Corn Indy 250 Green FlagThe Iowa Corn Indy 250 is underway in Newton, IA.

Waving the green flag is Iowa Corn Growers Association President, Don Elsbernd. I’m just guessing what his pulse rate is!

The weather is cooperating and I’ll be updating with our winner later this afternoon. Right now it’s time to load some race photos to the photo album

Iowa Corn Indy 250 Photo Album.

Iowa Corn Promotion Continues At Indy

Bill Northey and Dick GallagherThe Chairman-Elect for the Iowa Corn Promotion Board is Dick Gallagher, pictured (right) with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. They’re attending all the activities of the Iowa Corn Indy 250 which is scheduled for later today.

I spoke with Dick earlier this week at an E-85 pump promotion at a Des Moines Kum & Go. Dick says the corn crop got planted just fine in his area near Washington, IA but since then they’ve had too much rain. Hopefully the sun will shine in that area soon! Dick says that the Iowa Corn Indy 250 has provided an opportunity for a lot of racing fans to go to an Indy race for the first time. It has shown that the fuel can perform at the highest level.

You can listen to my interview with Dick below.

Iowa Corn Indy 250 Photo Album.

Ethanol Qualifies For Iowa Corn Indy 250

Ryan Hunter-ReayAt least for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 there will be a car with the word “Ethanol” prominently displayed. Driving the #37 Ethanol USA Team Izod Indy car will be Ryan Hunter-Reay who qualified 12th today for the race. His qualifying speed was 179.666 mph.

Our pole winner was Will Power, #12, Verizon Team Penske car with a speed of 181.337 mph. It was a competitive session with Milka Duno crashing in turn 2 on her laps. She’s okay.

Mindy Larson Poldberg, Director of Government Relations for the Iowa Corn Growers Association sang the National Anthem tonight before the races taking place. I caught it on my phone.

I’ll be on the track all day tomorrow collecting more photos and interviews as American made ethanol is once again featured in the heartland.

Iowa Corn Indy 250 Photo Album.

Ethanol Good For America Says IA Ag Secretary

Chuck IndyThis was me moments before rain drops hit Iowa Speedway again yesterday. After years of taking photos of other people getting a ride in the Indy 2-Seater I finally had my chance. But just as we were about to pull onto the track rain canceled the deal. Oh well, maybe another time. I do think I look good in an Indy Car though. Thanks to Ann Marie Edwards, Edwards Communications, for the photo. Our two drivers for the event were Sarah Fisher and Davey Hamilton.

When I got in line I was surprised to be right behind Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. Bill follows me on Twitter and is an AgWired fan btw! So, I got my iPhone out for a short interview. He says that the challenges in the Gulf remind us that a home grown fuel like ethanol is one we ought to be producing more of. He’d like to see an extension of the ethanol tax credit this year. He says we need domestic fuel, we need jobs and we need economic activity and ethanol answers those needs.

You can listen to my interview with Sec. Northey below.

Iowa Corn Indy 250 Photo Album.