China Approves Imports of Biotech Corn

syngentaSyngenta announced today that it has received approval for the Agrisure Viptera® trait (event MIR162) from China’s regulatory authorities, formally granting import approval. The approval covers corn grain and processing byproducts, such as dried distillers grains (DDGs), for food and feed use.

The Agrisure Viptera® trait is a key component of Syngenta’s insect control solutions, offering growers protection against the broadest spectrum of above-ground corn pests and enabling significant crop yield gains. Agrisure Viptera® has been approved for cultivation in the USA since 2010 and has also been approved for cultivation in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Syngenta originally submitted the import approval dossier to the Chinese authorities in March 2010. In addition to China, Agrisure Viptera® has been approved for import into Australia/New Zealand, Belarus, the European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Leifmark, New Holland Bale Stover for Ethanol

leifmark-new-holland-1Baling corn stover is part of the next generation of cellulosic ethanol, and two major players in the green fuel and agribusiness markets are moving that process forward. Leifmark, LLC and New Holland Agriculture recently teamed up to test equipment and methods used to gather, bale, and store the corn stover left behind after the grain harvest in two Iowa cornfields.

Paul Kamp, Leifmark’s Chicago-based partner, coordinated the 520-bale collection. “Using local specialists and best practices, we showed stover harvesting on area farms is very practical. That’s good news for three ethanol producers now considering new businesses making cellulosic ethanol from biomass.”

Developing more efficient methods and equipment brings down the overall cost of stover, says Kamp, whose company markets Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology in North America.

“Couple lower stover prices with a predictable supply chain,” adds Kamp, “and you reduce risk perceptions with biomass. So future plant owners can feel confident putting their capital into cellulosic ethanol projects.”

New Holland Agriculture’s Scott Wangsgard emphasizes that “technology companies like Inbicon have certain specifications for corn stover bales. To meet them, we’ve been designing specialized equipment that also boosts collection efficiencies.”

New Holland used a high-capacity baler and automated bale wagon that picks up, transports, and stacks the 3′ x 4′ x 8′ square bales required for Inbicon’s refining process. Officials say the square bales handle more easily than round ones, store in much less space, and pack tighter so flatbed trucks can haul more tonnage per trip.

China May Reopen Market for U.S. DDGs

distillers_grains_ Photo US Grains CouncilNews out this week that Chinese officials committed to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack that the ban on imports of U.S. distillers grains (DDGs) containing the MIR 162 trait will be dropped is being met with optimism by the ethanol industry.

“While we are still awaiting the official regulatory announcement from China regarding the approval of this policy, it is welcome news for America’s ethanol industry,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “I would like to personally thank Secretary Vilsack for his leadership and steadfast commitment to ensuring a resolution to this issue. Additionally, the many hardworking professionals of the USDA and the USTR deserve praise for their dedicated work behind the scenes and for their persistence in working with their Chinese colleagues to re-establish market access for U.S. DDGs.”

“China has always been somewhat schizophrenic with our protein feed,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen in an interview today. “There are times when they desperately want it and can’t get enough of it, there are times when they will erect these mysterious trade barriers so that we can’t get our product in there … We think we may be getting through it now.”

According to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative
, one of the outcomes of the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade meetings was in the area of agricultural exports related to biotechnology traits. “China announced that it would approve the importation of new biotechnology varieties of U.S. soybeans and corn ­… and also that it would pursue a regular dialogue with the United States focused on the benefits of the increased use of innovative technologies in agriculture, for both the United States and China.”

Ethanol Report on RFS Anniversary

ethanol-report-adToday, December 19, marks the seventh anniversary of the signing into law of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which expanded the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In this Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen remembers that day seven years ago and talks about its accomplishments so far and how EPA needs to move ahead with the law as written. He also comments on the report out this week from the Bipartisan Policy Center recommending changes to the RFS.

Ethanol Report on RFS Anniversary

E85 Ethanol is a Popular Fuel in Iowa

Three Brothers Car Repair E85 pumpE85 ethanol is becoming a popular fuel in Iowa. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says motorists in the state bought more than 3.3 million gallons of E85 in the third quarter of 2014, the third highest E85 sales in any quarter on record, and a more than 350,000 gallon increase (12 percent) over the second quarter of 2014.

“It’s encouraging to see motorists stepping up to improve air quality in Iowa while taking advantage of attractive E85 prices in the third quarter of 2014,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Price is often a motivator for consumers, but there are many reasons to use E85, including the energy security, environmental and local economic development benefits. And, while falling petroleum prices may curtail E85 sales in the fourth quarter, a record setting year for E85 sales in Iowa is still within reach.”

In Iowa, E85 is a fuel blend containing between 70 and 85 percent ethanol. E85 is currently sold at more than 200 fueling sites in Iowa, and can be used in all flex-fuel vehicles (FFV). To determine if your vehicle can use E85, please check your owner’s manual, the vehicle’s fuel cap, or click here for a list of FFVs.

A list of E85 retailers in Iowa is available here.

POET-DSM Commends Partners in Cellulosic Ethanol Venture

POET DSM logoPOET-DSM is commending its partners in a cellulosic ethanol venture. This company news release says POET is praising Suomen Bioetanoli Oy and the government of Finland after the Finnish government announced a 30 million euros grant to Suomen Bioetanoli Oy to build a plant that will convert wheat straw into about 24 million gallons of ethanol annually.

“Suomen Bioetanoli Oy is taking a bold step forward in growing Europe’s bioeconomy and expanding our sources for transportation fuel,” said Rob van Leen, Chairman of the POET-DSM Board. “Additionally, the grant award shows Finland’s firm commitment to growing sustainable energy production. Our joint venture partners look forward to working with Suomen Bioetanoli Oy to make commercial cellulosic bioethanol a reality in Finland.”

POET and DSM are in discussions with Suomen Bioetanoli Oy on how to utilize process, yeast and enzyme technology from the respective companies for the conversion of cellulose to ethanol.

RFA Refutes Univ of Minnesota Report on Ethanol

RFANewlogoThose who advocate for ethanol are refuting an academic report about the green fuel. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is countering conclusions made by researchers at the University of Minnesota claiming that ethanol is more harmful to humans and the environment than gasoline. RFA examined the research, recently published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” finding it ran counter to real-world data, contradicted current lifecycle modeling and research, and omitted key variables when determining the environmental impact of electric vehicles and gasoline, ultimately undermining the credibility of the study.

RFA notes that the paper’s conclusions “…stand at odds with real-world data showing decreases in ozone and PM2.5 concentrations…” and that “Data from 222 EPA sensing sites show that ozone and PM2.5 concentrations have trended downward during the period in which the use of ethanol-blended gasoline has dramatically increased.”

The RFA response goes on to show that “On a full lifecycle basis, the study’s results are contradictory to the results from the Department of Energy’s latest GREET model” and that “There is a substantial body of evidence proving that ethanol reduces both exhaust hydrocarbons and CO emissions, and thus can help reduce the formation of ground-level ozone.”

The study’s reliability is also called into question as it omitted key factors when reaching conclusions on the environmental impact of gasoline and electric vehicles. RFA points out that the University of Minnesota conclusion “…excludes NOx and SOx emissions associated with crude oil extraction, a decision that grossly underrepresents the actual lifecycle emissions impacts of gasoline.” RFA concluded, “Omitting key emissions sources from the lifecycle assessment of EVs and crude oil inappropriately skews the paper’s results for the overall emissions impacts of these fuels and vehicles.”

You can read all of the RFA’s response here.

Happy Anniversary RFS!

rfs-7Friday marks the seventh anniversary of the signing into law of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) which expanded the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as we know it today.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has compiled a report that examines the successful impact of the RFS over the past seven years on the economy, job creation, agriculture, the environment, fuel prices, petroleum import dependence, and food prices.

Among its findings, the report notes that “Renewable fuel production and consumption have grown dramatically. Dependence on petroleum—particularly imports—is down significantly. Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector have fallen. The value of agricultural products is up appreciably. And communities across the country have benefited from the job creation, increased tax revenue, and heightened household income that stem from the construction and operation of a biorefinery.”

“The RFS was always intended to be a marathon and not a sprint. Results were never intended to come overnight, but over the past seven years America has reaped vast economic, environmental, and national security benefits due to the increased use of home-grown, renewable fuels,” noted RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The only hiccup in the unprecedented success of the program is a consequence of EPA’s recent failure to implement the program as designed by Congress. As we blow out the candle on the RFS’ seventh birthday cake, we do so with a wish that EPA would quickly restore the RFS to a trajectory that will enable continued investment in advanced biofuels, drive the market beyond the blend wall, and provide consumers with meaningful options and savings at the pump.”

Read more from RFA.

Iowa Lawmakers Honored for Support of Renewables

Three retiring state lawmakers in Iowa have been honored for “their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels.” The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says the outgoing lawmakers were given the “Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels” award for their long, distinguished careers and steadfast support of renewable fuels.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

“It’s bittersweet to see these distinguished individuals leave the state legislature after long, successful careers, and we wish them nothing but the best in the future,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “Their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels issues will be greatly missed, and we sincerely thank them for their enduring accomplishments.”

The Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels awards were given to:

State Senator Daryl Beall of Fort Dodge, Iowa. Sen. Beall was an enthusiastic supporter of renewable fuels who worked tirelessly to promote ethanol and biodiesel both inside and outside the state legislature.

State Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan, Iowa. As a farmer, Sen. Boettger was a rock solid supporter of renewable fuels who was critical in winning support for Iowa’s renewable fuels policy, including tax credits for retailers offering higher ethanol and biodiesel blends and fuel dispensing equipment grants for renewable fuels upgrades.

State Senator Hubert Houser of Carson, Iowa. Sen. Houser was also instrumental in passing the framework of today’s renewable fuels policy in Iowa, and was active in the creation of Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE), an ethanol production facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

With 43 ethanol refineries producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually and 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually, Iowa is the nation’s renewable fuels leader.

Deck Stacked Against Ag and Biofuels in Report

bpcThe Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) appears to be a bit partisan in a new report released this week on “Options for Reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

The report was produced after several meetings during the year with an advisory group that consisted of 23 members, seven of which were oil companies representatives. Only five members of the group represented agriculture or advanced biofuels and biodiesel producers. The rest were a mix of academia (2), big business (4) with two of those representing Toyota, environmental groups (2), and policy organizations (3).

Both of the agriculture representatives were from the National Farmers Union (NFU), president Roger Johnson and vice president of programs Chandler Goule. “It was very important that agriculture that supports the renewable fuels industry be present at the table,” said Goule, who said the meetings were held in a very professional manner. “The problem with the meetings is that they were heavily skewed toward big oil.”

NFUlogoThe report concluded that improvements to the RFS are needed, but did not recommend actual repeal of the law. Goule says NFU has major objections to two of the policy recommendations made in the report. “The flattening of the total renewable fuel mandate at its current level going forward, but continuing to increase the three advanced categories, we have significant concerns about what that would to do ethanol and biodiesel,” he said. “Even more concerning was removing the total renewable fuel mandate and only mandating the three advanced categories. Basically what they are doing is giving in to Big Oil’s conclusion that a blend wall exists, which it does not.”

Chandler talks more about the BPC report in this interview: Interview with Chandler Goule, NFU

Seeds of Cellulosic Ethanol

asta-css-14-dupontLike all good things, cellulosic ethanol starts with the seed.

During a presentation at the American Seed Trade Association CSS 2014 and Seed Expo last week in Chicago, John Pieper with Dupont Industrial Biosciences talked about the importance of seed to the cellulosic ethanol industry. “It has everything to do with seed because it has to do with farming,” he said. “It has to do with making our lands and soils more productive as well as being able to realize the full potential of seed and other crop inputs that we have today that are hindered because of tillage and crop rotation practices.”

Using non-food agricultural products to make ethanol also provides economic benefits for farmers on several levels. “By taking stover and converting it from an agricultural landfill, waste product, into a recycled or used by-product, we get more money back to the farm operation to invest in tools and production practices – and we get a better seed bed for their next crop to be prolific and highly productive,” said Pieper.

Pieper talked about what Dupont is doing in the cellulosic ethanol field. “We’ve been operating a demonstration facility in Vonore, Tennessee for the last four years and for over two years we’ve taken corn stover from central Iowa down to the plant and made transportation fuel-grade ethanol from it,” he said. Now they are preparing to open a commercial facility in Nevada, Iowa next year and Pieper says they were pleased to see Abengoa and POET open their first plants this year. “It’s a very exciting time,” he said, but he does note that stable government policy – including the Renewable Fuel Standard – is key to moving forward in the future.

Listen to my interview with Pieper here: Interview with John Pieper, Dupont Industrial Biosciences


2014 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo photo album

Senate Passes Tax Extenders

senateFollowing the recent action by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate on Tuesday evening passed the package of tax incentives for 2014 that will expire once again in just two weeks.

For the renewable energy industry, the legislation includes the second-generation biofuel production tax credit and the accelerated depreciation allowance for cellulosic biomass properties, as well as tax credits for alternative fuel vehicle refueling infrastructure, alternative fuel mixtures, and wind energy and the dollar-per-gallon Biodiesel Tax Incentive.

Renewable Fuels Association
(RFA) president Bob Dinneen says the temporary extensions are a step in the right direction, but called on Congress to provide more certainty in the future. “These incentives can help to level the playing field in a tax code that is overwhelmingly tilted toward incumbent fuels and established oil extraction technologies,” said Dinneen. “Congress should be commended for helping businesses and consumers alike. But next year is a whole new ball game and in order to balance the scales and make future tax incentives truly helpful, Congress must take a good hard look at overarching tax reform legislation.”

Noting the short term nature of the legislation, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said, “With this tax bill, the Congress is turning in its tax homework 11 months late…The legislation accomplishes nothing for 2015.”

The bill now goes to the president who is expected to sign it.

RFA Submits Comments on Animal Feed Rule

RFANewlogoThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday on the supplemental rulemaking proposal outlining best practices for the regulation of animal food under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The act outlines regulations for animal feed, which includes the ethanol co-product dried distillers grain.

RFA submitted comments earlier this year following the initial proposed rule noting that animal feed would be unnecessarily regulated in a similar fashion to human food. RFA praised the FDA for addressing this concern in its updated version, noting that the “revised CGMPs (current good manufacturing processes) in the supplemental proposed rule appear more applicable to the animal feed industry and appear to provide more flexibility for the wide variety of the animal feed facility processes covered.”

However, RFA raised concerns with additions to the rule that would implement “…product and environmental testing programs, supplier approval programs, and verification programs that were not in the initial proposed rule language.” The comments stress that an individual plant “…should be provided the flexibility to determine its own needs and compliance strategy.” RFA also noted that “If applied in a prescriptive and indiscriminate way, these programs can add unnecessary cost burdens and divert resources away from the effective practices that ethanol producers currently use to assure safe, high quality co-products.”

Read RFA comments here.

Evolution of Minnesota Biofuels Industry – Part 2

The Minnesota biofuels industry has been evolving since its inception, which was discussed in Part 1 of this feature article. In this part, we look at how the industry is taking shape in Minnesota and what some of the most promising new technologies are on the horizon.

An interesting element of the biofuel industry is that while it is evolving on a national level, it has also evolved locally. Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, explains that states and regions have differing available resources as well as differing types and tons of biomass available.

Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant“Biofuel producers in any particular region adapt to the availability of various resources including, for example, access to energy, water, transportation infrastructure and so on,” says Rudnicki. “The availability of these important resources helped to accelerate the evolution of the biofuel industry in Minnesota and is what has made, and will continue to make, Minnesota one of the leading states when it comes to the production of biofuels.”

It’s interesting to review what could be deemed the top improvements that the ethanol industry has adopted over the past few years. Randall Doyal, CEO of Al-Corn Clean Fuel, says that since the plant went online they have adapted their process and technology to reduce down time, increase throughput and increase yield.

Al-Corn was designed as a 10 million gallon per year plant, and today they are operating at 50 million gallons per year. “We have increased our fuel ethanol yield from two and a half gallons per bushel to over two point nine gallons per bushel,” says Doyal. “We have added CO2 recovery, distillers corn oil recovery, and focused on our distillers grains quality to add value to our ethanol production.”

So, what are the new best technologies coming down the pipeline? Rudnicki says the future is very exciting because it will involve many facets including the interface between biological processes and technology. He believes some of the processes to watch include technologies that will enable corn oil to be more efficiency extracted as well as the use of existing biomass.

From an ethanol plant perspective the next three to five years could bring big changes. Continue reading

Biofuels Economic Outlook

asta-css-14-basseBack again by popular demand this year at the American Seed Trade Association CSS 2014 and Seed Expo was AgResource Company president Dan Basse giving his economic outlook for the year ahead.

Basse told attendees that the biofuels market is mature now, which means more stagnant demand for corn. “We have an EPA that can’t even make a decision on what the mandate should have been for 2014 and surely can’t make one for 2015,” he said. “We’ll still see corn demand for ethanol somewhere in the vicinity of five billion bushels, but there’s not that growth engine we’ve had in the last five years.”

Basse notes that this crop year is historic in that it’s the first time we’ve seen record world production for corn, wheat and soybeans. “So something agronomically is afoot here,” he said. “World producers are starting to pick up on some of the traits that American farmers are using – whether more seeds per acre, better seeds, better fertilizer…we’re not sure what it is but we’re impressed what the world is producing for grain.”

Lots more in this interview with Basse here. Interview with Dan Basse, Ag Resources