RSI-CTC Calls for Rail Rulemaking Harmonization

The Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars (RSI-CTC) has submitted comments to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in response to efforts to create new regulations for the shipment of crude oil and ethanol. While RSI-CTC is glad of the government’s work, they are warning of significant disruption to safety and major sectors of the North American economy is mismatched rules are implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Transport Canada. These disruptions, said RSI-CTC, include the loss of a significant portion of the rail tank car fleet during the modification period, and unintended consequences such as a potential increase in truck shipments of flammable liquids on highways.

To address these potential disruptions and safety hazards, the RSI-CTC called for greater harmonization between the two rulemaking bodies in the U.S. and Canada, and provided insight and specific recommendations across a range of issues that will help reduce the risk of transporting flammable liquids by rail in North America. The comments also urged DOT to focus more on the root causes of most derailments which continue to be track failure and human error, not tank car design.

railway supply institute logo“For years we have been advocating for a holistic approach to safety that will prevent train derailments and address tank car standards, among other issues,” said Tom Simpson, President of RSI. “In our comments today, we reiterated our positions and offered a comprehensive set of practical recommendations that will bring the greatest safety benefit in the quickest ways possible. For instance, we believe the timelines for modifications in the U.S. and Canada should be synchronized and feasible to avoid major disruptions of service. Moreover, the specifications for new tank cars and the rules for packaging of flammable liquids need to match up across North America. Without making these important changes to align the rules, the effect will be to deplete the fleet of tank cars available for service, and those effects to safety and the economy cannot be underestimated.”

RSI-CTC and independent third-party research show that the proposed U.S. rules—in their current form—would effectively force approximately 90,000 tank cars to be withdrawn from service at various times during the modification program and parked until the shop capacity required to carry out the necessary modifications becomes available. Between 2018 and 2020, 30-50 fifty percent of the total crude oil and ethanol tank car fleet would be idled at any given time. To replace the loss in 2017, the year the first compliance deadline hits, theoretically it would require 20,000 trucks carrying more than 370,000 truckloads on North American highways, a practical impossibility and potentially more hazardous outcome given the safety risk associated with transport by truck.

In its comments to PHMSA, the RSI-CTC supports a “commodity-based approach” for selecting the proper tank car that requires shippers to ensure materials are appropriately and safely packaged. The RSI-CTC also asked PHMSA to differentiate the requirements for new and existing cars, which will allow more new or modified cars with enhanced safety features to be put into service more quickly, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

RFA Case Study: Evidence of E85 Price Gouging?

According to a new case study from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), E85 retailers in the St. Louis area may be intentionally price gouging consumers. According to the report, during the 2014 summer driver season, the average E85 price was 12 percent Evidence of Price Gouging RFA Case Studybelow gasoline prices at the wholesale level but one percent higher than gas prices at the retail level. The wholesale-to-retail markup on E85 was nearly twice the markup on gas. In addition, the study concluded that E85 retail prices were around $1 per gallon higher than was justified by wholesale prices for the locally available ethanol blendstock.

The study’s results offer “… clear support for the notion that some gasoline producers/suppliers and their franchised retailers purposely employ E85 pricing strategies meant to discourage E85 consumption and negatively influence consumer perceptions about the fuel.”

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA, said of the case study, “It’s fairly obvious that the retailers examined in this study—all of whom are branded by one of the Big Five oil companies—don’t really want to sell E85. In many cases it appears they were pricing E85 above their branded gasoline for the sole purpose of making their gasoline prices look more attractive to the consumer. Sneaky E85 pricing strategies ultimately give oil refiners the opportunity to wrongly claim that consumers are ‘rejecting’ E85; and it gives them an opportunity to claim they can’t comply with Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements above the so-called ‘blend wall.’ This study exposes the utter hypocrisy of that argument.”

RFA tracked E85 and gasoline (E10) prices at all nine retail stations selling E85 in the St. Louis metro area. All nine stations carry the brand of one of the five largest integrated oil production and refining companies. This makes the St. Louis E85 market highly unusual because nationwide “…retail stations affiliated with a ‘Big Five’ oil company brand are four to six times less likely to offer E85 than independent or unbranded stations.”

Across more than 250 observations during the summer, the average E10 retail price was $3.45 per gallon and the average E85 retail price was $3.476 per gallon. Meanwhile, E85 was available at a local wholesale terminal for an average of $2.58 per gallon, while E10 averaged $2.93 per gallon at the wholesale level. Based on prices for locally available ethanol, hydrocarbon blendstock, RFS RIN (Renewable Identification Number) credits, and a typical markup, E85 could have been offered at retail for $2.44–2.55 per gallon. Continue reading

Ethanol Report with New RFA Chairman

ethanol-report-adRandall Doyal, General Manager and CEO of Minnesota-based Al-Corn Clean Fuel, is the new Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

rfa-doyal-1Doyal’s plant located in Claremont, Minnesota opened in 1996 and now produces 50 million gallons annually. In this interview, he talks about some of the challenges and opportunities facing the ethanol industry in the immediate future. Challenges include the lack of certainty surrounding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and railway transportation problems, while the importance of ethanol as a higher octane fuel and increasing exports are rising opportunities.

Ethanol Report with New RFA Chairman

Is there Enough Feedstock for Gen 2 Ethanol?

Last week Biofuels Digest Editor Jim Lane posed the question: Is there really enough affordable feedstock for the second generation ethanol wave? According to Robert Kozak of Atlantic Biomass Conversions an co-founder of Advanced Biofuels USA, “Yes, if we realistically address the financial realities of feedstock producers and feedstock buyers.” He reviewed the current weaknesses in current biomass development philosophy for feed, fuel, chemicals and biobased products and penned his findings in a white paper.

Advanced Biofuels USA Biomass Crops white paperKozak looked at a several possible biomass feedstocks including switchgrass, miscanthus and other grasses to dandelion roots and carrot and sugar beet residues. He concludes that the combination of saturated markets and increasing production costs may soon cause corn growers to either start returning land to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and other programs (and increasing U.S. taxpayer costs) or to find other crops. In response, he advocates taking a closer look at what we have learned about biomass conversion technologies over the past 10 years along with farm policy.

In the paper he writes, “So, with approximately 20-25 percent of current US corn production being used for fuel ethanol, the questions for growers become: Could portions of this land be used for lower nutrient input biomass crops that would produce comparable income from ethanol or other biofuels and biomaterials? Could corn land not within current shipping distance of existing ethanol refineries also be used for biofuel/biomaterial crops? … I think the right answers to these questions could not only retain current grower incomes but more importantly, could be an opportunity to build the foundation of a true Advanced Biofuel and Biomaterial System.”

Kozak proposes root crops as a viable solution to these challenges. He bases his arguments on cell wall structure, lack of pesky lignin, and potential for over-wintering in situ to address storage logistics, etc. He acknowledges that these are very preliminary thoughts on a complex issue which deserves greater scrutiny. He also suggests convening an action-oriented conference or a series of workshops where experts involved in all aspects of the subject can gather for intense discussions.

“PUMP” Coming to a Theater Near You

There is a new documentary coming to a theater near you: PUMP. The film tells the story of America’s addiction to oil. Stories told range from Standard Oil’s illegal tactics to the dominance of oil companies. The goal of the film is to explain why and how consumers can end Big Oil’s monopoly and “win choice at the pump”.

According to the movie’s website, gasoline is our only option of transportation fuel today. With global demand rising and the continued dependence on gas our wallets are thinning. In addition, air pollution is getting worse and Americans are fighting wars in oil-rich countries.

PUMP shows consumers how making a variety of replacement fuels widely available will reduce fuel prices across the board. Diversifying the market with replacement fuels that are cheaper, cleaner and American made will also create jobs, strengthening the economy at home and promoting stability abroad.

The movie features experts including John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Co.; Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, Inc.; Peter Goldmark, former president of the Rockefeller Foundation; our colleague Jim Lane and other noteworthy figures.

To see where the movie is headed and to buy tickets, visit the PUMP website.

Registration Open for 20th NEC

rfa-nec-15“Going Global” is the theme for the 20th annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC) from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

The event is being held February 18-20, 2015 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. With the U.S. leading the world in the production and exports of ethanol fuel and co-products, export markets are critical to the future of the industry. That will be explored in depth at the conference.

To find out more and get registered, go to NationalEthanolConference.com.

Tide Detergent Cleaning up with Cellulosic Ethanol

A new use for cellulosic ethanol has been announced by DuPont and Procter & Gamble.

tideThe two global leaders in science and consumer products are planning to a first-of-its-kind use of cellulosic ethanol in North American Tide® laundry detergent.

Tide Cold Water will be the first brand in the world to blend cellulosic ethanol in a scalable and commercial way. Ethanol has long been a key ingredient in the Tide® formulation, allowing for stability of the detergent formula and better washing performance. The substitution of the current corn based ethanol with cellulosic is the latest innovation in the companies’ 30-year partnership, making it easier for consumers to make sustainable choices in their everyday lives.

DuPont will produce this renewable, cellulosic ethanol at the company’s new biorefinery, currently under construction in Nevada, Iowa. Once completed, the plant will be the world’s largest bioethanol refinery, producing 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year – a process with zero net carbon emissions.

According to the companies,Tide® Cold Water “powered by nature” will re-purpose over 7000 tons of agricultural waste a year. “As one of the world’s largest laundry manufacturers, we have a responsibility to lead renewable sourcing in products,” said Gianni Ciserani, Procter & Gamble Group President of Global Fabric and Home Care. “We do this by ensuring consumers still get the great Tide® laundry performance they want, while further reducing the impact on the environment. In January, we committed to removing phosphates in our laundry products. This partnership on renewables is one more step in our journey.”

“With this collaboration, DuPont is also taking the first step to diversify its markets for cellulosic ethanol beyond fuels. As we build on our integrated science capabilities, we will continue to seek out new opportunities and new collaborations to transform value chains with more sustainable solutions,” said James Collins, Senior Vice President, DuPont.

Both Collins and Ciserani will be speaking at the World Conference on Fabric and Home Care in Montreux, Switzerland this week.

Greenbelt Resources Cellulosic Tech On Stage

Greenbelt Resources Corporation has been selected as one of only 30 showcase companies to present during GloSho’14. The prestigious event is focused on the global clean tech industry and takes place October 6-7, 2014 at Los Angeles Theater in downtown Los Angeles, California. Company CEO Darren Eng will be presenting on Monday, October 6, 2014 between 2:15 to 3:15 PM PST during the Air & Waste session in Theatre 1. The membrane technology will be displayed at Table 34 in Theater 4.

GloSho’14 helps provide the resources, skills and partners necessary to be a global player. The event includes an investment boot camp, reverse investment showcasGreenbelt Resources membrane technologyes and several sessions covering water issues in California, clean energy policy at federal and state levels, and how to capitalize on university partnerships. Attendees will include the global clean tech business community, investors, entrepreneurs, mayors, politicians, city municipal managers, energy and environmental experts and more.

“We’ve had a great response to our clean energy technology,” said Darren Eng, CEO of Greenbelt Resources. “Our invitation to present during this event solidifies what we already know – that we have a viable, cost-competitive, critically needed solution that the clean tech, agriculture, food and energy industries are taking great interest in adopting.”

Greenbelt Resources offers a modular food waste recycling system featuring an end-to-end automated ethanol production system with 24/7 remote monitoring. This configuration is the only one in the world that utilizes patent-pending membrane technology which maximizes energy and water efficiency. By feeding the system waste feedstocks including dairy, agriculture, food, beverage, brewery and alcohol wastes; or biomass feedstocks, the technology produces fuel, feed, fertilizer and filtered water coined by Eng as the “four Fs”. Continue reading

UNICA’s ‘Ethanol the Complete Fuel’ Is Back

The Brazilian Sugarcane Industries Association (UNICA) has launched is next phase of its advertising campaign, “Ethanol the Complete Fuel“. The multimedia campaign will primarily run in the state of São Paulo, the ads are designed to reinforce the positive impacts of ethanol on the economy and environment. The communication strategy consists of a 30 second TV commercial, sponsorship of television and radio programs, a striking jingle, online actions and presence in social networks.

“With the resumption of the campaign we want to remind consumers the advantages and benefits of biofuel. Ethanol generates environmental, social gains and promotes economic growth significantly in over a thousand Brazilian municipalities, “said Elizabeth Farina, UNICA president.

When first released in November 2012, the campaign leveraged ethanol sales in the state of São Paulo. In one month of placement sales increased 10%. Last year, the advertising action also aired three other states: Paraná, Goiás and Minas Gerais.

“Right now, the price of ethanol is more advantageous than gasoline for the consumer, ie the 70% parity has already been achieved in some states, yet the demand for the product did not react as expected. This reinforces our diagnosis that direct contact with the public should be constant, “said Farina.

USDA Launches Ag Industrial Reports Program

usda-logoThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has relaunched the formerly defunct Current Agricultural Industrial Reports (CAIR) survey program. NASS will collect and publish vital statistics for the dry and wet alcohol milling and flour milling sectors. Beginning this year, NASS will collect data and publish the industrial reports. In addition to the flour milling, and dry and wet alcohol milling sectors, CAIR surveys will also result in reports on the cotton, and fats and oilseeds industries. This information may be valuable to ethanol and biodiesel producers.

“As soon as the Census Bureau announced they were discontinuing the Current Industrial Reports, we began hearing from agriculture stakeholders around the country about the impact this decision had on the industry,” said NASS Administrator Joseph T. Reilly. “These reports are such an important element of sound economic policy planning and are used for market analysis, forecasting, and decision making that we knew we had to provide the data and I’m glad that beginning this year NASS is able to do just that.”

To prepare for the program launch, NASS conducted extensive work building up baseline profiles for the industries. On the ethanol production side, the agency will work with 200 facilities, with a reported nameplate capacity of 14.792 billion gallons per year. On the flour milling side, NASS plans to survey 183 facilities, which have a reported 24-hour milling capacity of 1,594,755 hundredweight.

NASS has a long history of collecting and publishing agriculture data. As is the case with all NASS surveys, information provided by respondents is confidential.

Brazil’s GranBio Begins Producing Cellulosic Ethanol

GranBio has begun producing cellulosic ethanol at its first commercial-scale plant for second-generation (2G) ethanol in Brazil. The Bioflex 1 unit located in São Miguel dos Campos, Alagoas, has an initial production capacity of 82 million liters of ethanol per year.

According to GranBio, its 2G ethanol is the cleanest fuel produced on a commercial scale in the world in carbon intensity – 7.55 gCO2/MJ, as confirmed by theGranBio 2G cellulosic ethanol plant in Brazil California Air Resources Board (CARB). The calculation takes into account factors starting with the harvest of the raw material, through inputs and energy consumption, transportation and distribution through a port in California.

“When we announced the construction of the plant in Alagoas, in mid-2012, we took the risk of an innovator and pioneer in a project with transformative potential for the biofuels and biochemicals industries,” said GranBio’s president, Bernardo Gradin. “Beyond the inauguration of a plant, this project is proof that Brazil can lead the global biotech industry based on its agricultural potential.”

GranBio cites its 2G ethanol makes it possible to increase Brazilian production capacity per acre by 50 percent using agricultural waste – straw and bagasse, without need of expanding the cane fields. The company developed a system to harvest, store and process 400,000 metric tons of straw per year for Bioflex 1, which places it among the world’s largest and most competitive. GranBio’s facility uses the PROESA pre-treatment technology from the Italian company BetaRenewables enzymes from Novozymes in Denmark and yeast from DSM in Holland.

In addition, GranBio and Caeté created a partnership for the integrated production of steam and electricity. Installed next to Bioflex 1, the cogeneration system is fed by sugarcane bagasse and lignin – a byproduct of producing second-generation ethanol. The boiler of the cogeneration system will remain in operation for eleven months of the year, or eight thousand hours, in the harvest and inter-harvest period at the Caeté plant. As such, beyond meeting the needs of the two plants, the boiler will generate excess electricity on order of 135,000 MWh/year – enough to power a city of 300,000 inhabitants – which will be sold and become a source of revenue for the companies.

Governors’ Biofuels Coalition: Restore RFS

The Governors’ Biofuels Coalition has sent a letter to the Obama Administration urging action on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and for the restoration of biofuel levels as designated by the mandate. This, the group said, will protect consumer choice, ensure jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil. The initiative was led by Governor Pat Quinn and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, chairman and vice chairman of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition.

In the letter, the govegovernor-biofuelsrnors write, “The continued expansion of the biofuels industry is essential for our nation’s energy and economic future. Through continued expansion of biofuels plants, it will be possible to deliver millions of gallons of clean, renewable fuel, create thousands of jobs, lower imported oil expenditures, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent, compared to gasoline.”

The governors also expressed their concern about the impact the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule will have on biodiesel. “The EPA’s proposed volume cuts for biodiesel are creating turmoil, resulting in production cutbacks and layoffs. More than halfway through the year, many jobs are in jeopardy and many biodiesel plants have been negatively impacted.”

The letter highlights the impact that the EPA’s proposed rule has had on the emerging cellulosic industry: “[T] he proposed RFS rule has discouraged new investment in the newly emerging cellulosic ethanol industry and now threatens the many new plants about to go into commercial production.”

The letter concluded, “Amending the proposed rule to one that will build and restore America’s robust leadership in the development and production of domestically produced renewable fuels is crucial in ensuring a successful future in rural America.”

Randall Doyal Elected as Board Chairman of RFA

RFANewlogoThe new leadership of the Renewable Fuels Association has been elected. The Board selected Randall Doyal, General Manager and CEO of Al-Corn Clean Fuel, as the next Chairman of the Board of Directors. Doyal heads an ethanol facility in Claremont, Minnesota that produces 50 million gallons annually.

Doyal’s career in the ethanol industry began in 1982 at Mountain Development Corporation. In addition to Al-Corn Clean Fuel, he serves as Chairman of the Board of Guardian Energy, LLC and Renewable Products Marketing Group. Doyal previously served as Vice-Chairman and Treasurer of the RFA.

“It is truly an honor to be selected by my peers to head the Renewable Fuels Association. The RFA has the technical knowledge, political influence, and market acumen to positively impact today’s ethanol industry, which will in turn help bolster biofuels production and consumption across the nation,” said Doyal. “I am proud to take the helm and lead this great organization as ethanol is establishing itself as an indispensable part of this country’s motor fuel supply. We will work to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard and expand markets abroad. The future is bright and I look forward to this new challenge.”

Additionally, RFA elected:

  • Vice-Chairman Mick Henderson, General Manager of Commonwealth Agri-Energy in Hopkinsville, Ky.
  • Treasurer Walter Wendland of Golden Grain Energy, LLC in Mason City, Iowa.
  • President Bob Dinneen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington, D.C.

RFA Updates Ethanol Quality Control Program

RFANewlogoThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has updated its guidelines for quality control for ethanol plants. The group says the guidelines are an educational tool and information resource to help refiners make sure they turn out denatured fuel ethanol, distillers dried grains, carbon dioxide and corn distiller’s oil that meet customers’ expectations.

“This document underscores the commitment of the Renewable Fuels Association to help ethanol producers provide the highest product quality with the highest product integrity,” said Kristy Moore, RFA’s vice president of technical services.

The document details the basic principles for quality assurance and quality control including testing frequency, sampling, and record keeping. It also includes an expanded discussion on all of the major products being produced at an ethanol manufacturing site: denatured fuel ethanol, distillers dried grains, corn distillers oil, and carbon dioxide.

You can see the full document here.

Urban Air Initiative Launches Public Campaign

Urban Air Initiative has launched a public awareness campaign with the first phase the launch of a new website. The consumer-focused site draws attention to the problem of toxic compounds in gas with a call to action for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate some of the most harmful components in fuel.

fixourfuelAccording to Urban Air Initiative President David VanderGriend, “There’s a problem with the air we’re all breathing and it stems from what’s in our gasoline. It’s something that’s too small to see, but too big to ignore.”

The new website is fixourfuel.com and explains why the country needs to clean up gasoline and protect public health through lowered emissions from vehicles said VanderGriend.

“The website takes a story-like approach to make a complicated subject easier to understand. “Right now, toxic compounds called aromatics are added to gasoline to provide octane boost,” added VanderGriend. However that boost is hurting your health. Aromatics, such as benzene, come out of the tailpipe as invisible, odorless ultrafine particles (UFP’s). These UFP’s have been linked to ailments from lung cancer and stroke, to birth defects and developmental disorders in children.”

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to remove these harmful aromatics from gasoline, but not enough is being done. According to Urban Air Initiative officials, there are cleaner and cheaper options available, such as mid-level blends of ethanol. Increased use of these mid-level blends will reduce toxic aromatics and UFP’s.