Confidence Boost for Europe’s Renewable Energy

In a last minute addition to the European Council’s conclusions on 2030 energy targets, leaders stated the need for a “supportive EU framework for advancing renewable energies.” While an agreement has yet to be reached, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said in a press conference that the Council would have a deal on the climate and energy framework by “no later than” October 2014.

European Council logo“This extra time could be a golden opportunity – for pro-renewables countries like Germany, Denmark and Portugal to rally round and start fighting for greater ambition for renewables and the energy security they bring,” said Thomas Becker, chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “The conclusions show that Heads of State are wising up to the energy challenges that Europe is facing. I think the situation in the Ukraine is proving a sobering experience for policymakers over the frailty of Europe’s energy security.“ He added, “We must act and we must do it now.”

Over 160 companies and organizations have singed a statement calling for a stronger commitment from policymakers to Europe’s 2030 Climate and energy objectives. One ask: a legally binding target for renewable energy of 30 percent. If this target were met, it would reduce gas imports by nearly three times more than the 27 percent target put forward by the European Commission in January 2014, create 568,000 more jobs, save EUR260 billion extra in fossil fuel imports.

It remains unlikely that a 2030 deal will be in place before a United Nations meeting convenes in September 204, when global leaders are expected to set out plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The European Council is set to meet again for talks on June 26-27, 2014.

Research Looks Into Water-Free Biodiesel Brewing

waste-vegetable-oil-for-biodieselEfforts to make biodiesel production even more sustainable might get a boost from research into a water-free method of making the green fuel. This story from Biofuels Journal says researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal are looking at a way to eliminate the water normally used water to remove impurities to meet stringent quality standards.

Instead of water, researchers used catalysts to pre-treat and target impurities such as calcium ‘soaps’ in the biodiesel.

The impurities were then removed by absorption into resins or passing through ceramic membranes.

The researchers were able to produce good quality biodiesel from both virgin vegetable oil and, importantly, waste oils used for frying.

The new process could provide significant economic and environmental benefits compared to other more energy intensive water-based production methods.

The researchers believe that finding more water-free or less-water-consuming methods of making biofuels becomes more and more important as more of the world turns to the alternative fuels.

German Biodiesel Sales Have Big Drop

Sales of German biodiesel dropped dramatically last year. Germany’s Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen (UFOP), an association that advocates for oil and protein crops in that country, says 300,000 fewer tonnes of biodiesel were produced in 2013, down from the previous five-year average of 2.5 million tonnes to just 2.2 million tonnes.
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UFOP has determined that the actual decline in vegetable methyl esters turns out to be much more dramatic because the data of the BAFA also includes the offset amount of hydrated vegetable oil (HVO) and biodiesel from waste oils. Assuming HVO sales as in the previous year (around 420,000 tonnes) and an estimated sale of up to 200,000 tonnes of biodiesel from waste oil, the actual sale of conventional biodiesel is only about 1.6 million tonnes.

The consumption statistics spell out the significance of pure fuel marketing in the years 2007 to 2008 and the total energy quota of 5.25 percent introduced in 2009 as well as its increase to 6.25 for the period 2010 to 2014. However, with the resolution for the Biofuel Quota Act having been passed as a clear indication of political will, the UFOP has criticised that volume balancing for compensation of the incremental reduction in the tax concession – biodiesel has been subject to full taxation since 2013 – will creep in due to the double apportionment of biofuels from waste oils and as a result of HVO imports.

UNICA Pleased With CARB Proposal

UNICAThe Brazilian sugarcane ethanol industry is pleased with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposal last week to revise Indirect Land Use Change (iLUC) numbers for biofuels.

Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association UNICA applauded CARB for “once again declaring that sugarcane ethanol is one of the most environmentally friendly biofuels supplying today’s market.”

UNICA North America Representative Leticia Phillips notes that the CARB staff proposal to revise ILUC estimates under the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard shows the Brazilian sugarcane biofuel generates about half the indirect emissions that CARB originally suggested during its rulemaking process in 2009. “If implemented, these revised ILUC estimates will confirm what numerous other studies have shown: sugarcane ethanol is one of the most environmentally friendly biofuels supplying today’s market,” she said in a statement.

Phillips adds that UNICA looks forward to providing detailed comments to this CARB proposal as they have done in the past.

Aruba to Get Methes Energies Biodiesel Maker

denami600A biodiesel producer on the tropical island of Aruba is going to the Great White North to get its biodiesel maker. Ontario-based Methes Energies International Ltd. is building a Denami 600 for Antilla Energy VBA (formally known as BioFuel Aruba) to brew biodiesel from local waste cooking oil.

Nicholas Ng, President of Methes Energies, said, “We’re very excited about this project as it fits well with our business model. I believe that this is the first of many more manufacturing orders we will receive this year. We have been working with several clients that are, just like Antilla, at a point where they now need to order their Denami. It is a sometime a long process but at the end it is very rewarding for our clients and our company.”

Gregory Fung-A-Fat, Managing Director of Antilla Energy VBA, added, “Our due diligence exercise took a bit longer than we first anticipated, but we are finally there and ready to go. We now look forward to receiving delivery of our first Denami with commissioning happening in the fourth quarter of this year. The plan is to grow our facility to about 6 million gallons per year so we are setting up in a way that will make it easy and cost effective to add 4 more Denami’s 600′s as the market conditions allow. We’re glad to be doing our part to help Aruba reach its Green Aruba 2020 targets.”

Antilla Energy VBA is focused on on producing biodiesel from non-food crop biodiesel feedstocks.

Analysis: Export Market a Bright Spot for US Ethanol

Ethanol producers might be fretting about the government’s proposal to lower the amount of the green fuel to be mixed into the Nation’s fuel supply. But this analysis from the University of Illinois points out that those Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) numbers don’t matter when it comes to ethanol going over the border and to foreign shores, a bright spot for the American industry.

An important point to note is that ethanol or other biofuels produced in the US and exported for consumption overseas do not count toward the blenders’ RFS obligations. The Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) associated with exported biofuels are retired and no longer eligible for use towards RFS compliance. Thus, exports are not substituted for domestic consumption but rather represent additional demand. Ultimately, exports provide a path around, rather than through, the ethanol blend wall by allowing the domestic industry to produce greater volumes of ethanol than the blend wall limitation implies for domestic use.
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The analysis goes on to look at markets for American ethanol in Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Mexico and other foreign consumers and how it could take up the amount proposed to be lowered in the RFS.

Neste’s Aviation Biofuel Wins Sustainability Award

nesteairplane1Dutch refiner Neste Oil has won an award for its sustainable aviation biofuel. This company news release says the Sustainable Bio Award comes for its work with Neste’s Dutch partners on their joint initiative, Bioport for jet fuels in the Netherlands.

Launched in November 2013, the initiative is designed to promote the deployment of sustainably produced biofuels in the aviation sector. In addition to Neste Oil, the initiative has been signed by KLM, SkyNRG, Schiphol Airport, the Port of Rotterdam, the State Secretary of Infrastructure and the Environment, and the Minister of Economic Affairs. Neste Oil’s role in the initiative is to explore the opportunities for producing renewable aviation fuel on a continuous basis and scaling up production.

The Sustainable Bio Award competition recognizes innovations that promote the development of sustainably produced biofuels and bio-products. Joint initiative received the top award in the Collaboration of the Year category.

Neste’s NEXBTL renewable aviation fuel, made from vegetable oil and waste oil feedstocks, enables airlines to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and has been tested successfully on commercial flights.

East Africa’s 1st Utility Solar Project Makes Progress

East Africa’s first utility-scale solar field is making progress. When complete, it is estimated to produce 8 percent of the country’s power generation capacity. The project is going forward due to Dutch solar developer Gigawatt Global Coöperatief having successfully ASYVclosed on $23.7 million in financing for a 8.5 megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant from an international consortium of equity investors and debt providers including Norwegian development finance institution Norfund, Norwegian-headquartered Scatec Solar, Dutch development bank FMO and the Emerging Africa Infrastructure Fund (EAIF).

The photovoltaic (PV) plant will be located 60 km from the capital of Kigali on land belonging to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) for youth orphaned during and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The electricity will be fed into the national grid under a 25 year power purchase agreement with the Rwanda Energy, Water and Sanitation Authority (EWSA). Construction has already started and commercial operation of the solar field is expected by summer of 2014.

“It takes a global village to raise a solar revolution,” said American-Israeli entrepreneur and human rights activist Yosef Abramowitz, President of Gigawatt Global and CEO of Energiya Global Capital, Gigawatt’s Israeli affiliate that provided seed money and strategic guidance for the project.

“There are 550 million people in Africa without electricity. Economic growth in developing markets depends on access to affordable, green power. Environmentally-friendly solar energy is far less expensive than diesel-generated power. This first-ever utility-scale solar field in Rwanda – and all of East Africa – represents the future of energy for developing countries and for island nations. It is a game-changer for humanity and the environment,” added Abramowitz.

The Rwanda Minister of State in Charge of Energy and Water, Eng. Emma Francoise Isumbingabo said, “Generation and provision of electricity to all Rwandans is important for the Government of Rwanda. This initiative to produce 8.5 megawatts is a good addition towards closing the current energy gap.”

With limited power generation capacity, the Government of Rwanda has introduced an aggressive plan to boost the nation’s generation capacity. The objective is for 50 percent of the population to have access to electricity by 2017.

Reflecting its dedication to helping heal the world, Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village fostered the development of a solar field, located on Village property, that will generate enough electricity to contribute to a roughly 8 percent increase in the country’s electricity supply. ASYV is leasing land to house the solar facility, the fees from which will help pay for a portion of the Village’s charitable expenses.

Renewable Energy Powers Asian Development Bank

Renewable Energy is now powering the Asian Development Bank (ABD). It’s Manila headquarters is now getting 100 percent of its energy from renewable energy including geothermal and solar power. ABD has signed an agreement with AdventEnergy, Inc. Geothermal energy is being delivered from plants in Tiwi in Albay province and Makiling-Banahaw in Laguna province, both of which are on the main Philippine island of Luzon.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.35.18 AM“As an institution we are strongly committed to expanding the use of renewable energy across Asia and the Pacific, so it is only fitting that we walk the talk in our own headquarters,” said ADB Vice President Bruce Davis at a ceremony in ADB headquarters. “This agreement will allow us to cut our annual corporate carbon footprint by nearly 50%, with an emission reduction of more than 9,500 tons of CO2 equivalent.”

The supply contract with AdventEnergy will see ADB purchase an average of 1.5 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a month. This will be supplemented by about 50,000 kWh generated monthly from ADB’s rooftop solar panels. These two sources will meet the entire energy requirements of the headquarters building, where more than 2,600 staff and consultants work each day.

With the switch to renewables, ADB will no longer purchase electricity directly from the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), although it will continue to use the company’s distribution network. The move follows ADB’s decision to take advantage of electricity reforms in the Philippines which allow large users to choose their power supplier.

A ceremony to mark the switchover to full renewable power was the centerpiece of ADB’s second “No Impact Week,” during which staff are encouraged to make work and personal lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint and impact on the environment.

Aging Wind Farms Should Not Be Thrown to the Wind

As the wind energy industry continues to grow, there has been debate about whether wind turbines have a more limited shelf-life than other energy technologies, such as solar panels. With the United Kingdom’s (UK) target of generating 15 percent of the nation’s energy from renewable resources such as wind farms by 2020, aging wind turbines could be a concern. According to researchers at the wind farm in the UKImperial College Business School, today there are 4,246 wind turbines across 531 wind farms generating 7.5 percent of the country’s electricity.

According to a new study from Imperial researchers, who carried out a comprehensive nationwide analysis of the UK fleet of wind turbines, using local wind speed data from NASA, the turbines will last their full life of about 25 years before they need to be upgraded. A previous study used a statistical model to estimate that electricity output from wind turbines declines by a third after only ten years of operation.

In response to this study, some opponents of wind power have argued that aging turbine technology could need replacing en mass after as little as 10 years. This could make wind energy an unattractive option in economic terms.

However, the Imperial research team found that the UK’s earliest turbines, built in the 1990s, are still producing three-quarters of their original output after 19 years of operation, nearly twice the amount previously claimed, and will operate effectively up to 25 years. This is comparable to the performance of gas turbines used in power stations.

The study also found that more recent turbines are performing even better than the earliest models, suggesting they could have a longer lifespan. The team says this makes a strong business case for further investment in the wind farm industry. Continue reading

Rapeseed King of Europe’s Biodiesel Feedstock

Soybeans might rule the roost as far as biodiesel feedstocks in the U.S. goes, but in Europe, rapeseed is king. A new study from the UFOP (Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen e.V. – Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants) shows that rapeseed makes up nearly 90 percent of the material used to produce biodiesel in winter.
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UFOP has established that the high content of rapeseed oil in the biodiesel sampling is attributable not least to the decline of the rapeseed oil price after the 2013 harvest. According to information from the Agricultural Information Service (AMI), at the current price of 700 EUR per ton, a price level has been reached at which the processing of imported palm oil (638 EUR/t CIF Rotterdam – see UFOP market information “Oil Seeds and Biofuels” 02/2004) is not necessarily economical. Furthermore, the levying of punitive duties on biodiesel against Indonesia and Argentina has a decreasing effect on the imports from these countries. The increased demand from the domestic and European biodiesel industry for European rapeseed oil has, however, not yet been able to bring about a positive change of direction in the rapeseed oil price, the reason obviously being the huge worldwide supply quantities of vegetable oils.

The study sampled 60 fillings stations belonging to mineral oil companies throughout Germany. Officials admit they cannot detect the amount of used waste oils or animal fats used in the biodiesel.

Dutch Company to Use SkyNRG Biodiesel

boskalis1A Netherlands-based company in the construction and maritime infrastructure maintenance businesses will use biodiesel from a company used to fueling things a bit higher above the ground. Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V. (Boskalis) reached an agreement with SkyNRG, a supplier of renewable, sustainable aviation fuel, to provide about 65,000 gallons of biodiesel for Boskalis trucks.

The pilot is consistent with Boskalis’ efforts to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. If the pilot proves successful, a pilot on board of one of the Boskalis ships will be contemplated.

In line with the WWF’s 2050 Energy Vision SkyNRG only produces and distributes biodiesel for segments where no better alternative is available. The origin of the sustainable fuel means that it does not compete with the food chain and has no negative impact on biodiversity.

“The partnership with Boskalis will help us in creating a broader market for our biodiesel, thus making it more economically feasible and closing the price gap with fossil fuels,” [says] Dirk Kronemeijer, SkyNRG CEO.

The fuel is to be blended at a 30 percent rate of biodiesel.

NEC Global Ethanol Conversation

nec14-globalIt is always interesting to hear the perspectives of different countries during the National Ethanol Conference global panel and to see the similarities as well as differences in viewpoint.

The panel was moderated by Bliss Baker, Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, and included Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, as well as (from left to right): Joel Velasco, Senior Advisor to Board of UNICA; Scott Thurlow, President, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association; Jayant Godbole, President and Director PRAJ Americas, Inc.; and Robert Vierhout, Secretary-General, ePURE

nec14-epureA few years ago, it was Brazil and the United States sparring with each other over ethanol trade and tariffs, but now it is the Europeans who are challenging the U.S. ethanol industry in the export arena.

“The real loser in the EU’s nonsensical action is the European consumer, who is being denied access to low cost high performance renewable fuels,” Dinneen said in his state of the industry address. Vierhout challenged that assertion on the panel. “Bob, please wake up,” said Vierhout. “If you would export your ethanol to Europe, who’s going to gain? Not the consumer, it’s the oil companies.”

Even Brazil and Canada fired back at Vierhout over Europe’s policy. “I’ll summarize for Rob,” said Velasco. “He’s never met a gallon, or a liter, or hectoliter, of ethanol imports that he likes.”

Thurlow questioned how this would play in the current European-U.S. trade negotiations. “I don’t see how your position can be tenable, Rob, if you are going to have a dispute resolution mechanism that will basically make it impossible for these types of ‘snap-back tariffs’ to be put on,” he said. To which Vierhout replied, “There’s still a possibility (the trade agreement) will exclude ethanol.”

Listen to the conversation here and watch the European exchange on video below: Growing Global Ethanol Industry Panel Discussion

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

UK Researchers Study Algae-to-Biodiesel and More

GreenwichalgaeResearchers in the United Kingdom are looking at turning a particular strain of algae into biodiesel … and more. This University of Greenwich news release says the school is leading a nearly $14 million international project to get products from the bright pink-orange microalgae Dunaliella found in salt lakes and coastal waters.

The project will build a biorefinery called the ‘D-Factory’ which is going to turn every part of the alga into something useful.

Algae are known for their ability to convert CO2 and sunlight into chemical energy five times faster than crops grown in soil. This particular alga is able to produce up to 80 per cent of its mass as fuel but is currently too expensive to cultivate for fuel alone. However it also produces a range of compounds of great interest in pharmaceutical, cosmetic, nutraceutical and other applications – and this may provide the solution.

Project leader Professor Pat Harvey, from the university’s Faculty of Engineering & Science, explains: “The race is on to develop a broader spectrum of compounds from algae, which can be turned into high-value products including food and medicines.

“If we can make algae biorefineries commercially viable, we will have developed a new industry founded on an environmentally-kind raw material which is also sustainable. The potential is huge.”

Officials say they will have the science to produce sustainable fuel by 2020, if they can get the costs down.

Thirteen research institutions and businesses from eight countries are part of the project.

Canadian Biodiesel Maker Gets BQ-9000 Designation

glb-logoCanada’s largest biodiesel producer has gained an important quality status. This news release from Great Lakes Biodiesel Inc. says the company received BQ-9000 Producer status, the highest level of industry recognized quality assurance, from the National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission (NBAC).

“Achieving BQ-9000 Producer status is just one of many goals we achieved in an effort to continuously provide our customers with the highest quality product and services” said Thomas J. Guzek, Chief Marketing Officer of Great Lakes Biodiesel. “ Our Great Lakes Team is a highly experienced and dedicated group that worked very diligently to achieve this outstanding accreditation. “We are proud to be a part of the BQ-9000 process. Most importantly, we know BQ-9000 accreditation means consistent, efficient production and supply of high quality fuel to help address the growing renewable energy demands both in Canada and US”

BQ-9000 is a cooperative and voluntary quality-assurance program administered by the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) for the accreditation of producers and marketers of biodiesel fuel. This unique program addresses requirements of the ASTM standard for biodiesel, ASTM D6751, within a structured quality system that controls storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution, and fuel management practices. Certification is awarded following a successful formal review and audit of the applicants Quality System documentation, followed by a formal audit of the applicants conformance to its System.

Great Lakes Biodiesel Inc.’s Welland, Ontario facility is the largest biodiesel plant in Canada producing 45 million gallons per year of ASTM 6751 quality biodiesel.