Iowa U.S. Senate Candidates Support Biofuels

ia-rfaConsidering the state’s significant role in biofuels and renewable energy, there’s little surprise that primary candidates for the Iowa U.S. Senate seat are expressing their support of the green fuels. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says its 2014 Iowa U.S. Senate Primary Candidate Renewable Fuels Survey shows there’s strong, bipartisan support for renewable fuels among the state’s top candidates.

The full results and responses from candidates U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, Sam Clovis, state Sen. Joni Ernst, and Mark Jacobs can be found here: http://www.iowarfa.org/2014IRFACandidateSurveys.php. Matt Whitaker informed IRFA he would not be returning the survey.

“Literally tens of thousands of Iowans are invested in or directly employed by the renewable fuels industry, and they deserve to know where the candidates stand on these important issues,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “It’s great to see every candidate who responded showed strong support for ethanol and biodiesel, demonstrating renewable fuels issues are important to Iowa’s future.”

In December, the IRFA held an Iowa GOP U.S. Senate Primary Candidate Renewable Fuels Forum where candidates Sam Clovis and Mark Jacobs answered questions on specific renewable fuels issues. Video of that forum is available here.

Cellulosic’s First Community Advisory Panel to Meet

The Nation’s first Community Advisory Panel (CAP) on cellulosic biofuels will meet early next week in Iowa. Officials from DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa will talk with more than 30 Central Iowa residents including business leaders, farmers, conservationists and educators Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Nevada’s SCORE Pavilion from 6:30-8:30 pm.

dupontcornstoverDesigned to provide an ongoing dialogue between DuPont and the surrounding community, the CAP will meet up to four times each year Dr. Mark Edelman, CAP Facilitator, has more than 32 years of experience as a professor of economics and extension specialist in agricultural policy analysis, community entrepreneurship, and economic development. Edelman also teaches an economic development course and serves as Community Vitality Center Director at Iowa State University. During this inaugural meeting, CAP members will discuss the panel’s goals and objectives, and a process for ongoing engagement with the new facility’s management team.

DuPont’s commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility is expected to produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year after it comes online in the second half of 2014. The $200 million facility will be among the first and largest commercial-scale cellulosic biorefineries in the world. Corn stover is expected to be the main feedstock.

RFA National Ethanol Conference Registration Opens

NEC1Time to finalize your plans to attend the Renewable Fuels Association’s 19th Annual National Ethanol Conference with the theme of Falling Walls, Rising Tides, Feb. 17-19, 2014. Conference registration is now open, and the RFA needs you at the JW Marriot in Orlando, Fla.

Now more than ever our industry should be proud of its success in bringing down barriers that limit our production and use, and which have resulted in noticeable reductions in demand for fossil fuels and imports, expanded markets around the world for both fuel and food, and consumer choice for renewable, domestic fuel options. We have answered the call with the introduction of E15, a proven fuel that is cost-effective for both consumers to use and retailers to install and provide. We see continued growth in E85 due to positive economics, and opportunities for advanced ethanol have never been brighter as the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) rises steadily over the coming years.

This is one event you sure don’t want to miss, as more than 1,200 attendees are expected for the two days chocked full of valuable, impactful ethanol expertise and numerous networking opportunities. Click here to register.

New E15 Stations Give Dakota Drivers More Choice

RFA-logo-13Six new E15 stations will give North Dakota drivers more choices at the pump. The Renewable Fuels Association welcomed the move at the six Petro Serve USA locations in Bismarck, Mandan, West Fargo, and Fargo, as North Dakota becomes the ninth state to offer E15 to consumers with vehicles 2001 and newer.

“We are committed to offering our customers choice at the pump,” says Kent Satrang, CEO of Petro Serve USA. “Ethanol blends are the perfect partnership between North Dakota’s corn fields and oil fields. E15 provides a very cost-effective option for our consumers.”

E15 is EPA tested and approved for all vehicles 2001 and newer. It has been offered for over 14 months and has been driven over 40 million miles. E15 is shown to save drivers an average of 10-15 cents per gallon compared to gasoline without ethanol. With the addition of the six North Dakota Petro Serve USA locations, E15 is now available in more than 40 stations in nine states.

“North Dakota drivers now have additional, cost-saving options at the pump,” said Robert White, Renewable Fuels Association’s director of market development. “A recent Fuels America poll showed that 82% of Americans want E15 to be available at the gas station. It is tremendous to see stations in state after state begin to offer E15 and I hope this trend will continue in North Dakota as other stations see the success of the six Petro Serve USA stations. The spread of E15 is only beginning and I am proud that North Dakota is helping lead the way in E15 implementation.”

E15 is a natural fit for the state, as the North Dakota Ethanol Council points out ethanol plants in the state contribute approximately $640 million/year to the economy, and they directly create nearly 200 in-state jobs and indirectly support 10,000 more. Plus, ethanol is made from local grain and creates a high protein feedstock, dried distiller grains (DDGS) for local farms.

DF Cast: Ethanol Battles for Info & Against the Gov’t

Understanding what the auto industry wants and needs… and how ethanol can meet that… all while battling Big Oil and even the government… that’s the daunting task the ethanol industry has been facing for some time.

ACE13-uniteandignite-vandergriendIn this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we talk with Dave Vander Griend, the co-founder and president of one of the world’s largest ethanol plant engineering and construction firms, ICM. He talks about how first the ethanol industry needed to identify what the auto industry needed and then what the refineries were producing, a first on both counts for the ethanol industry. He says once his industry was able to see what the car makers wanted, it was easier to figure out how to counter some of the arguments Big Oil has been making against ethanol.

Meanwhile, the Urban Air Initiative, a group that looks to reduce the threat to public health posed by petroleum-based fuels, issued a white paper, dispelling Big Oil’s myths and countering what the group characterizes as an erroneous report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would hurt ethanol.

It’s a fascinating conversation, and you can hear more of it in this Domestic Fuel Cast: Domestic Fuel Cast - Dave Vander Griend, ICM and Urban Air Initiative

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

Corn Oil Biodiesel Adds Arrow to Ethanol’s Quiver

More ethanol plants are squeezing more profits out of the corn they use by recovering more of the oil in the process and turning it into biodiesel. This article from Ethanol Producer Magazine says by the end of the year, as many as 80 percent of U.S. ethanol plants could be recovering corn oil.

cornoilbiodiesel1WB Services is offering ethanol producers a way to turn corn oil into high-value fuels on site. The company has two separate technologies, both commercially available now, that call for co-location of either a biodiesel or renewable diesel facility with an existing ethanol plant. “We think this just adds another arrow to the quiver for an ethanol plant as far as diversifying their product mix and insulating them against tough times,” [Bernie Hoffman, vice president of business development and minority owner of WB Services LLC] says. Rachel Overheul, engineering manager for WB Services, agrees. “It brings a lot of potential market value to the ethanol plant, as opposed to being dependent on the corn oil market,” she adds.

The company has built and is operating a 2 MMgy biodiesel plant and is in the process of completing construction on a 3 MMgy renewable diesel facility, both in Sedgwick, Kan. Although neither facility is co-located with an ethanol plant, both serve as a showpiece for potential customers interested in co-location. “They can come and see the technology at work, feel comfortable with the way they operate,” says Ron Beemiller, company president and CEO.

The article goes on to point out how a co-located biodiesel facility helps with commercial viability, uses existing infrastructure to keep costs down and allows for continued research and development. In addition, while many facilities might be built for corn oil, there’s some real flexibility in choosing another feedstock if the need arises.

EIA: Wind, Solar & Biofuels Seeing Good Growth

eiaThe latest government energy report seems to provide plenty of good news for some of our favorite alternative fuel sources. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) August 2013 Short-Term Energy Outlook shows that wind, solar, ethanol and biodiesel productions are all up for the year, according to comments from EIA’s Administrator Adam Sieminski:

Renewables:

“Wind power generation is expected to grow by 19% this year as capacity that came on line at the end of 2012 is available to produce electricity for the entire year. Wind generation is forecast to grow by 7% in 2014.”

“EIA expects continued robust growth in solar power generation, although the amount of utility-scale generation remains a small share of total U.S. generation at about 0.2% for this year.”

U.S. Liquid Biofuels:

“U.S. ethanol production has been increasing since April, and is projected to average 870,000 barrels per day this year and 920,000 barrels per day in 2014. Biodiesel production has also been rising this year and reached 85,000 barrels per day in May. Biodiesel output is expected to average 82,000 barrels per day this year.”

It’s a good thing renewable energy is doing so well, because the EIA also reports that petroleum oil prices, and consequently gasoline prices, are also on the rise. Nice to know alternatives are there to give us some choices.

Analysis: Biodiesel Could Solve Ethanol Blend Wall

epa-logoA new analysis shows that biodiesel might be the solution for ethanol “blend wall” concern and its impact on the overall number of advanced biofuels being blended. There’s been a lot of talk about the issue of the ethanol “blend wall,” the point at which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates for that renewable fuel are greater than the amount of ethanol able to be blended into regular gasoline. Right now, the most widely accepted “safe” level of ethanol mix for most vehicles is 10 percent, with a debate raging around the ability to go all the way up to 15 percent without modifications of current vehicles or the vehicles being flex-fuel capable. In this analysis posted on Reuters, the author points out that even with the higher blend limit, there will still be a gap between the time all the infrastructure is in place and the higher blends could be the norm. In the meantime, he suggests that biodiesel could help meet the EPA numbers by being a substitute for some of the ethanol products and cites precedent for such a move.

EPA has already used its authority to cut the cellulosic ethanol mandate (because of under-supply) and increase biodiesel, while keeping the overall advanced biofuel target unchanged.

That has directly substituted biodiesel for ethanol.

This year EPA cut the cellulosic target to 14 million gallons from 1 billion gallons as required in the 2007 act, and increased biodiesel to 1.28 billion gallons, also from 1 billion.

The U.S. National Biodiesel Board estimates record output of more than 1.2 billion gallons this year, roughly half of which will be made from soyoil with the rest a mix of recycled cooking oil, animal fats and other products.

EPA talked up the ability of the U.S. biodiesel industry to take an increasing role, in its ruling last year setting the biodiesel target.

“We believe that it is appropriate that biomass-based diesel play an increasing role in supplying advanced biofuels to the market between 2012 and 2022,” it said. (“2013 Biomass-Based Diesel Renewable Fuel Volume; Final Rule”)

The article goes on to point out that the biodiesel industry is capable of ramping up production if more of the green fuel is needed. Current expanded targets for biodiesel production represent just 2.9 percent of the total diesel picture, and since all diesel vehicles can take at least a 5 percent blend (and many experts will point out that blend is much easily higher), there’s no danger of biodiesel hitting a similar blend wall in the near future.

Propel Moves Biodiesel, Ethanol Forward

Propel biodiesel pumpPropel Fuels is not just selling biodiesel and ethanol, alternatives to non-renewable petroleum, but it is doing it in an alternative fashion. This article from Convenience Store News says the California-based purveyor of the green fuels is doing something a bit different at most of its locations in California and Washington State.

At 36 of the locations, Propel partners with existing gas station retailers to operate its renewable fuel pumps at their stores. These pumps, which Propel calls a “Clean Fuel Point,” reside under a single canopy and are branded with the Propel name.

Propel pays rent to the station owners in return for the fuel sales from its pumps. Since Propel offers pay-at-the-pump technology, once a consumer turns on its pump to buy E85 or biodiesel, Propel — not the convenience store operator — accepts the payment and processes the transaction. All other fuel transactions at these 36 stores are handled by the c-store operator.

“The thinking in America is changing. The vehicles we have are changing as well. Those two things together helped with the idea to form a different type of fuel company that’s focused on bringing renewable fuels to the marketplace,” Chris LaPlante, director of marketing for Propel, told CSNews Online.

The two other Propel locations, in Fresno and Fullerton, Calif., are owned by Propel and have been dubbed “Clean Mobility Centers.” While the locations also sell petroleum-based gasoline, they also let customers buy a carbon offset of $1 a tankful right there at the pump.

So far, Propel’s blueprint seems to be one for success or at least growth. This year, they’ve added nine sites to their retail network, with more on the way soon. The article says Propel is even considering getting into the compressed natural gas and electric vehicle charging station markets.

Genera: Feedstocks, Start Early & Think Big

FEW13-genera-randleWhen it comes to biomass feedstocks for biofuels, you need to think ahead.

“Start early and think big,” was the advice Bob Randle, VP Sales and Marketing for Genera Energy gave attendees of the recent Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) in St. Louis, Mo. “Because there’s a lot of moving parts in providing 250,000 to 700,000 tons of material annually, on a 24-7 basis, particularly if you’re dealing with a perennial crop since it takes two to three years to establish.”

Bob says Genera, a relatively new company out of Tennessee, focuses its efforts on the front end of the biofuels chain, developing and delivering energy crop and biomass feedstock solutions, starting with switchgrass and now branching into other stocks as well. They work with farmers to develop long-term supply contracts, to grow, harvest, store and finally deliver the crops to the plants that convert it into biofuels.

“We’re the middleman on the feedstock supply side,” Bob said, adding they partner with the seed companies specializing in energy crops. He also said they try to look to the long term.

“That’s been one of the big revelations in the industry in the last year or so, is that as these technologies developed, the companies didn’t think about where massive quantities of feedstock would come from.” His company finds the solutions that bridge that gap between what was a concept for a biofuel to what is needed to produce it at commercial scale. Plus, Bob said they are focused on U.S. operations.

Listen to more of Joanna’s interview with Bob here: Bob Randle, VP Sales and Marketing for Genera Energy

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

POET-DSM Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Ready in ’14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edeniq Squeezing Every Penny Out of Ethanol Plants

FEW13-edeniq-thomeAfter the ethanol industry went through such a tight year last year, it’s no wonder refineries are looking to squeeze every penny out of profitability out of every gallon that comes out of the plant. During the recent Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Mo., Joanna had a chance to talk with Brian Thome, the President and CEO of Edeniq, a company that specializes in doing just that.

“It was founded with the idea of how do you take corn plants and migrate them over to a world class cellulosic operation. And what we’ve done is transition that into how do you take a corn ethanol plant and make it better,” he said. Edeniq has developed an end-to-end cellulosic process, pulling individual unit operations out of that process and finding applications in the real world to help customers with commercial uses. “Our goal is to simply incrementally make a plant better and better over time and then add cellulosic, [so] a corn ethanol plant has a more diverse feedstock and output with better economics.”

Adding in Edeniq technology adds bit by bit to a plant’s value with adding all the product lines. In addition, the other co-products, such as sugars, can add to those value streams. Brian also said that it could help either idled or closed plants get back in operation.

“Is there an opportunity? And the real key question becomes, ‘Has that ethanol plant been idled for a specific reason relative to the technology that someone could come in and take advantage of new product offerings, new additions on the technology side? Or has it been idled by other macroeconomic factors?” He added every plant is different with positive and negative attributes now and in the future.

Brain said Edeniq’s bolt-on technology could give some plants immediate returns, while others will need more time. But, as an ethanol man with more than 15 years in the industry, he certainly believes in the long-term of the green fuel and the potential it holds.

“There’s a 24 billion gallon worldwide market, and ethanol is not going away. Whether a person wants to argue if it should be 13.5 billion gallons or 30 billion gallons, the key for me is that it is still a very robust, very large product that needs to find its way into the market.”

Listen to more of Joanna’s interview with Brian here: Brian Thome, President and CEO of Edeniq

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

Management & Planning Key to Biofuels Profitability

Christianson1How you manage and plan your biofuels operation is just as important to ensuring its profitability as the price of the inputs that go into making the green fuels.

“The biofuels industry is like any other company,” explains John Christianson, partner and founding member of Christianson & Associates, a Minnesota firm that specializes in working with farmers and rural businesses, such as ethanol operations. “It’s a company that deals with commodities, so there’s volatility in that company, but all of industry has seen more volatility. So it comes down to management, planning, dictating your future where you want your company to go and plan that future out.”

John says that even last year, when commodity prices were high and margins were very tight, the top producers still were profitable, while average plants at least broke even. But those that were not doing well lost money. The difference in each of those tiers of producers really came down to how effective their management was. Effective management drives all the other factors and how the plant deals with all the variables that can make or break an operation. He also points out that for managers to keep operations profitable, they have to look at reinvesting the profits from the good times as a hedge against when things get more lean. John also urges his clients to look further down the road to manage their risks and look for long-term solutions.

“Any company that’s in business needs to look at not now over the next quarter, you have to look at how you can position your company over the next five years,” John says, taking current operations, reinvestment and how the geographic disadvantages and advantages affect a biodiesel or ethanol plant’s profitability. “How can we extrapolate from those advantages and project forward into those years, whether it’s additional technology we need to invest in [or] additional markets that we need to try to approach, to maximize the advantages and opportunities that are available to our plant.”

John concludes that while they can help ethanol and biodiesel plants look for that long term and stay profitable, just like everyone else in the industry, they’re still hoping for a better crop this year, while still finding ways to deal with last year’s smaller harvest.

“I think everybody’s waiting, and lot of plants and industry are looking at strategies [until] we get to the new crop when hopefully we’re going to have a plentiful supply of corn.”

Listen to Joanna’s interview with John here: John Christianson, Christianson & Associates

Genscape Monitoring to Ensure RIN Integrity

ROBERT BARTONThe recent crisis over fraudulent Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) led to great consternation in the biofuels community, as obligated parties sought assurances that the RINs they were buying were legitimate and met their obligations. Provider of energy information for commodity and financial markets Genscape, which got its start in monitoring the power grids, has expanded into the biofuels area.

“We started looking at how we could extend what we’re doing in the energy space into ag, [in particular], around the soy area,” explains Robert Barton, managing director at Genscape. That led to a conversation with the National Biodiesel Board, in the middle of the RIN integrity issue. Genscape looked at new ways to use their technology and monitoring techniques from a labor-intensive method of quarterly monitoring to a more frequent, independent, real-time monitoring, “Which is the RIN Integrity Network.”

Robert says they monitor three data streams … an initial on-site audit, information provided by the producer, and independent monitoring … to monitor and cross-check the information they get to make sure they have a truly accurate picture and assuring that the producer is really producing the amount if gallons for the number of RINs they claim. He also points out that Genscape is completely outside of the sales process, so there’s no conflict of interest.

Genscape has also just been approved to monitor the ethanol industry to ensure those RINs, and the company believes its flexibility will give them more insight around the plants and how the obligated parties will have better buying information. Robert says they are also poised to get into the cellulosic ethanol industry, but that demand for that market has not come up yet.

Genscape is also the first EPA-approved QAP provider and now first to have EPA approval for biofuels produced at foreign facilities and imported into the US. This new EPA designation is another feather in the cap for Genscape’s RIN Integrity Network. More information is available at http://info.genscape.com/canadian-producer-roadmap.

And while most of these programs described above are for their paying client base, Gensacpe also offers some free information aggregated on their web site, Genscape.com/biofuels.

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Robert here: Robert Barton, managing director at Genscape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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