Spinach May Be Powerful Fuel for Biofuels

Spinach may have super strength to unlock some of the mysteries of biofuel production. Purdue University physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.

“The proteins we study are part of the most efficient system ever built, capable of converting the energy from the sun into chemical energy with an unrivaled 60 percent efficiency,” said Yulia Pushkar, a Purdue assistant professor of physics involved in the research. “Understanding this sPushkar spinachystem is indispensable for alternative energy research aiming to create artificial photosynthesis.”

As Pushkar explains, during photosynthesis plants use solar energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into hydrogen-storing carbohydrates and oxygen. Artificial photosynthesis could allow for the conversion of solar energy into renewable, environmentally friendly hydrogen-based fuels.

In Pushkar’s laboratory, students extract a protein complex called Photosystem II from spinach they buy at the supermarket. The students then extract the proteins in a specially built room that keeps the spinach samples cold and shielded from light. Next the team excites the proteins with a laser and records changes in the electron configuration of their molecules.

“These proteins require light to work, so the laser acts as the sun in this experiment,” explained Pushkar. “Once the proteins start working, we use advanced techniques like electron paramagnetic resonance and X-ray spectroscopy to observe how the electronic structure of the molecules change over time as they perform their functions.” Continue reading

Cellulosic Ethanol – Innovation at it’s Finest

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “What are your thoughts on cellulosic ethanol?”

As the possibility of cellulosic ethanol grows it looks like popularity will as well. We may be far from buying it at the pump, but people still seem to be excited about the technological innovation.

Here are the poll results:

  • Innovation making it happen – 43.2%
  • Very important renewable fuel – 21.6%
  • Still years away from commercial market – 27%
  • Will never work – 2.7%
  • What the heck is it? – 5.4%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, How can technology make farming even better?

We’ve been covering lots of precision farming conferences this summer, from the recent Precision Aerial Ag Show in Illinois, to this week’s International Conference on Precision Ag in California, to next week’s InfoAg Expo in St. Louis. Sometimes it seems like farming can’t get any more technological – but can it? What would you like to see on the farm that has yet to become commercially available?

Grains Council Working on Ethanol Exports

usgrainscouncil1The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is working on promoting exports of U.S. ethanol through a partnership between USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“We’ve been working since late March, early April to determine which markets we’re going to do market assessments in and then next year we’ll shift into market development activities,” said Ashley Kongs, USGC manager of ethanol export program. The Grains Council is planning three regional market assessment programs this year, going to Japan and Korea in September, Latin America in November, and southeast Asia in early December.

Earlier this year, USGC participated in a trade mission to China with USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse where they were able to discuss the possibility of ethanol exports to that country. “They visited with a Chinese ethanol plant and they had meetings with the National Energy Administration in China,” said Kongs. “Currently ethanol can only be sold in six designated markets in China for blending with fuel, but the group had discussions about the possibility of expanding ethanol use nationwide.” Kongs says while there are challenges in the Chinese market, the Grains Council sees great potential for the future to open the door for U.S. ethanol exports.

USGC continues to build on its success in promoting exports of the ethanol co-product distillers grains and will be again this year joining RFA in hosting the Export Exchange, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products held every two years. Early registration for the event is open until July 31 and USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing.

EPA Hears Corn Grower Concerns About RFS

Members of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) meeting in Washington DC were able to share their concerns about the delayed rule on 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard with EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

epa-ncga“The number needs to be out, it’s really ridiculous,” said NCGA president Martin Barbre, pictured here on the right with Perciasepe. “He said ‘we’re behind time frame’ and we had some delegates stand up and say ‘you’re not behind time frame, you’re way late.’” The final rule was expected by the end of June but EPA officials say it is being delayed because of the massive volume of comments that need to be studied in order to make a decision.

Barbre says while they appreciate the fact that EPA is taking the time to make sure they make the right decision, delaying it until almost the end of the year causes problems in the market. “Sort of what has created this issue with RINS and that run up in the RINS price is the lateness of the oil companies getting the numbers,” said Barbre. “They’re supposed to have these number in the spring, they get them in the fall, and by the end of the year they have got to have met their obligations. So it puts them in somewhat of a bind.”

“We’re not usually on the side of defending the oil companies, but in this case they just need to get the numbers faster so they can get themselves where they need to be,” Barbre added.

Listen to Barbre’s comments here: Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre

“Climate of Opportunity” Theme for Biofuels Conference

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.23.20 PMSome biofuels producers have had some profitable times in the last couple of years, and an upcoming conference will give attendees information on how to take advantage of the opportunities put before them. Nationally known accounting and consulting firm Christianson & Associates will host its 10th annual Biofuels Financial Conference with the theme “Climate of Opportunity,” Aug. 27-28, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minn. at the Bloomington Embassy Suites.

This year’s Biofuels Financial Conference is focused on the best ways to take advantage of the many opportunities to optimize financial health and stability in today’s changing biofuels industry. By understanding current policy and knowing all available options for improving and diversifying production, attendees will learn how to capitalize on current strengths, identify and shore up any potential weaknesses, and create a strategic plan for growth creates an ongoing climate of opportunity.

“It’s important for board members and financial decision-makers to understand the opportunities in the current liquid fuels marketplace,” said [John Christianson, CPA and Partner at Christianson & Associates]. “What is the impact of the latest legislation changes, what are the marketplace opportunities, what are the technology investments that will bring a plant successfully into the next generation?”

Those attending the conference will be able to network with and learn from biofuels professionals from across the industry. More information is available here.

Ethanol Report on Cost Analysis

ethanol-report-adA new analysis by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) shows that over the past four years, ethanol has been the most economically competitive motor fuel and octane source in the world.

rfa-cooper-headIn this Ethanol Report, RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper gives some of the major findings of the report, talks about why it has particular relevance in the California market, and how the study suggests that the cost of producing ethanol in the US will continue to fall.

Ethanol Report on Cost Analysis

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

What is the Difference Between Crude Oil & Ethanol?

RFANewlogoThe U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released a new tank car proposal that is designed to enhance the safe transportation of hazardous materials, including ethanol and crude oil. Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) expressed concern over the rule’s same treatment of crude oil and ethanol when ethanol has a strong safety record while the high volatility of crude oil from the Bakken is not adequately addressed.

However, Dinneen did applaud the Administration for adopting a comprehensive approach to increasing concerns about rising shipments of highly volatile crude oil on the nation’s railways. He noted that the approach outlined today appears to address prevention, mitigation and response related to crude oil derailments.

“Ethanol is a low volatility, consistent commercial product with a 99.997 percent rail safety record,” said Dinneen. “Unlike oil from fracking, ethanol is not a highly volatile feedstock of unknown and differing quality and characteristics being shipped to a refinery for commercial use. Before this proposed rule is finalized, the RFA looks forward to engaging the Department of Transportation in a constructive dialogue about these differences, and the need to have a practical and effective phase-in of these new standards,” added Dinneen. “In the meanwhile, the U.S. ethanol industry will continue to work with all parties to assure the safe and effective transport of this low-cost, domestic renewable fuel to markets all across the country.”

Steller Solar Offers Project LiveWire Experience

Harley-Davidson has unveiled its first all electric motorcycle and are giving consumers a chance to experience this new ride through its Project LiveWire Experience. The first event will take place in San Diego July 24, 2014-July 26, 2014 hosted by Stellar Solar and San Diego Harley-Davidson. Project LiveWire will be at the Morena Boulevard location with the main event taking place Saturday, July 26 from 12 – 4pm. All three days will feature complimentary solar powered food and beverages from the Stellar Solar Mobile Solar Station.

Stellar Solar Harley Project LiveWireFans who take a test ride will be able to give feedback to Haley-Davidson as they tweak their electric motorcycle – the electric bike is still under development. During the three-day event, consumers will also be able to participate through a Jumpstart simulator that provides an experience almost as good as the real thing.

Stellar Solar is connected with San Diego Harley-Davidson through General Manager Ty Miller who had a Stellar Solar system installed on his home. “When we received word that San Diego Harley-Davidson was going to be one of the first locations on the tour, the Stellar Solar Mobile Solar Station immediately came to mind as a perfect fit to help power the event,” Miller said. “Electric motorcycles and solar power complement each other nicely and we are happy to promote solar along side this innovative motorcycle.”

Kent Harle, CEO of Stellar Solar and avid motorcycle enthusiast is excited for the event. “I’ve been riding motorcycles for a long time and the Project LiveWire is a unique and very impressive machine. I’d buy one today if they were on the market. I can’t wait to test ride it. This is a perfect event for our Mobile Solar Station and we are proud to be associated with San Diego Harley-Davidson.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo taking place October 13-14, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minn., has announced its agenda. With two comprehensive program tracks titled Cellulosic & Advanced Ethanol and Biodiesel & Other Biomass-based Diesels, this year’s event will feature nearly 70 advanced biofuels presentations on technology scale-up, bolt-on considerations, emerging feedstock opportunities, project development, policy, RIN markets and more—with a core focus on opportunities for America’s existing fleet of biofuels plants to produce advanced biofuels in the near term.
  • Headwinds in several key markets, including the United States and Spain slowed growth in the global wind power market dramatically in 2013. Still, windpower now supplies nearly 3 percent of the world’s electricity, and is expected to grow strongly over the next several years. According to the BTM Wind Report from Navigant Research, wind power will deliver 7.3 percent of the electricity consumed worldwide by 2018.
  • ZeoGas LLC, a developer of natural gas-to-gasoline projects, has entered into a license agreement to use ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company’s methanol-to-gasoline technology in the development of a natural gas-to-gasoline plant on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Coupled with the 5,000 tons-per-day of planned methanol production, ZeoGas will produce more than 16,000 barrels per day of ASTM-spec, 87 Octane gasoline with zero sulfur and about 50 percent less benzene than allowable standards.
  • NRG Energy, Inc. has announced the acquisition of the 4 MW Spanish Town Estate Solar project on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands from Toshiba International Corporation. Once completed, the power will be sold to the U.S. Virgin Island Water and Power Authority under a 25-year power purchase agreement. The project also is expected to help the U.S. Virgin Islands achieve their renewable energy goals to reduce its fossil fuel based energy consumption by 60 percent over the next 10 years.

Mudsummer Classic Features American Ethanol

dillon-ethanolAmerican Ethanol will be in the spotlight today as driver Austin Dillon will be defending his crown at Eldora Speedway for NASCAR’s Mudsummer Classic World Truck series race in Ohio.

Last year, Dillon won the historic race driving his American Ethanol branded truck, his first truck race since winning NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011.

“Eldora is always an exciting race for NASCAR fans, but it is an exciting opportunity for corn farmers too,” said National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) NASCAR Advisory Committee Chair Jon Holzfaster. “With American Ethanol spokesman Austin Dillon firmly in the spotlight, Eldora provides a great platform to get our message about the environmental and economic benefits ethanol offers all Americans to a broader audience. The buzz continues to grow. Ethanol helps clean our air, improve our economic independence and benefits American consumers and farmers alike.”

American Ethanol is a partnership of Growth Energy and the National Corn Growers Association.

LA Moving Company Converts Fleet to Biodiesel

247vanlinesA Los Angeles-based moving company has converted its entire fleet of trucks to run on biodiesel. 24-7 Van Lines says the conversion helps the environment and helps the company be more energy efficient, which means they can pass along savings for its commercial and residential customers.

According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emissions from transportation vehicles amounted to an estimated 28% of all greenhouse gases emitted in the nation in 2011. With newer laws being enacted nationwide designed to curb emissions, and with some being implemented by individual states already, trucks in the moving sector and in other industries will soon have to conform to newer and more stringent standards. With the cost of bio-diesel fuel at a comfortable median to standard diesel, entities that convert their fleets stand to enjoy substantial reductions in cost. For The Commercial Movers, the upgrades make them an officially “green” Los Angeles Cross Country Mover, also enabling them to offer lower rates to their customers as a result of reduced fuel encumbrances.

“We strive to make our services as valuable to our customers as possible, while also being cognizant of the impact that our company has upon the environment,” explained company spokesperson, Mark Tanning. “With our completed upgrade to cleaner burning bio-diesel engines, we are able to tackle both objectives with one move. Now we can offer better prices to our clients and reduce our carbon footprint, simultaneously. And that’s a tune that we can all hum along to.”

More information about the company is available at www.247vanlines.com.

Ethanol Revving up for Sturgis Rally

sturgis-rfaFor the sixth year in a row, motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world will be able to learn more about ethanol, courtesy of the Renewable Fuels Association, at the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

About a half million motorcyclists will be converging on Sturgis, S.D., August 4-7 for the 74th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, presenting an ideal opportunity for RFA to dispel misinformation concerning ethanol use in motorcycles. Among the ways RFA does that is “Free Fuel Happy Hours,” offering a free tank of E10 93-octane fuel to riders at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground. RFA is a major sponsor at the popular campground where the message “Ride Safe, Fuel Right” will be seen everywhere, including the main stage where this year’s concert line up includes Lynyrd Skynyrd, Collective Soul, Zac Brown Band, John Mayall, Alice Cooper, ZZ Top and Cheap Trick.

RFA also proudly sponsors the annual “Legends Ride” where proceeds are donated to local charities, including the Black Hills Special Olympics. All “Legends Ride” participants receive free “Fueled with Pride” giveaways and informational materials on ethanol before they embark on the ride that originates in Deadwood, S.D.

DomesticFuel will once again be there to bring all the sights and sounds to you. Check out last year’s photo album here.

Panasonic Corp Installs Power Supply Container

powercontainer_Karimun0012Panasonic Corporation has developed an interesting offshoot of solar energy: Power Supply Container. The stand-alone photovoltaic power package was installed for the National Elementary School Karimunjawa 01 in Karimunjawa Island, Jepara District, Central Jawa Province, Indonesia. The Power Supply Container is equipped with 12 Panasonic “HIT(R)240” solar modules that the company said has high conversion efficiency and can generate approximately 3 kW of electricity. It can also provide stored power from 24 built-in lead-acid storage batteries (17.2 kWh as total).

Karimunjawa is an area where electricity is available at night using diesel generators. However, in the daytime these generators are stopped and no electricity can be used by the residents of the village. As no power for the village during the daytime interferes with administrative and commercial activities, improvement of the educational environment had been the top priority for the island. To solve this social issue, Koperasi Pundih Artah, which received Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security, Institute of Business and Economic Democracy Foundation (IBEKA) and Panasonic launched a project for improving the educational environment, by supplying and installing the Power Supply Container, under the cooperation of Jepara District and the Embassy of Japan in Indonesia.

To celebrate the introduction of “daytime electricity” a handover ceremony was held with Koperasi Pundih Artah and IBEKA. Now, during school hours, children can use LED lighting fixtures, ceiling fans and audiovisual educational materials using PCs and TVs. When there are no classes, the electricity is sold to nearby areas through a management association of the Power Supply Container topowercontainer_Karimun0017 contribute to activation of the regional community and improve the regional electricity infrastructure.

IBEKA is giving support for establishing management associations in Karimunjawa for independent operation of power supplies as well as provides training and supports for their operation, management and maintenance to achieve a sustainable power supply in Karimunjawa. Panasonic will continue to work with groups in Indonesia to bring more Power Supply Containers to areas without reliable electricity.

Himark BioGas to Build 3 Anaerobic Digestion Plants

Himark BioGas International is building three integrated anaerobic digestion (AD) and fertilizer plants for NEO Energy in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The AD plants will be designed and constructed by Himark and will recycle food waste to produce renewable electricity and organic-based fertilizer. As part of the agreement, Himark BioGas will act as a technology licensor and owner’s representative on behalf of NEO Energy LLC during the design, construction and operation stages of the plants.

GPHH_webreadyShane Chrapko, CEO of Himark BioGas, said, “The development of the anaerobic digestion plants will positively contribute to effective food waste recycling, profitable pathogen-free fertilizer production, energy self-sufficiency and a reduction in carbon emissions for the local communities. Each ton of food waste diverted from the landfill will reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions by just over one ton of CO2 (Equivalent).”

The AD plants will be designed based on Himark BioGas’ patented “IMUS” technology that can produce renewable energy and pathogen-free fertilizer from food waste, source separated organic materials, cow manure, ethanol plant waste/thin stillage, slaughter house waste, food processing waste and agricultural waste (open pen feedlot, sand-laden dairies, etc.). The IMUS technology also can handle feedstock containing large amounts of sand, dirt, rocks, plastic and cellulose. Furthermore, Himark said with its turnkey, guaranteed-maximum capital cost designs, the company guarantees electricity, gas and fertilizer outputs with any kind of feedstock.

“NEO’s anaerobic digestion plants will recycle food waste generated by supermarkets, food processors, restaurants and other institutions and divert that waste away from landfills and incineration facilities,” said Robert Nicholson, president of NEO Energy. “Our plants produce a high-quality organic-based fertilizer while reducing greenhouse gases, preserving landfill capacity and producing renewable energy. Our first plants will also be available to those businesses that will need to comply with the 2014 commercial food waste disposal ban in Massachusetts and the recently enacted law in Rhode Island requiring that food residuals produced by large waste generators be recycled starting in 2016.

Analysis: Ethanol Most Competitive Motor Fuel

According to a new analysis released today, “The Economic Competitiveness of U.S. Ethanol,” U.S. produced ethanol has been the most economically competitive motor fuel in the world over the past four years. In addition, ethanol has played an important role in E-85 fill-up photo Joanna Schroederreducing consumer fuel costs. The analysis was conducted by ABF Economics and released by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

The analysis reviewed actual wholesale prices paid for ethanol, gasoline and alternative octane source in several U.S. and world markets between 2010-2013. Based on the data, the report concluded, “…U.S.-produced ethanol is an exceptionally competitive additive and fuel source…” and that “…U.S. ethanol has emerged as the lowest cost transportation fuel and octane source in the world over the past several years.”

Commenting on the analysis, RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, “As proven by the recent boom in exports, American-made ethanol has evolved into the most cost competitive transportation fuel and octane source in the world. Through rapid technology adoption and innovation, U.S. producers have proudly earned the distinction of being the global leader and low-cost producer of clean-burning, renewable ethanol.”

Dinneen continued, “Despite the fact that ethanol offers greater consumer choice at a lower cost, entrenched petroleum companies continue to erect barriers that deny access to larger volumes of renewable fuels,” Dinneen continued. “In a truly free market, consumers would always choose a fuel that is produced domestically, is better for the environment and climate, and costs much less than gasoline. Unfortunately, free markets only exist in text books, underscoring the need for monopoly-breaking policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

The ABF Economics study found that even after accounting for transportation costs to the reference markets of Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, “The ‘spread’ between ethanol and RBOB [gasoline] has averaged 30 to 40 cents per gallon over the past four years in these three key markets and the difference averaged more than 60 cents per gallon in 2012.

As a result of this cost differential, the analysis found “…ethanol blended with RBOB to produce reformulated gasoline at a 10 percent (E10) blend has reduced the cost of motor fuel to consumers.” The analysis found that ethanol’s impact on gas prices goes far beyond the wholesale price spread: “This does not include the additional downward impact ethanol has on gasoline prices as a result of extending supplies and reducing demand for crude oil.”

Economic Competitiveness of Ethanol reportAccording to the report, “…even with depreciation of the real, U.S. ethanol has been more cost competitive than Brazilian ethanol in key U.S. and world markets over the past several years.” This has particular relevance in the California market, according to the study, because that state’s fuel policies strongly compel fuel suppliers to import Brazilian ethanol in lieu of U.S. ethanol. “Use of Brazilian ethanol in place of U.S. ethanol theoretically raised the price of E10 for California consumers by 8 cents per gallon over the past four years,” the study found.

In closing, the study indicates that the competitiveness of U.S. ethanol will only improve in the future: “This competitive advantage is expected to increase further, as U.S. ethanol and feedstock producers adopt new technologies and crude oil prices continue to trend higher.”