Taiwan School Uses Microwaves to Make Biodiesel

ncku1A university in Taiwan is turning waste cooking oils into biodiesel using microwaves and strontium oxide (SrO) as catalyst. National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in southern Taiwan is using the talents of Prof. (Emeritus) Aharon Gedanken from the Department of Chemistry at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, in the process.

With the system designed by the team, a machine has been built by a company in Taiwan.

“The machine is made in Taiwan and working very well comparing it with similar ones I have at home,” according to Gedanken

The converting machine has been set up in the department and ready to yield more biofuel in the coming months, according to MSE Distinguished Professor Jiunn-Der Liao who has invited Gedanken to cooperate with NCKU faculty conducting the research.

Prof. Liao said that with Gedanken’s help we are going to set up a converting station at An-nan campus and hopefully we will collect more waste cooked oil for the demonstration.

The experimental process cranks out 3 liters per hour, and the researchers hope to have companies in Taiwan apply the know-how to their biodiesel operations.

Big Corn Crop Getting Bigger

usda-logoUSDA has increased its estimate of the corn crop again this month, building on already forecast record highs. Corn production is forecast at 14.4 billion bushels, up 3 percent from both the August forecast and from 2013 and yields are expected to average 171.7 bushels per acre, almost 13 bushels an acre higher than last year.

NCGA-Logo“It will be the fifth record crop that we’ve had in the last 12 years,” says National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Public Policy Jon Doggett, who commented on the crop during a during a Fuels America press call Thursday discussing the importance of EPA keeping the ethanol requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) going forward. “When the energy bill was passed in 2008, there was a challenge to the corn industry to produce the corn, and we have produced the corn,” he said, adding that farmers have done it so well that prices have fallen back below cost of production.

“The American farmer has done it again!” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “The innovation and rapid technology adoption we’ve seen in the corn sector over the past decade has been nothing short of astounding. The American farmer has again risen to the challenge to meet all demands for feed, food and fuel.”

RFANewlogoAs harvest ramps up in fields across the country, corn demand from the ethanol sector is ramping up as well. Dinneen notes that DOE projects 2014 ethanol production will be 14.3 billion gallons. “A decade ago, who would have dreamed that 14 billion bushels of corn and 14 billion gallons of clean-burning, domestically-produced ethanol would be the reality in 2014?,” he said.

Dinneen added that EPA’s proposal to reduce the 2014 RFS requirement for “renewable fuel” from 14.4 billion gallons to 13.01 billion gallons would effectively reduce demand for corn by some 500 million bushels, at a time when corn stocks are rising and prices are slumping to levels below the cost of production. “Now is not the time to artificially constrain demand for corn and tie the hands of the American farmer,” Dinneen said, urging EPA to “finalize a rule that returns the RFS to its intended trajectory.”

Dueling RFS Ads Have Same Tune

President Obama needs to overrule this misguided proposal from the EPA before it is too late and these new technologies move overseas. The fate of America’s advanced biofuel industry, along with the President’s clean energy legacy, are resting on his decision. Fuels America USA Today print ad

“Tell President Obama, stop playing politics – fix the RFS.”
American Petroleum Institute TV ad

fuels-americaBoth the American Petroleum Institute and Fuels America unveiled new media campaigns this week targeted at telling the White House what to do when it comes to volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Both organizations held conference calls with reporters to announce the new campaigns.

The single, full page, USA Today ad that will run during Climate Week September 19-21 is a sharp contrast to the oil industry’s multi-million dollar television, radio, and online advertising campaign. “This has been a David and Goliath struggle all along,” said Brent Erickson with the Biotechnology Industry Organization on behalf of Fuels America. “The biofuels industry has been struggling against this Goliath oil industry that has spent millions and millions of dollars on ads.”

The biofuels industry ad stresses the opening of the first large, commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants this year and warns that “the companies and investors looking to deploy the next wave of cellulosic ethanol facilities have put U.S. investment on hold” until a decision on the future of the RFS is made. The API ad calls the RFS “Washington red tape” and blames ethanol for raising food prices and contributing to hunger, even though corn prices are lower than breakeven for farmers this year, according to National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Public Policy Jon Doggett. “We are selling corn today at about 35% of what we did just a couple of years ago, certainly below the cost of production for many of our growers,” he said.

API’s Bob Greco says they launched their campaign in part because of recent statements from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that the agency will raise ethanol requirements based on the latest gasoline demand figures for 2014. “Unfortunately, the administration seems to be playing politics with the RFS rule instead of doing what’s best for consumers,” Greco said. “You don’t have to be a political insider to see how the Iowa Senate race—and the White House fear of losing control of the Senate—plays into this decision.”

“Politics are being played on this issue by both sides,” said Doggett. “I don’t think anyone should be surprised.”

Fuels America is a “coalition of organizations committed to protecting America’s Renewable Fuel Standard and promoting the benefits of all types of renewable fuel already growing in America.” API is the “only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry.”

Listen to the Fuels America call, which also includes comments from POET-DSM’s Steve Hartig: Fuels America RFS Campaign call

ZimmPoll Says Knowledge of Global Agriculture Crucial

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “How important is it to know about farming in other countries?”

This might be the most one-sided poll we have every had. It seems, and I definitely don’t disagree, that having a global understanding of agriculture is crucial. We may not all be able to learn about them first-hand, but thats where we come into play.

Here are the poll results:

  • Very important, global economy – 91%
  • Not important, who cares – 4%
  • Somewhat, simply curious – 5%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, Would you buy an Apple Watch?

Apple’s roll out of a few clever and exciting new techie items has lead us to wonder if their new Apple Watch is something you plan on spending money on. It’s a no brainer that all Apple product enthusiasts will eventually be owning an iPhone 6, but do the product specs of the Apple Watch intrigue you enough to make the investment. Do you see it being a must have in years to come?

Northern Power Launches Distributed Wind Turbines

Northern Power Direct Drive Distributed Wind TurbineNorthern Power Systems has unveiled its next generation permanent magnet/direct drive distributed wind turbines. The 100 kilowatt NPS 100C and the 60 KW NPS 60C are now commercially available for use around the world.

According to the company, new 24.4 meter rotor features state-of-the-art hub and blade technology with superior aerodynamics providing a larger swept area compared to the outgoing model. This increases the annual energy production (AEP) of the NPS 100C-24 and 60C-24 by up to 15% depending on wind conditions. In combination with Northern Power’s proprietary permanent magnet/direct drive technology, the company says these new turbines are industry leading in power performance, energy production and lifetime cost of ownership.

Northern Power System’s first turbines were deployed in 2008. The improved, design reduces foundation and installation costs according to the company, and further improvements include a new best in class brake system, industry leading yaw configuration, an enhanced electrical layout, more efficient generator cooling, and an ultrasonic wind vane and anemometer. The new class III 24.4 meter rotor is available on the 100kW and 60kW model. The NPS 100C is alternatively available with a class II 21 meter rotor option.

National EV Sales Exceed Quarter Million Mark

Electric vehicle (EVs) sales have reached the quarter-million mark in the U.S. this week, just ahead of the fourth annual National Drive Electric Week taking place September 15-21, 2014.

Nissan Leaf“Clean energy prosperity is on the way and there’s no turning back,” said Sierra Club director Michael Brune. “National Drive Electric Week and the dramatic increase in the number of plug-in electric vehicles on the road are just the latest examples of how American consumers are demanding 21st-century solutions to energy and the climate crisis, and given the choice would leave dirty fossil fuels in the ground.”

The global event is designed to highlight the fun, convenience, cost-savings and clean-air benefits of EVs, National Drive Electric Week is organized nationally by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association. These organizations team up with other local groups and volunteers staging local events from Hawaii to Vermont, where EV sales continue to be robust.

“Plug-in vehicles have had a good year,” said John O’Dell, senior editor, fuel efficiency and Green Vehicles at Edmunds.com. “Despite a slowdown in the conventional hybrid segment, battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are up about 39 percent over last year. They remain a tiny part of the market–less than a one-percent share–but more and more people seem to be considering them as they shop for fuel efficient transportation.”

Sharing the message abroad, at least one city in the Netherlands, five in Italy and 10 in Canada will take part in National Drive Electric Week (formerly National Plug In Day). Events are collectively expected to draw at least 35,000 attendees, including elected officials. Proclamations will be plentiful.

But the main point, according to National Drive Electric Week is to have a good time, with seasoned EV drivers taking those new to the cars for a spin.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFGTM Research is hosting a free webinar on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 at 2:00 pm ET. The focus of the webinar is increasing non-residential solar project return and decreasing risk. One of the most frequent questions solar companies hear from prospective clients is “what’s my payback?” The webinar will discuss several financial metrics that businesses must analyze and understand when assessing a potential solar project and will also explore the challenges that legacy solar has in non-residential solar development and provides insight on how to overcome them.
  • Supported by aggressive renewable targets, policy backing and a shift towards a greener climate, the UK propelled itself to the head of the global offshore wind power market in 2013, boasting a cumulative installed capacity share of around 52%, according to research and consulting firm GlobalData. The company’s latest report states that the UK’s cumulative offshore wind power installed capacity increased from just over 0.3 Gigawatts (GW) in 2006 to 3.7 GW in 2013, at an impressive Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 42.9%.
  • A report released by Forecast the Facts Action and SumOfUs.org, “Disrupt Denial: How big business is funding climate change denial in the 113TH Congress and Why They Should Stop,” exposes U.S. companies, such as Google, Ford, Microsoft, UPS and eBay, for their financial support of Senators and House Representatives who deny the science of climate change. While these corporations present environmentally progressive public images, including support for national climate policies, they continue to support members of Congress who reject established science linking pollution to global warming.
  • AltCar Expo, the nation’s leading forum for alternative fuel ride and drive, industry, fleet & public education and demonstration, will take place on Friday and Saturday, September 19-20, 2014, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. PT at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The City of Santa Monica’s Ninth Annual AltCar Expo is free and open to the public.

RFA: Rail Congestion Must Get Resolved

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is speaking out again on the problems of rail congestion that is slowing down the delivery of ethanol and ethanol byproducts across the country. He submitted written testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that held a hearing yesterday to examine rail congestion and the harmful impact it has had on agriculture and other commodities.

Dinneen stressed the role that Bakken Crude rail shipments have played in increasing dwell times and decreasing train speeds and pointed toward the negative impact these delays are having on ethanol producers. “The rail system didn’t collapse last winter because of a snow drift in North Dakota,” he said. “It was because of a 400% increase in oil shipments from the Bakkens.”

RailcarsIn the written testimony Dinneen said, “The recent crisis of congestion that has seemingly overtaken the rail industry has become a huge and costly problem … This crisis is one that is causing significant harm to the economic health and well-being of our nation’s economy, as well as driving up costs for a wide array of commodities that rely on the rail for transportation…it is becoming more and more apparent that surging crude oil shipments are coming at the expense of other goods and commodities.”

Listen to Dinneen’s comments here: RFA CEO Bob Dinneen comments on rail situation

Wave Energy Research Progressing

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the funding of up to $4 million for continued wave energy technological research and monitoring efforts. Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC) faculty will also share in another $3.25 million grant to iWave Energy Researchmprove “water power” technologies that convert the energy of waves, tides, rivers and ocean currents into electricity.

The project team is comprised of NNMREC with support from Oregon State University and University of Washington will be expanded to add the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The partnership will also enable researchers to learn more about the energy potential of large, flowing rivers.

“We’re extremely excited about the opportunity to add Alaska Fairbanks to our program,” said Belinda Batten, director of NNMREC and a professor in the OSU College of Engineering. “Alaska has an enormous energy resource, both in its coastal waves, tidal currents and powerful rivers. Partnering with Alaska Fairbanks will allow us to expand the scope of our energy research and tap into additional expertise, to more quickly move wave, tidal, and river energy closer to commercial use.”

The new funding will allow NNMREC to develop an improved system for real-time wave forecasting; create robotic devices to support operations and maintenance; design arrays that improve the performance of marine energy conversion devices; improve subsea power transmission systems; and standardize approaches for wildlife monitoring. Federal officials said the overall goal is to reduce the technical, economic and environmental barriers to deployment of new marine energy conversion devices.

“Oregon State University has been a world leader in developing wave energy technology and it’s great that the Department of Energy has recognized this fact in awarding this grant,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, who helped obtain the new federal support for these programs. Along with its university partners in Washington and Alaska, this funding will help ensure that the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center remains an important national center for ocean energy development not just for the Northwest, but for the entire country.”

Significant progress has been made in how to process, permit and monitor wave energy technology as it emerges from the laboratory to ocean test sites, and ultimately to commercial use. Wave energy’s sustainable generating potential equates to about 10 percent of global energy needs.

New Report on Biodiesel Success Roadmap Released

prefeasibility_report_on_a_biodiesel_productionA new report from a market research firm is designed to give potential biodiesel producers a possible roadmap for success in setting up a production plant. Research and Markets has released the “Prefeasibility Report on a Biodiesel Production Plant,” a study the purports to cover all the requisite aspects of the biodiesel production plant, ranging from a macro overview of the market to micro details of the industry performance, manufacturing requirements, project cost, project funding, project economics, expected returns on investment, profit margins, and more.

This report is a must-read for entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, consultants, business strategists, and all those who are planning to foray into the biodiesel industry in any manner.

Key Questions Answered in This Report?

– What are the key success and risk factors in the biodiesel industry?
– How has the biodiesel market performed so far and how will it perform in the coming years?
– What is the structure of the biodiesel industry and who are the key players?
– What are the various unit operations involved in a biodiesel plant?
– What is the total size of land required for setting up a biodiesel plant?

That and more is available in the report here.

Iowa E85 Sales Strong

IowaRFAlogoIowa motorists purchased over 2.9 million gallons of E85 in the second quarter of 2014, the second most sales in any second quarter on record, and a more than 200,000 gallon increase over the first quarter of 2014, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA).

“Two strong quarters of E85 sales are now in the books, and Iowa is poised for another big year in E85 sales,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “As White House officials review the final RFS volume levels, they should take note that when given the choice, motorists firmly support lower-cost, higher-level ethanol blends.”

E85, a fuel blend containing between 70 and 85 percent ethanol, is currently sold at more than 200 fueling sites in Iowa, and can be used in all flex-fuel vehicles (FFV).

Methes Hits Biodiesel Production Records

Methes1Las Vegas-based Methes Energies has hit record numbers for biodiesel production at a refinery in Ontario, Canada. The company says it produced more than 412,000 gallons of ASTM quality biodiesel at its Sombra, Ontario facility in August 2014 and hit 800,000 gallons of ASTM quality biodiesel at the Sombra facility during its third quarter ending August 31, 2014… both records for the company.

Nicholas Ng, President of Methes, said, “Production is going very smoothly and both our Denami 3000s are performing very well as expected. Our production team is doing a great job and they look forward to produce even more biodiesel in our next quarter. Over the last few months, working with our clients has been rewarding and we will continue to build on those relationships to move even more biodiesel. We expect to ship over 25 railcars in September, which would be another record high for the company. We are currently finalizing production and sales forecasts for October, November and December 2014 and expect to provide production updates on a regular basis in the future.”

Methes has a refinery in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, in addition to the Sombra plant. Methes is also involved in providing clients with proprietary software to operate and control their processors as well as remotely monitoring the quality and characteristics of its clients’ production.

EIA: Nat Gas, Biofuel to be More of World Fuel by 2040

Natural gas and biofuels will make up the biggest share of the increase in what are known as “other liquid resources” in the world liquid fuel supply. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) International Energy Outlook for 2014 (IEO2014) says those fuels that include natural gas plant liquids (NGPL), biofuels, coal-to-liquids (CTL), gas-to-liquids (GTL), kerogen (oil shale), and refinery gain, made up just 14 percent of the world’s liquid fuels in 2010. But that number is expected to rise to 17 percent by 2040, driven by higher petroleum prices.
worldotherfuels1
NGPL are the largest component of the other liquids, accounting for 68% of the total in 2010 (Figure 14). The increase in NGPL production is directly correlated to the increase in natural gas production. In contrast, increased production of the remaining other liquids (primarily biofuels, CTL, and GTL) is in response to policies that encourage growth in the expansion of these liquids with available domestic resources, such as coal and crops. In the IEO2014 Reference case, sustained high oil prices make the development of the non-NGPL other liquids more attractive. In addition, biofuels development also relies heavily on country-specific programs or mandates. Combined, the remaining, non-NGPL other liquid fuels grow at more than twice the rate of NGPL over the projection period.

Brazil is expected to put in 500,000 additional barrels of biofuels per day, with another 300,000 additional barrels of biofuels coming from China.

Book Review: Build Your Own PHEV

This week I went techie and read “Build Your Own Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle,” by Seth Leitman. I chose this book because I drive an EV – the Ford C-Max, and when I purchased my vehicle, I opted against the plug-in component because I didn’t have a place to charge my car (I live in an apartment complex). In the back of my mind I always wondered if I shouldn’t have planned for the future and purchased the PHEV version. Well now, I’ve discovered with Leitman’s help, it didn’t matter – I can covert my EV to  PHEV.

Build Your Own PHEVLeitman is a quite an expert. He writes for several publications including Mother Earth News and Huffington Post and is a consulting editor for the McGraw-Hill Green Guru Guides. He also runs the blog Green Living Guy.

For those that may be new to the terminology, an electric vehicle consists of a battery that provides energy, an electric motor that drives the wheels and a controller that regulates energy flow to the motor. The only difference between an EV and a PHEV is that the EV battery is recharged through regenerative energy (apply the brakes) while the battery in a PHEV can also be recharged by plugging it in to an outlet.

So the goal of the book is both to educate people on converting their gasoline cars to PHEVs – this is where the real fuel efficiency gains come – as well as to show people that the country can move to PHEVs quickly.

One area that Leitman explains well is how much it costs, or doesn’t cost to drive an PHEV. When using the average U.S. electricity rate of 9 cents per kilowatt (using 2009 numbers) 30 miles of electric driving will cost 81 cents. Assuming that the average fuel economy in the United States is 25 miles per gallon, at $3.00 per gallon, this equates to 75 cents a gallon for the equivalent electricity. Other factors he accounts for: the environmental cost of electricity production.

I don’t have any mechanical skills, but this book is so well-written and easy to use I could actually figure out how to convert my hybrid (or a friend’s car). Granted, I would probably need some professional help but it is amazing how relatively simple and inexpensive this is especially when you factor in higher gas prices and more renewable energy being produced by utilities. My only suggestion is to update the book based on 2014 technologies because with the billions of gas cars on the road, this book will be valuable for years to come. You can purchase the book here.

Ethanol Report on Corn and Food Prices

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper talks about how corn prices have fallen but food prices continue to rise, and how that shows the “food versus fuel” argument is false.

A new report from RFA compares corn prices to the price of dairy products, pork products, beef products, and poultry and egg products from January 2007 – July 2014.

Ethanol Report on Corn and Food Prices