Corn Oil Gains in Popularity as Biodiesel Feedstock

cornoilbiodiesel1Corn oil, squeezed from the seeds at the Nation’s many ethanol plants, has seen a meteoric rise in popularity as a feedstock for biodiesel. This article from Ethanol Producer Magazine says use of corn oil as a biodiesel feedstock grew by an impressive 245 percent between 2011 and 2013.

Corn oil’s role as a popular feedstock choice in the biodiesel arena is quite apparent and growing, which made 2013 a great year for corn oil-derived biodiesel. More than 1.04 billion pounds of corn oil were utilized for biodiesel production by the end of 2013, an EIA biodiesel production report showed, making it the second most popular feedstock choice. During the second half of 2013, corn oil finally broke the 100 million pound mark not once, but on three separate occasions.

Corn oil producers have options to sell within local markets, as well as destination markets, says [Joseph Riley, general manager of FEC Solutions]. Locally, the oil can be transported via truck to nearby biodiesel plants or feed producers. In the case of Marquis Energy, the company is located relatively close to one of Renewable Energy Group’s biodiesel plants, says Tom Marquis, director of marketing at Marquis Energy LLC, which installed corn oil separation units in 2008. REG is one of the leading North American biodiesel producers with a 257 MMgy capacity and has been using the feedstock since 2007. “Our freight to their facility is pretty reasonable, so that has been the best market for our plant,” Marquis added.

The article goes on to say that growing markets for corn oil include plants in Louisiana, which use a variety of feedstocks for renewable diesel and California, which likes corn oil’s carbon-related benefits.

NASCAR Leader Testifies for Biofuels

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week on advanced biofuels. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan says advanced biofuels are here now, and they are an important part of the energy title in the recently passed farm bill.

“The Energy Title funds critical programs that helps our farmers produce energy from non-food sources and helps companies get low-interest loans for those facilities, and of course, all that creates jobs,” Stabenow said, adding that to continue to grow the industry, there needs to be policies that support it. She said passing the Farm Bill was a strong first step toward to that goal. “Now we need to provide certainty through a strong Renewable Fuels Standard and tax credits to support long-term investments in our energy future.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senate Agriculture Committee

childress-testOne of the witnesses at the hearing was NASCAR team owner Richard Childress who talked about the many benefits of corn-based biofuels, such as the higher fuel performance he has seen in more than five million miles of racing since the E15 ethanol blend was introduced in the 2011 racing season.

“When they decided to go with an ethanol-blend of fuel, in 2010, NASCAR started looking at what was the correct blend to use. After many tests, they came up with E15,” Childress said, pointing out that his own racing team tested up to E30 blends, which he believes would be even better. “Nothing but positive results came out of our tests. Engines ran cooler, ethanol makes more octane so it makes more horsepower, less carbon buildup, better emissions, and our parts when we tore the engines down looked much better.” NASCAR team owner Richard Childress at biofuels hearing

Multifeedstock Refiner Hosting Collective Biodiesel

CBCPiedmontA multifeedstock biodiesel refiner plays host to this summer’s Collective Biodiesel Conference. This article from Biodiesel magazine says Piedmont Biofuels in Pittsboro, N.C. will hold the event Aug. 14-17 with this year’s theme being “Think Differently.”

Piedmont Biofuels is known for its community-based approach to biodiesel production and distribution, as well as its process technology innovations such as the cooperative’s trailblazing work in enzymatic production. Piedmont Biofuels’ 14-acre industrial park in Pittsboro, N.C., features multifeedstock biodiesel processing in addition to hydroponics, aquaponics, biochar production and sustainable agriculture. Co-hosting the event will be Central Carolina Community College, where many of the breakout sessions will be held.

“With the Collective Biodiesel Conference being in Pittsboro, N.C., this year, it will be like going to ‘Biodiesel Mecca,’” said Graydon Blair with the CBC Board and owner of Utah Biodiesel Supply.

“We are delighted to have been chosen as the 2014 host site,” said Lyle Estill, Piedmont founder and president. “For grassroots biodiesel, winning the bid for this conference is like winning a bid for the Olympics.”

Registration has just opened, and for more infromation, click here.

EU Commission Proposes Eliminating Clean Energy Aid

The European Commission has proposed a plan to phase out support for renewable technologies after 2020. According to state aid guidelines, the Commission recommends removing support mechanisms for renewable technologies that are expected to become “grid competitive” between 2020 ad 2030. The guidelines did not specify was “grid competitive” means and in their current form, only apply to the period from 2014 to 2020.

ewea-logoIn response, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) says the move pushes its narrow vision for EU energy policy and clouds the future of wind energy. The association also says the proposals push for market integration above stability, with premiums allocated through tenders to replace feed-in tariffs and “technology neutrality,” which does not distinguish between the maturity of technologies like onshore and offshore wind energy.

However, EWEA explains that a number of exemptions have been included, allowing Member States to opt out of tendering, to tailor support for technologies at different levels of maturity and to determine the pace at which national support is adjusted to comply with the guidelines. In addition, the association says the complex nature of the state aid guidelines risks exacerbating investor uncertainty around the renewables industry and Member States must be flexible in implementing the proposals.

Justin Wilkes, deputy chief executive officer of the European Wind Energy Association, said, “The Commission would have liked to put the cart before the horse, by focusing on forcing wind energy to compete in a market which still does not exist, while ignoring the obvious market distortions that need to be tackled first, such as the majority of subsidies that go to fossil fuels and nuclear.  While we welcome the drive for long-term market integration of wind energy, state aid guidelines are not the ideal tool for the Commission to legislate on energy policy. Member States should be flexible in implementing the guidelines, in order to enable the most cost-efficient development of wind energy in Europe, and avoid increased uncertainty for the sector.”

Wilkes concluded, “In the main, the opt-outs will become the most important tools used by Member States because the Commission has failed to propose good design requirements for its favoured method of tendering.”

DuPont Calls for Support of RFS

In testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Jan Koninckx, global business director for Biorefineries at DuPont, called on Congress to preserve the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which Koninckx said has spurred hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment in advanced biofuels and is expediting the transition from a petroleum-based to a bio-based global economy.

Koninckx delivered his testimony as part of a Committee hearing on advanced biofuels’ role in creating jobs and lowering gasoline prices. He emphasized the scope of the opportunity and also how quickly the promise of biofuels has been realized.

“The bottom line here is that driven by the RFS, we have completely re-imagined how we fuel our planet. We do so with renewable resources without adding any additional CO2 into the atmosphere. It is a remarkable DuPont Logoachievement. And when you look at this from the perspective of a science company – this has actually gone quite fast,” said Koninckx.

“Certainly faster than the fossil fuel industry developed over a century ago and with a footprint they still can’t come close to achieving today. DuPont has over 210 years of bringing scientific innovation to market. In my estimation, we’ve never delivered this type of disruptive technology so quickly,” he added.

Koninckx cited DuPont’s investment in biofuels, including cellulosic technologies that use corn stover – or the crop waste left over after a corn harvest – to produce ethanol.

“For the past four years we have brought together growers, academia, public institutions like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and custom equipment makers to conduct harvest trials on corn stover. Together, we have developed an entirely new model for biomass harvest, transportation and supply to a biorefinery. It is cost competitive and fully sustainable – preserving the land for generations to come.”

DuPont also is leading the industry in the development of another type of advanced renewable fuel, biobutanol, Koninckx noted, pointing out that the company’s joint venture Butamax with partner BP, is on track for commercial scale production in the United States around 2015. Biobutanol, with advanced fuel properties and high energy density helps to further secure U.S. leadership in the global biofuels market.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard is working as intended. 2014 is a watershed in our history as an industry – the year we take this technology commercial – and a critical year for all parties to remain steadfast in their commitment to biofuels,” Koninckx concluded.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFClean Energy Pipeline has released its 2014 edition of its Clean Energy Europe Finance Guide, the definitive reference source for European renewable energy and cleantech in 2014. The guide includes detailed league tables of the most active law firms, debt providers and investors in 2013.
  • The Hydropower Development: Europe 2014 Summit will take place in Porto (Portugal), September 17-18, 2014. The event will comprise two days of formal presentations, interactive panel discussions and excellent networking opportunities. Speakers will discuss current operational and future planned hydro power plants, energy markets reform, potential barriers and support policies as well as project economics and finance.
  • A discussion on biofuels & American energy being hosted by The Hill, is taking place this Thursday, April 10th from 8-10 am EDT. The Hill will host a gathering of foremost experts, including Members of Congress from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to discuss the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), EPA’s implementation of ethanol mandates, prospects for repealing, reforming or expanding the RFS in 2014, and more. The event will be live streamed here.
  • ET Solar Energy Corp, a leading smart energy solutions provider, has announced that its German EPC subsidiary ET Solutions AG, based in Munich, Germany, has signed a strategic partnership agreement with MEL Solar Energy Corp, a leading project developer from Turkey.

Syngenta Partners with Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies

Syngenta has reached an agreement with Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC, to license its Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology, a new process for ethanol plants. Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology has been shown to significantly increase a plant’s ethanol production while delivering other benefits such as increased corn oil production and higher protein content in dried distillers grains (DDGs).

Quad County Corn Processors SignCellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP), and is currently being added to the QCCP ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa. The process is expected to go online in May 2014. Testing to date demonstrates the concept will run successfully at full commercial scale.

“We are continuously looking at new technologies that will contribute to the future success of the ethanol industry, and we are very excited about the opportunities that are emerging,” said David Witherspoon, head of renewable fuels for Syngenta. “We believe the new Adding Cellulosic Ethanol process will be a critical component in the development and commercialization of advanced and cellulosic ethanol.”

By converting corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol in a bolt-on process, Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology is designed to increase a plant’s ethanol production. In combination with the Enogen corn trait from Syngenta, Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology allows the corn kernel fiber and starch to be converted into ethanol. Syngenta says Enogen trait technology is the only corn output trait designed specifically to enhance ethanol production.

“The integration of the Adding Cellulosic Ethanol process into the QCCP plant operation will help create a higher protein feed, 2.5 times more corn oil and more ethanol out of the same kernel of corn,” said Delayne Johnson, chief executive officer of QCCP. “This launch represents a major advance in the production of cellulosic ethanol.”

“The combination of Adding Cellulosic Ethanol and Enogen corn is expected to generate significant synergies when used together in dry grind ethanol plants,” Johnson added. “It will produce advanced and cellulosic ethanol while decreasing natural gas usage, increasing ethanol throughput and reducing an ethanol plant’s carbon footprint. These advantages, combined with increased corn oil production and high-protein DDGs, make the technology package appealing for ethanol plants looking to improve their bottom line.”

TX Algae Operation Confirms Commercial Potential

auroraalgae1An algae growing operation in South Texas has confirmed it is about ready to go commercial scale. Aurora Algae says after six months of testing and evaluation, it has the potential to go commercial-scale, and the company is expanding its test facility with four, one-acre cultivation ponds and a harvesting system.

“We have successfully tested our algae cultivation system in countries around the world, including Australia, India, Italy, Mexico, and multiple locations in the United States,” said Greg Bafalis, Aurora Algae CEO. “Our most recent test site, near Harlingen, Texas, is meeting and surpassing our growth rate expectations for this area.”

Aurora Algae operated a demonstration-scale algae cultivation facility in Karratha, Western Australia, for over two-and-a-half years, successfully demonstrating production of up to 15 tonnes of dried algal biomass per month while continuing to refine its cultivation and harvesting processes. Aurora management believes the Karratha facility to have been the most technologically advanced algae production system in the world.

Located nine miles from Harlingen, the Aurora Algae evaluation site in Rio Hondo, Texas, sits on a 1,880-acre parcel, which was formerly home to a shrimp farming operation.

Company officials say their particular variety of algae grows best in salt water in warm. arid climates.

Bioenergy Crops Could Become Invasive Species

invasiveplantjournalWhile some crops could hold great potential as bioenergy sources, they could also pose a threat as an invasive species. A new study in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management says that a seed-bearing form of giant miscanthus could be trouble for farmers if it escapes cultivation.

The article “The Relative Risk of Invasion: Evaluation of Miscanthus × giganteus Seed Establishment,” reports the results of field tests on the fertile “PowerCrane” line of giant miscanthus…

Giant miscanthus produces abundant biomass, has few pests, and requires few inputs after establishment. While these traits make it an excellent bioenergy crop, they are also traits of invasive species. This species has the ability to produce up to 1 billion spikelets per acre per year that can disperse seed into the wind.

The researchers looked at seedling establishment in seven different habitats and found a high seedling mortality—99.9 percent overall. But that small percentage that escapes would still leave 1 million spikelets per acre in the seed bank. The authors urge caution in establishing any species that has the potential to become invasive to surrounding farmland.

UC San Diego Has Top Algae-Biodiesel Programs

scripps1Plenty of warm Southern California sun must be helping fuel the brains of algae-biodiesel researchers, as two programs at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) are rated tops in the Nation. This article from the school says the U.S. Department of Energy bestowed the high marks.

A program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography was rated the best in the nation. Mark Hildebrand and his team in the Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography received the top honor… The report specifically cited the lab’s “outstanding research” in the genetic manipulation of algae to improve the yield of key components for biofuel production. Another UC San Diego research group, the UC San Diego Consortium for Algae Biofuel Commercialization (CAB-Comm), led by UC San Diego molecular biologist Stephen Mayfield, was recognized by the DOE as the number two-ranked research program.

… Hildebrand’s group has found that diatoms, among the most prevalent oceanic algae, are uniquely suited to biofuel production. In particular, diatoms are a good system for scientists like Hildebrand who hope to use genetic tools to perfect algae biofuel production.

CAB-Comm … partners with industry collaborators Sapphire Energy and Life Technologies, focuses on green algae and cyanobacteria, and was cited by the DOE for “demonstrating how the yield potential of algae can be preserved by controlling pests through development of resistant strains, use of chemical pesticides, and cultivation of consortia of strains.”

Researchers from both groups at UCSD hope the high ratings will help them secure more government funding for their projects.

Propane Users Urged to Get Equipment Ready

Propane-Council logoSpring is in the air, and planting is either started or getting ready to get started across the country. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is urging farmers who use their fuel to make sure spring preparation includes prepping that propane-fueled equipment.

Irrigation Engines
After a long winter, rodents, debris, and exposure to the elements are the most common source of engine issues, said Pete Stout, product manager for Origin Engines. Stout encourages farmers to refer to their product manuals for maintenance needs specific to their engine models, and offers these tips for preparing irrigation engines for spring planting:

* Disconnect the engine battery and check battery voltage.
* Clear away any dirt and debris that have collected on and around the engine. Pay special attention to clutch bellhousings, radiator shrouds, and wire harnesses.
* Inspect wire harnesses for cracked or exposed wires and make repairs if necessary.
* Check front drive belts for proper tension and wear.
“I also urge farmers to place engines inside of structures, such as a simple carport style shelter, for the summer growing season,” Stout said. “UV sunlight and general exposure to extreme weather can be tough on engine power units.”

PERC goes on to suggest that before that spring storm rolls through and knocks out power, propane generators are checked and cleaned. Pickup trucks running on the clean fuel also need to be properly maintained to get the most out of the efficiency propane autogas can bring. The same goes for forklifts and other propane-powered equipment.

In addition, you can check out PERC’s Propane Farm Incentive Program, which could make up to $5,000 available to farmers who switch to propane. More information is available here.

Growth Energy Applauds Senator Stabenow

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the economic benefits of advanced biofuels today.

In response to the hearing, Growth Energy CEO, Tom Buis, said, “I am grateful to Sen. Stabenow for taking the time to investigate the true impact of biofuels on our nation’s economy. First generation biofuels have created nearly 400,000 jobs, revitalized our rural communities and have reduced our dependence on foreign oil Growth_Energy_logo (1)while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These first generation fuels have set the foundation for further advancements in next generation ethanol, including deriving the fuel from sources such as farm waste, plants, and wood waste. With over a billion tons of available biomass, the potential for advanced biofuels are limitless.”

Buis noted that higher blends such as E15 and next generation biofuels will help the country break through the blendwall. He said they have the ability to further reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil, create as many as 130,000 more jobs in our rural communities, further support farmers and present consumers with a choice and savings at the pump. But in order to achieve these goals, he said, we need to focus on developing the infrastructure to give consumers access to the fuel of their choice.”

One of the key testimonies was presented by CEO of Richard Childress Racing and Growth Energy Board Member, Richard Childress. His testimony largely focused on the benefits of biofuels in NASCAR and the substantial improvements Sunoco Green E15, the 15 percent ethanol blend used in the sport, has had in the world of stock car racing.

“Sunoco Green E15 has proven to be a reliable fuel for Richard Childress Racing and for the entire NASCAR community,” said Childress in his written testimony. “Now in its fourth season of use, the fuel has been driven more than 5 million miles with no reported engine conditions or increased maintenance issues. The fuel has increased horsepower while decreasing emissions by 20 percent.”

Buis concluded, “By reducing Renewable Volume Obligations, which the EPA recently proposed, we will see a major impact on the infrastructure needed for these higher blends as well as the development of next generation biofuels, which could impede future economic growth for our entire country.”

EPA Chief Discusses RFS With Ag Journalists

epa-mccarthyEnvironmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke to the North American Agricultural Journalists meeting in Washington DC on Monday and expressed confidence that the final rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will be different than the proposed rule that reduces volume requirements for biofuels in 2014.

According to Agri-Pulse McCarthy said EPA is in the process of reviewing more than 200,000 comments on the RFS proposal and plans to issue a final rule in late spring or early summer.

She stressed that EPA has to make sure the final rule is implementable. “And that means taking into realities of the fuel market. One of those realities is the fuel blend wall.”

Agri-Pulse reports that McCarthy expects the final rule will “almost certainly” be different than the one that was proposed. “Gasoline demand had an impact in the proposal and it will also be reflected in the final rule,” she said.

She also said that EPA expects legal challenges to any RFS standards. “We need to be able to justify it in court,” McCarthy said. With current the current infrastructure, the industry this year would not be able to “get anywhere near” the levels required in the original RFS. “But we think that the industry is stepping up to that challenge,” she said. “We’re going to try to work toward these goals the best we can, but we need to be realistic.”

Read the entire article from Agri-Pulse here.

North Dakota Canola for Aviation Biodiesel Explored

CanolaCanola from North Dakota farmers could be the next source for biodiesel for aircraft. This story from the Billings (MT) Gazette says researchers in the northern plains have been exploring the oilseed’s possibility to fill aviation fuel tanks since 2011.

The Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan is one of eight locations testing different plant products for biofuels. The focus here has been on oilseeds such as canola, rapeseed camelina and mustard — “all crops that grow well in wheat-producing areas,” soil scientist Dave Archer said.

The scientists at Great Plains have just finished their first year of field trials and are waiting for the second round of fall-planted canola to come up, Archer said.

The oilseed varieties are being judged on their economic and environmental impacts, he said. Researchers are trying to find varieties not used for food that fit into existing crop rotations and that improve soil quality…

“It will certainly help the state,” said Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Canola Growers.

Coleman said canola is used for biodiesel production in Velva. If the crop could be used as a jet fuel as well, he said, it would gain popularity among farmers.

About 1.8 gallons of biodiesel are already made from canola each year.

Biodiesel Board Joins EPA, DOJ Against Big Oil

scalesofjustice1While the basketball national championship might have been decided on the court, it could be the courts that decide the future of advanced biofuels in this country. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) joined forces with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice to fight an attempt to dismantle the Renewable Fuel Standard (NBB).

In the current case, Monroe Energy, joined by the American Petroleum Institute and other groups, is challenging the EPA’s handling of the 2013 volume requirements. Among the arguments supporting the EPA’s position, NBB points out that that the petroleum industry’s challenge makes no argument that insufficient volumes of renewable fuels were available in 2013 and fundamentally misinterprets the EPA’s authority to waive volume requirements under the law. NBB maintains that the EPA’s 2013 standards achieved the directives of Congress.

“The renewable fuels industry is united in supporting the RFS to promote production of clean, alternative fuels,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “As the leading producer of Advanced Biofuels in the nation, the biodiesel industry has demonstrated that the Advanced Biofuel standard is working. The simple fact is that we have met or exceeded the Advanced standard in each year of the program, including in 2013 when the RFS delivered more than 3.3 billion RIN-equivalent gallons of Advanced fuels, made up mostly of biodiesel and renewable diesel.”

“Big Oil likes to say the RFS isn’t working, but what’s really broken is the decades-long stranglehold the petroleum industry has on our fuel supplies,” Steckel added.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is hearing the case, and NBB says the decision will have tremendous implications for the future of advanced biofuels and affirm the EPA’s obligation to maintain the statutory volumes.