BlueFire Renewables to Receive $270M

BlueFire Renewables has received a Letter of Intent from the Export Import Bank of China to provide up to $270 million in debt financing for its bioenergy project located in Fulton, Mississippi. As advanced bioenergy companies struggle with private financing, BlueFire said the the financing is “unprecedented” and significant for the U.S. market.

“This is a significant feat, not just for BlueFire as it also provides a model for the U.S. small business community because it is a strong indication of China’s commitment to support and fund U.S. renewable energy technologies to improve the environment and build a strong foundation for cooperation between China and the U.S. in the field of renewable energy,” said Arnold Klann, CEO of BlueFire Renewables.

BlueFire Renewables logoAccording to Klann, BlueFire has been working with China EXIM in response to the China Strategic and Economic Dialogue with the U.S. that encourages U.S./China cooperation in the renewable energy field including financing. Klann believes his company’s technology could be the path to commercialization for many languishing renewable energy projects.

“There are significant opportunities for replicating the BlueFire Fulton size or larger facilities in China and the U.S. to deal with problematic agricultural and urban waste currently being burned or buried,” added Klann. “Debt financing has been the most difficult part of the financing to obtain for the cellulosic biofuels industry. BlueFire’s business model and relationships with China EXIM will set the standard for future debt financing arrangements and could be the spark that leads to the more beneficial use of cellulosic wastes in the biofuels industry in the U.S. and China. We are cracking the code when it comes to striking a win-win business deal for China, the U.S. and energy consumers.”

The Letter of Intent continues the international collaboration between U.S. and China initiated by BlueFire. The companies will continue to work together to complete the standard due diligence procedures of the China EXIM bank and meet all credit criteria and condition precedent to reach definitive agreements in order to complete the financing as soon as possible. Once completed, China Three Gorges Corporation and its U.S. subcontractors will begin construction of the Fulton Project.

Ansell Installs Biomass Boiler to Reduce Energy Costs

The Ansell factory complex in Biyagama, Sri Lanka has installed its second biomass boiler as part of company initiatives to be greener. The new boiler has a capacity of 12.5MW and will be the largest hot water boiler in Sri Lanka. Ansell Lanka already has a 10.5MW boiler installed at its premises, which reduced CO2 emissions by 11,000 MT per annum. From 2004 to 2012, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 36 percent across all of Ansell’s manufacturing facilities, with the global CO2 emission rate from 2013 to 2014 alone reduced by 6 percent. The company anticipates the reduction of a further 14,000 MT of CO2 emissions annually as furnace oil consumption will now be reduced to the bare minimum.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.26.12 AM“This project represents another step forward in Ansell’s business strategy to conducting business ethically, transparently, and in ways that produce social, environmental, and economic benefits for communities around the world,” said Steve Genzer, senior vice president of global operations at Ansell. “We would like to thank the government of Sri Lanka for its continued support, and the more than 4,000 Ansell employees who are the driving force of implementing these green programs.”

The announcement is part of the company’s Green Productivity program, focused on energy management, and implemented within manufacturing operations across Ansell. Energy management at Ansell focuses on achieving the most efficient and effective use of energy and simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Programs that have been implemented include the installation of equipment to recover energy from flue gas emitted from boiler chimneys as an energy source to heat water, the installation of energy efficient equipment to provide chilled water for manufacturing site cooling systems and the conversion of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

“While the forward progress made in the last 10 years has been incredible, this is only the tip of the iceberg in how Ansell will be doing business differently in the years to come,” added Genzer. “Ansell is committed to a number of sustainable and practical initiatives that are designed to make a positive and lasting contribution to the markets it serves and the community in general.”

Study: Leasing Ups Interest in Residential Solar

A national poll by EnviroMedia fins that a large majority of Americans are definately or somewhat interested in new solar leasing programs offering installation for little or no money down and a low monthly fee.

EnviroMedia solar leasing poll“It’s no surprise we found 70 percent of Americans perceived ‘cost’ was a barrier to installing solar panels,” said EnviroMedia president and behavior change expert Kevin Tuerff. “Consumers are probably unaware of the plummeting cost of solar power, and most have never heard of solar leasing.”

The new poll finds 48 percent of American homeowners say they have not considered adding solar panels to their home to offset some of their electricity use. However interest in a solar option spiked when respondents were educated about the benefits of a solar leasing program. About 67 percent said that they were very or somewhat interested in such a program.

The poll also found that only 9 percent of respondents said they currently participate in a renewable energy or green power option with their electricity provider. But 69 percent said they might be interested.

“Americans need basic education about where their electricity comes from and how clean energy works,” added Tuerff. “Unfortunately, only one-third of Americans said they definitely know the fuel source of their electricity, so we’ve got a ways to go.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFGovernor Cuomo has announced the New York Green Bank’s first tranche of deals, totaling $800 million in clean energy investments across the state. Rather than providing grants to stimulate clean energy investment, green banks use attractive interest rates and other incentives to leverage money from the private sector. The NY Green Bank’s initial investment of $200 million galvanized $600 million in investment from prominent financial institutions. The first seven transactions, which will close over the next few months, finance a wide range of low-carbon, clean energy projects, including solar, energy equipment and energy efficiency.
  • ACI’s Global Geothermal Energy Summit will take place in Reykjavik, Iceland February 18-19, 2015. Through case study presentations, keynotes, panel discussions and interactive sessions, this two day summit will take a deep dive into: global geothermal energy policy update and industry outlook; meeting the latest government & environmental policy and compliance requirements to ensure project approvals; case studies of latest technological advances to ensure cost reduction and project success for your geothermal projects; financing geothermal projects and more.
  • Exosun and Daetwyler Clean Energy have strategically partnered to provide a full range of best-in-class mounting and tracking solutions. Each company will provide the full range of mounting and tracking products.
  • Solar Power Rocks has released its 2015 State Solar Power Rankings report. The report contains ratings of all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on twelve key criteria leading to strong financial results for homeowners interested in installing solar panels. State summaries include links to pages with detailed discussions of policy, incentives and rules that affect each state’s residential solar power prospects.

No Doubt RFS Uncertainty Impacts Local Communities

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Has the uncertainty for the RFS caused by the EPA hurt your community?”

No doubt the uncertainty for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) caused by the EPA has hurt many of our communities. This unpredictability has been around over a year and has left many wondering what the final renewable fuel volumes will be. I am sure the uncertainty has impacted our lives more then many even are aware.

Here are the poll results:

  • Yes, lost local business/jobs – 73%
  • No, no impact – 27%
  • Don’t know – 0%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What should US do about WTO COOL ruling?

The industry has reacted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) decision against the United States on the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law since the announcement was made earlier this week. Some feel the issue can be handled by USDA, others feel Congress should take charge. Or are there are other options?

Bioenergy Day Recognizes Importance of Biomass

bioenergydayYesterday was the Second Annual National Bioenergy Day, and more than 40 facilities and organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada opened their doors to show folks the benefits of using woody biomass for heating and electrical power production.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has continued to support bioenergy’s role in protecting the health of forests on federal lands, saying, “Renewable wood energy is part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. The Forest Service works with its partners to support the development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies and create new rural jobs.”

“The continuation of National Bioenergy Day into a second year is truly exciting. We are grateful to our sponsors, particularly the U.S. Forest Service, for their dedication to raising awareness about the role of bioenergy in communities across the nation,” said Bob Cleaves, President and CEO of Biomass Power Association. “Today, all across the country, people are learning about bioenergy and how it helps local economies and forests.”

Some of the National Bioenergy Day sponsors include Biomass Power Association, U.S. Forest Service, Plum Creek, Pellet Fuels Institute, U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, and the Biomass Thermal Energy Council. You can learn more at www.bioenergyday.com.

Cooper Looks to Get Tires & Biofuels from Biomass

cooper-tires1A tire maker is looking to get tires and biofuels to keep those wheels rolling from the biomass of a plant. This news release from Cooper Tire says the company completed tire builds using rubber derived from guayule plants and new guayule related materials and also hopes to get biofuels from those plant materials.

This development was reported by Cooper to its consortium partners—PanAridus, Arizona State University, Cornell University, and the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS)—as the group met recently in Maricopa, Arizona for its third annual meeting and progress report on their $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant, “Securing the Future of Natural Rubber—An American Tire and Bioenergy Platform from Guayule.” The consortium received the BRDI grant in 2012 from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct research aimed at developing enhanced manufacturing processes for the production of solid rubber from the guayule plant as a biomaterial for tire applications, as well as evaluating the plant’s residual biomass for fuel applications. The consortium aims to harness biopolymers extracted from guayule as a replacement for synthetic rubbers and Hevea natural rubber used in the production of tires. It is also focused on genomic and agronomic development of guayule and the sustainability impact these biomaterial and bioenergy industries have on the American Southwest, where guayule is grown.

So far, the testing shows the tires are at least equal to tires made of components derived from the more traditional Hevea rubber plant.

Ethics Group Sues EPA for RFS Documents

crewCitizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to provide documents regarding oil industry efforts to influence the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Last May, following a Reuters article describing how the Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines had lobbied members of Congress and the administration to reduce the amount of renewable fuel required to be blended into transportation fuel, CREW asked for an investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records. It took months for the EPA to release even the documents the agency already had provided to Reuters, and it has yet to hand over all relevant documents.

Based on a follow-up Reuters article, CREW also has concerns that oil companies leveraged high-level political connections to convince the White House and the EPA to insert special waivers into the RFS that could potentially allow oil companies to refuse to sell biofuels.

“It certainly seems as if the administration has backtracked on its commitment to renewable fuels. The question is why. Was there a back room deal orchestrated by big oil and high ranking officials in the Obama administration?” asked CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Even though it is nearly 2015, the renewable fuel standards for 2014 still haven’t been released. Is this to avoid potential political fallout in the mid-terms for siding with the oil industry over the biofuel industry?”

CREW also notes that Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) sent a letter earlier this month to the White House expressing their concerns about EPA potentially inserting a waiver into the RFS, which would allow oil companies to refuse to distribute renewable fuel. Carlyle and Delta lobbied heavily for both of these modifications to the program and would benefit financially from the change.

Pacific Ag Bales Bundles of Energy

Bill Levy Pacific AgLast week Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol biorefinery went online and is expected to produce 25 million gallons of advanced ethanol per year as well as 21 MW of bioenergy. But how exactly does the corn and wheat residue get from the fields to the biorefinery in a economical and efficient way? Enter Pacific Ag.

The company was founded by Bill Levy in 1998 and began by baling residue for growers and using the biomass for animal feed both in the U.S. and internationally. It was a natural progression for Pacific Ag to get involved in cellulosic production in the U.S. and to become a major supplier to the industry.

I asked Levy to talk about their residue removal model. He noted that since their inception, they have always focused on having a balanced residue program for growers and they are finding value for those products for them. So taking their successful model from the Northwest and applying it to the Midwest was a good fit. “The fundamentals of having residue removed on a timely basis and in a sustainable way is really the same,” explained Levy. Today they are in California, North Carolina, Iowa, Kansas and he says they have innovated to become “energy balers” because of the new bioenergy market for residue.

There has been talk about the best biomass model for the biofuels industry. I posed this question to Levy and he explained how they have refined their model to be financial feasible. “We have tried to make it easy for growers to be part of the program by taking care of the harvest, we own the machinery, we schedule the harvest or the removal of the residue, or energy crop with the grower and then we provide them with an income stream for that product,” Levy answerPacific Ag Hugoton Kansas teamed. “It’s very important that we have the size that allows us to invest in that equipment and a lot of times it doesn’t make sense financially for a grower to to invest in that harvest equipment just to harvest the residue.” Pacific Ag is the largest purchaser and owner of baling equipment in the world.

“So what growers enjoy is being able to sit back and enjoy a residue removal program and the income from that but not have to put a lot of effort into it,” added Levy.

Pacific Ag is looking for growers of rice, wheat, corn and other biomass crops who are interested in working with them. As cellulosic ethanol plants including Abengoa continue to ramp up to nameplate capacity, more biomass will be needed and Pacific Ag is ready to be the advanced biofuels partner to help make the cellulosic industry and the growers who plant the bioenergy crops, successful.

Learn more about Pacific Ag and how to become involved in the biomass energy revolution by listening to my interview with Bill Levy: Interview with Bill Levy, Pacific Ag

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

Allison Details Abengoa’s Cellulosic Plant

Danny Allison Abengoa Plant ManagerWho better to learn about how Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol plant works then from Plant Manager Danny Allison. He explained to the standing room only crowd during Abengoa’s grand opening celebration, how the state-of-the-art biorefinery will produce cellulosic ethanol, bioenergy and other byproducts including ash that farmers can use as organic fertilizer on their fields.

Here is how the plant works:

Biomass: biomass harvested from local growers corn and wheat fields by Pacific Ag is delivered to the Abengoa plant to begin the ethanol production process. Each bale is quality tested for moisture, dust and other contaminants that could hinder the conversion process.

Biomass In-take Lines: six-packs of residue travel down conveyor belts to be separated into single bales by a singulator. Each bale goes through a chopper, cutting the biomass Biomass in-take lines at Hugoton Kansas Abengoa biorefineryinto easy-to-handle materials and then fed into a grinder.

Pre-Treatment: The pre-treatment process is where the starch is converted to sugars using Abengoa’s proprietary enzymes. From there fermentation occurs suing industrial yeast to convert the sugar to alcohol. At the end of fermentation, the liquid, now 5 percent alcohol, goes into a 1.3 million gallon tank, or beer well.

Distillation System and Ethanol Holding Tanks: All solids, water vapor and alcohol are removed. The now 95 percent pure ethanol moves to a column while the remaining 5 percent goes to the bottom for reprocessing and reclamation. After all impurities and water are removed, the finished ethanol is pumped to half-million storage tanks and ready for shipment by rail or truck.

Electrical Power Station: The Abengoa bioenergy plant will also produce up to 21MW of renewable electricity used to power the plant. Excess electricity will be fed to the grid for city use.

Learn more about the process by listening to Danny Allison’s remarks: Danny Allison Remarks

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFEcoEngineers, a company that provides compliance and market access solutions to the renewable energy industry, is the winner of the 2014 Best Kept Secret Award, which spotlights a Des Moines, Iowa business that is quietly building a reputation for excellence on a national or global scale, but often flies under the radar locally due to the nature of the industry or market it serves. The award is part of the 2014 Economic Impact and Celebrate Business Awards, sponsored by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Des Moines Business Record.
  • DEINOVE is now proceeding to test the technology with its DEINOL technology on industrial biomass in partnership with MBI who is in the process of scaling up a transformational biomass pretreatment technology, called AFEX. AFEX is designed to be a sustainable, economically viable source of pretreated biomass for food, feed, fuel, and other biorefinery applications. Preliminary DEINOVE lab results have demonstrated that Deinococcus assimilates over 95% of the sugars present in AFEX pretreated biomass and efficiently converts these sugars into ethanol, they represent an important step forward on the road to commercial production.
  • Ecoplexus, Inc. announced that it has closed financing and commenced construction on three solar photovoltaic projects (Langley PV1, Carter PV1, and Pecan PV1) totaling 21 megawatts (MW), representing approximately $40 million in project costs. The projects have signed long-term power purchase agreements contracts with Duke Energy Progress and are expected to achieve commercial operations in 2014.
  • Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital, Inc. has announced a $144 million investment in a portfolio of 10 operating wind projects owned by an affiliate of JP Morgan Chase. The transaction enables Hannon Armstrong to participate in the priority cash flows associated with these wind projects. Hannon Armstrong also raised $115 million of new fixed-rate non-recourse debt from Bank of America, N.A, using the investment as collateral.

Sierra Club Releases EV Finder Tool

Consumers interested in electric vehicles (EVs) now have a way to do their research. A new ‘pick-a-plug‘ web tool has been released by the Sierra Club. The app asks the user a few questions about driving habits and vehicle needs, and then generates a list of Pick a Plug In AppEVs that fit the bill. Sierra Club said there is no overall best EV – the best EV for any given driver depends on how many miles a day the person drives, whether the person takes frequent long trips, whether there is a place to plug in the car, and how much money the person is prepared to spend.

“There are a lot of compelling reasons why more than a quarter million Americans have already bought EVs since they first came on the mass market a few years ago,” said Gina Coplon-Newfield, director of the Sierra Club’s Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative. “They are cool high-tech wonders, there is little or no need to ever visit a gas station, they are much cheaper to fuel -the equivalent of about $1 a gallon, and they are much better for the environment -even when considering the emissions from the electricity to charge them up.”

Today there is a $2,500-7,500 federal tax credit that comes with the purchase of an EV, and many cities and states offer additional incentives, like a purchase/lease rebate, carpool lane access, and special utility rates for EV drivers. Linked to the new ‘pick-a-plug-in’ web tool is Sierra Club’s online EV Guide where all of this information is available by zip code, as well as a tool that calculates how much carbon emissions and fueling costs the EV will save compared to the average conventional car.

Currently, less than 1 percent of U.S. households have an EV, but according to a poll conducted last year by the Consumers Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists, nearly half of American households could purchase an EV for their next car based on driving needs and access to electrical outlets or EV charging stations.

ACORE Report: Monitize U.S. Energy Security

dodshieldThe American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) has released a new report, “Monetizing Energy Security,” that outlines liabilities fostered by the natural dependence of the Department of Defense (DOD) on energy resources. The paper proposes the DOD should consider the actual, total cost of energy it takes to achieve energy security and assign a dollar value.

“As the largest, most technologically advanced, and geographically dispersed military in the world, DOD has sought to develop a more comprehensive energy strategy to reduce liability on limited energy resources,” said Lesley Hunter, ACORE’s lead researcher and the paper’s editor. “We believe, and our research backs this up, that there’s significant room for improvement in cost-accounting of DOD’s present energy strategy, and that renewable energy and microgrid technologies can add real value in the push for energy security.”

This white paper demonstrates that renewable energy offers greater lifecycle value when compared to fossil or nuclear energy, and provides a more reliable and secure resource that ultimately lowers the actual levelized cost to DOD. acore.jpgFurthermore, the paper asserts that – with improved supply-chain accounting for costs of present installation energy and realignment of some federal processes – private, third-party capital investment in military renewable energy would exponentially grow.

President and CEO of ACORE, Michael Brower, noted the challenges associated with of shifting one of the world’s largest energy consumers to a modern, reliable and diverse system. “This essential matter is very complex and subject to the views of many stakeholders. ACORE is very optimistic that the paradigm is positively shifting as reflected by the joint services’ recent actions.”

The report concludes by noting that energy security and resilience on DOD installations, as well as the reduction of the growing level of costs and uncertainty energy security represents for DOD planners, is increasingly recognized as being essentially intertwined with DOD’s primary mission to protect and defend.

Big Oil Denied Again

Big Oil has been denied again. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has found that the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Engine Products E15 Bargain!Group (EPG) did not have standing against keeping E15 out of the marketplace. In the rule the judge wrote, “they cannot show that their members have suffered or are threatened with suffering a relevant injury.”

The court held to their previous ruling in GMA v. EPA and likewise denied standing to those who challenged the E15 waiver decision. Growth Energy successfully sought a waiver from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2009 to allow retailers and consumers to choose E15 – a blend of up to 15 percent ethanol. EPA granted the waiver in 2011 for all 2001 and newer motor vehicles.

“Today is another victory for ethanol and the American motorist,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “To continue to achieve the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard, [RFS] Growth Energy led the fight for E15 which is now being sold by over 90 retailers in 14 states. This decision is important because it continues to uphold the choice and savings for the American motorist with E15.”

Biodiesel By-Product Makes Viable Marine Fuel

A by-product of biodiesel refining could make for a viable alternative fuel for ships. This article from Seatrade Global says the Glycerine Fuel for Engines and Marine Sustainability (GLEAMS) project has concluded that glycerine is fine to use in marine vessels.

The group, comprising Lloyd’s Register EMEA, Marine South East, Aquafuel Research, Gardline Marine Sciences, and Redwing Environmental, proved that the fuel will be a viable option for ship engines. If adopted, the fuel, sometimes called glycerol, could offer a cheaper alternative to LNG and distillates, while also offering a higher efficiency than diesel, with no sulphur emissions, very low NOx emissions and virtually no particulates.

On top of this, retrofit is said to require nothing more than a modification to the engine’s external engine aspiration system; is water-soluble, with little to no damage caused to sea life in the event of a spill; and is “nearly impossible to ignite accidentally”.

A press statement by the group indicated “The GLEAMS project has been particularly successful in dispelling the widely held view that glycerine is unsuitable for use as a fuel due to its physical and chemical properties. The project very publicly demonstrated that glycerine could be used as a fuel in compression ignition engines by displaying the glycerine powered GLEAMS emissions test engine for three days at Seawork International 2014.”

GLEAMS project officials say there are several early adopters they hope to get on board with this technology, including some offshore vessels as well as research vessels.