- The SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing will be held November 9-11, 2014 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Conference organizers have announced that Amory B. Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute and Bloomberg New Energy Finance Founder Michael Liebreich have both signed on to be keynote speakers.
- The proliferation of distributed generation (DG) is beginning to take a toll on utilities, in high penetration markets such as Hawaii, California and Germany. To cope with the intermittent nature of these assets and optimize their performance, companies have developed a new class of software called distributed energy resource management systems, or DERMS. In a new report, “Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems 2014: Technologies, Deployments and Opportunities,” GTM Research forecasts the annual North American DERMS software market to more than double by 2018 to $110 million.
- Discovery Green, an urban park in downtown Houston, Texas has committed to power the park and facilities through 2016 with 100% wind power from Green Mountain Energy. Discovery Green first teamed with Green Mountain Energy in 2008 and has been powered with 100% wind energy since 2012. The purchase is estimated to avoid an additional 6.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide.
- NTC announced that it has been recognized by this year’s Fierce Innovation Awards: Energy Edition, a unique industry awards program powered by the publishers of FierceEnergy and FierceSmartGrid. NTC received top honors in the “Customer Engagement” category.
The Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars (RSI-CTC) has submitted comments to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) in response to efforts to create new regulations for the shipment of crude oil and ethanol. While RSI-CTC is glad of the government’s work, they are warning of significant disruption to safety and major sectors of the North American economy is mismatched rules are implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Transport Canada. These disruptions, said RSI-CTC, include the loss of a significant portion of the rail tank car fleet during the modification period, and unintended consequences such as a potential increase in truck shipments of flammable liquids on highways.
To address these potential disruptions and safety hazards, the RSI-CTC called for greater harmonization between the two rulemaking bodies in the U.S. and Canada, and provided insight and specific recommendations across a range of issues that will help reduce the risk of transporting flammable liquids by rail in North America. The comments also urged DOT to focus more on the root causes of most derailments which continue to be track failure and human error, not tank car design.
“For years we have been advocating for a holistic approach to safety that will prevent train derailments and address tank car standards, among other issues,” said Tom Simpson, President of RSI. “In our comments today, we reiterated our positions and offered a comprehensive set of practical recommendations that will bring the greatest safety benefit in the quickest ways possible. For instance, we believe the timelines for modifications in the U.S. and Canada should be synchronized and feasible to avoid major disruptions of service. Moreover, the specifications for new tank cars and the rules for packaging of flammable liquids need to match up across North America. Without making these important changes to align the rules, the effect will be to deplete the fleet of tank cars available for service, and those effects to safety and the economy cannot be underestimated.”
RSI-CTC and independent third-party research show that the proposed U.S. rules—in their current form—would effectively force approximately 90,000 tank cars to be withdrawn from service at various times during the modification program and parked until the shop capacity required to carry out the necessary modifications becomes available. Between 2018 and 2020, 30-50 fifty percent of the total crude oil and ethanol tank car fleet would be idled at any given time. To replace the loss in 2017, the year the first compliance deadline hits, theoretically it would require 20,000 trucks carrying more than 370,000 truckloads on North American highways, a practical impossibility and potentially more hazardous outcome given the safety risk associated with transport by truck.
In its comments to PHMSA, the RSI-CTC supports a “commodity-based approach” for selecting the proper tank car that requires shippers to ensure materials are appropriately and safely packaged. The RSI-CTC also asked PHMSA to differentiate the requirements for new and existing cars, which will allow more new or modified cars with enhanced safety features to be put into service more quickly, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
The Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy (BIB) consortium has received a $9.9 million grant to create an Illinois network of biobased training and employment pathways that can be completed in two years or less. BIB is comprised of Southeastern Illinois College (SIC), Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Carl Sandburg College, Lincoln Land College, and Lewis & Clark College.
Illinois’ bioeconomy is a driving force for economic development and innovation across the state. This biobased industry employs more than 54,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs generating more than $5 billion in total economic output. The grant funding is part of a presidential directive calling upon industry and institutions of higher learning to partner and create robust, fast-track pathways from training to jobs.
Dr. Jonah Rice, SIC president, said of the grant, “SIC is a very proud partner in this grant that will provide valuable workforce skills. SIC’s biofuels program will continue to benefit and grow as a national leading certificate program because of this grant.”
All course materials developed through this grant will be available as open educational resources so that others can access and build on successful training models. In this final phase of the TAACCTA, SIC will continue to build upon their innovative Biofuels Program to provide a pathway for displaced workers, veterans, and the underemployed to receive relevant training and stackable credentials that lead to employment in today’s rural workplace.
Renee Loesche, SIC’s biofuels instructor, added, “The true innovation of this grant is that training will be created with industry and trade association involvement to allow fast-track certificates that build upon a person’s current skills and education to train them for jobs that exist in the bio-process industries of today.”
These courses will be online and/or hybrid courses that allows those seeking employment to build upon high school diplomas and/or limited skill sets to improve those skills and become eligible for the jobs of the 21st century.
The University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and its College of Engineering have teamed up with Archer Daniels Midland Company to open a new research center focusing on biofuels and food production. The ADM Center for Agricultural Development was designed to give students more of a hands on approach in learning the latest theories of biofuel development, food production and energy processing.
“As the global population continues to grow, the world is looking toward agriculture to create viable, sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing needs – like an abundant food supply and advanced renewable fuels,” said Michael D’Ambrose, ADM senior vice president and chief human resources officer. “To help our industry meet this challenge, ADM is pleased to invest in the University of Missouri and the next generation of agricultural leaders.”
Leon Schumacher, professor of agricultural systems management helped coordinate the project and said the lab will allow students to step out of the classroom and into the lab where they will team with peers and faculty on projects and equipment typical in the rapidly-changing agricultural industries
Schumacher said the lab allows students to select critical issues facing agriculture and brainstorm solutions, develop a timeline and budget, make decisions, take the initiative to test solutions in the lab, and be accountable for results. Schumacher said this is the best approach to develop team skills needed by industry.
ADM donated $1 million to renovate the labs that will help students to “learn to work as a team and tackle problems in a systematic way,” officials said. They also expect the labs will be key in finding solutions to the problem of fueling and feeding an expected world population of 9 billion by the year 2050.
The American Lung Association in Minnesota has picked the two winners for its 2014 Clean Air Choice Biodiesel Essay contest.
John Wheaton, a recent graduate of Minnetonka High School, was the first place winner with his essay, “Impacting a new generation: my journey toward educating the community on the benefits of biodiesel.”
Wheaton, a resident of Deephaven, Minn., has long had an interest in alternative fuels and vehicle technologies. He heard about the scholarship while attending a meeting at the American Lung Association in Minnesota headquarters. He will receive a $1,000 check for his winning essay.
The second place winner is Hannah Korri of Duluth. A recent graduate of Two Harbors High School, Hannah wrote of her concerns that vehicle emissions from traditional petroleum fuels threatened the “…crisp, clean air found only in our Northland.” She will receive a $500 check for her winning essay.
The Clean Air Choice Biodiesel Essay contest is open to all high school seniors in Minnesota, and officials will be announcing information on the 2015 contest soon.
According to a new case study from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), E85 retailers in the St. Louis area may be intentionally price gouging consumers. According to the report, during the 2014 summer driver season, the average E85 price was 12 percent below gasoline prices at the wholesale level but one percent higher than gas prices at the retail level. The wholesale-to-retail markup on E85 was nearly twice the markup on gas. In addition, the study concluded that E85 retail prices were around $1 per gallon higher than was justified by wholesale prices for the locally available ethanol blendstock.
The study’s results offer “… clear support for the notion that some gasoline producers/suppliers and their franchised retailers purposely employ E85 pricing strategies meant to discourage E85 consumption and negatively influence consumer perceptions about the fuel.”
Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA, said of the case study, “It’s fairly obvious that the retailers examined in this study—all of whom are branded by one of the Big Five oil companies—don’t really want to sell E85. In many cases it appears they were pricing E85 above their branded gasoline for the sole purpose of making their gasoline prices look more attractive to the consumer. Sneaky E85 pricing strategies ultimately give oil refiners the opportunity to wrongly claim that consumers are ‘rejecting’ E85; and it gives them an opportunity to claim they can’t comply with Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements above the so-called ‘blend wall.’ This study exposes the utter hypocrisy of that argument.”
RFA tracked E85 and gasoline (E10) prices at all nine retail stations selling E85 in the St. Louis metro area. All nine stations carry the brand of one of the five largest integrated oil production and refining companies. This makes the St. Louis E85 market highly unusual because nationwide “…retail stations affiliated with a ‘Big Five’ oil company brand are four to six times less likely to offer E85 than independent or unbranded stations.”
Across more than 250 observations during the summer, the average E10 retail price was $3.45 per gallon and the average E85 retail price was $3.476 per gallon. Meanwhile, E85 was available at a local wholesale terminal for an average of $2.58 per gallon, while E10 averaged $2.93 per gallon at the wholesale level. Based on prices for locally available ethanol, hydrocarbon blendstock, RFS RIN (Renewable Identification Number) credits, and a typical markup, E85 could have been offered at retail for $2.44–2.55 per gallon. Continue reading
Randall Doyal, General Manager and CEO of Minnesota-based Al-Corn Clean Fuel, is the new Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).
Doyal’s plant located in Claremont, Minnesota opened in 1996 and now produces 50 million gallons annually. In this interview, he talks about some of the challenges and opportunities facing the ethanol industry in the immediate future. Challenges include the lack of certainty surrounding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and railway transportation problems, while the importance of ethanol as a higher octane fuel and increasing exports are rising opportunities.Ethanol Report with New RFA Chairman
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new report, “Why Biobased?” outlining current literature that explores opportunities in the emerging biobased economy. The report is a precursor for a more comprehensive economic study planned for release by the USDA BioPreferred program and will focus on the economic impacts of the biobased products industry.
“This new report presents the opportunities U.S. agriculture and forests have in the emerging bioeconomy,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The recent inclusion of mature market products into the BioPreferred program strengthens our commitment to the U.S. biobased economy and brings together two of the most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing.”
The new report explores how government policies and industry business-to-business sustainability programs are driving the biobased economy. The report also demonstrates that the biobased economy is, in fact, growing and it offers great potential for increased job creation in numerous sectors across the U.S. For instance, one report cited concludes that biobased chemicals are expected to constitute over 10 percent of the chemical market by 2015. Another report in the study concludes that there is a potential to produce two-thirds of the total volume of chemicals from biobased materials, representing over 50,000 products, a $1 trillion annual global market.
On the heels of this completed study, the USDA BioPreferred program has awarded a contract for a more in-depth economic study of biobased products and economic impacts, including research on job creation and economic value. It will be the first federally sponsored economic report of its kind targeting the biobased products industry in the U.S. Congress mandated the upcoming study in the 2014 Farm Bill.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has estimated that U.S.-based jobs for the renewable chemicals sector will rise from approximately 40,000 jobs in 2011, which represents 3-4 percent of all chemical sales, to over 237,000 jobs by 2025. This employment level would represent approximately 20 percent of total chemical sales.
Continental Energy Corporation, an emerging international energy investment company, announced that its Tanzanian affiliate, Ruaha River Power Company Ltd. has begun construction of the Phase-I development of its Malolo Mini-Grid. They have also begun signing up first subscribers from a waiting list of 400 customers. The Mini-Grids are being installed in an area surrounding the village of Malolo and three nearby villages, all located in the Kilosa District, Morogoro Region, Tanzania.
The Malolo Mini-Grid is the first of four separate, isolated rural “Mini-Grids” to be built, owned, and operated by the Ruaha Power, from which it intends to generate, distribute, and sell electrical power directly to consumers at pre-payment meters. When complete, the four Malolo Mini-Grids will have a combined generation capacity of 300kW and each Mini-Grid shall directly deliver 75kW of power to a combined total of approximately 2,500 identified residential, commercial, and light industrial customers.
Phase-I of the Malolo Mini-Grid development is expected to begin delivering power by the end of the first quarter of 2015. It involves the installation and commissioning of the first embedded generators, a 25kW hybrid biomass gasifier and a 25kW diesel generation plant, together with more than four kilometers of low voltage distribution network.
The distribution network will be constructed to standards sufficient for connection to the national grid at such time as it may be extended into the Malolo Mini-Grid area. A 21,500 square-foot site near the village of Malolo has been acquired for the first generator house and power line easements have been arranged. Civil works and the construction of the first powerhouse and office has begun and are expected to be complete by year end.
A Phase-II development is planned to add solar PV capacity to complete a hybrid biomass-solar PV-diesel powered Mini-Grid. Ruaha Power plans to duplicate the Phase-I and Phase-II development at each of the other three villages, one after the other, upon completion of Phase-II of the first network.
Alphabet Energy has introduced what they are calling the world’s most powerful thermoelectric generator that captures exhaust heat and converts it into electricity, called the E1. The generator attaches to an exhaust stack and uses Alphabet’s patented thermoelectric materials to convert waste heat into electricity. Thermoelectrics use a temperature differential to generate electricity in the solid state. According to Alphabet Energy, the E1 generates up to 25 kWe per 1,000 kWe engine, saving 52,500 liters of diesel fuel per year, per engine. This product introduction is the first for the company, which was founded in 2009 at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
“Today we’re making history and marking a milestone in industrial energy efficiency with the introduction of the E1,” said Alphabet Energy CEO and Founder Matthew L. Scullin. “People have been trying to make an industrial-scale thermoelectric generator for a long time. Customers want waste-heat recovery solutions that are simple pieces of industrial equipment rather than complex power plants.”
“With the E1, waste heat is now valuable,” Scullin added. “Saving fuel has the potential to be one of the biggest levers a company has in reducing operating expenses. That potential is finally realized with the E1, the world’s first waste-heat recovery product that meets the mining’s and oil & gas industry’s criteria for simple, strong, and reliable solutions.”
While NASA has used thermoelectrics since the 1950s, high materials costs made them prohibitive for wider use. However, Alphabet’s proprietary advancements in silicon and tetrahedrite have enabled the company to create the first highly efficient thermoelectric materials that use abundant resources. Thermoelectrics are unique because they are solid-state; which means the E1 operates with technology that has no moving parts, no working fluids and requires minimal maintenance.
Compared to other waste heat recovery systems, the Alphabet Energy said its E1 requires only minor up front engineering scope and no operation by the customer. This makes it ideally suited for remote and industrial applications where ongoing system support capacity is limited. The E1 requires no engine modifications and is installed with a simple process that involves only exhaust coupling and electrical hookup.
- OriginOil Inc., developer of Electro Water Separation (EWS), the high-speed, chemical-free process to clean up large quantities of water, announced today that in a letter to shareholders, CEO Riggs Eckelberry reported that the prototype of a GEN 2 frack water cleanup system is complete and on its way to Colorado for field testing. The full report is now available on OriginOil.com’s website.
- The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) announced that U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will keynote the general session at Solar Power International (SPI) in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Wednesday, Oct. 22. In his cabinet role, Dr. Moniz implements critical Department of Energy (DOE) missions in support of President Obama’s goals of growing the economy, enhancing security and protecting the environment.
- Baker Electric Solar announce it has installed its first SolarTrackr DUO system. Wovn Energy’s Hi-Yield Solar Initiative (HYSI) solar tracker product points a system’s solar panels towards the sun all day increasing efficiency and reliability.
- Michigan’s evolving energy industry, one of the state’s largest employers, will be in the spotlight next week, as part of a national campaign to recruit talent for the energy workforce of the future. Gov. Rick Snyder has proclaimed Oct. 13-19, 2014 as “Careers in Energy” week to raise awareness about a sector that boasts 84,000 jobs in Michigan and creates more than 1,200 new opportunities a year. In addition, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy collectively provide more than 500 internship and co-op jobs for high school and college students.
Mechanics in Kansas had the opportunity to learn about NASCAR first hand when they attended the Hollywood Casino 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Race on Sunday, October 5, 2014 at the Kansas Speedway hosted by the Kansas Corn Commission. The Commission has been a part of the American Ethanol partnership with Growth Energy, National Corn Growers Association and several state corn associations since 2011.
“All NASCAR race vehicles have raced on E15, 15 percent ethanol fuel since the 2011–that’s over 6 million miles of racing on E15,” said Kansas Corn Commission CEO Greg Krissek. “This race was a great opportunity to help mechanics see firsthand how high performance ethanol works in NASCAR race vehicles.”
Austin Dillon, who drove the #3 American Ethanol car spoke to the group and answered questions before the race. Dillon is the American Ethanol spokesman. He drives for the Richard Childress Racing team and is one of the top rookie drivers in the Sprint Series. The Kansas mechanics spoke with Dillon and were treated to a tour of the garage and pit areas and walked through the RCR team’s American Ethanol hauler before going to their seats for the race. The RCR team drivers, Dillon, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard all had top ten finishes Sunday. Newman had a sixth place finish and Menard was ninth.
“It was a good day for everyone on the No. 3 team,” Dillon said. “I’m happy that we could get a top-10 finish for American Ethanol, Dow, Cheerios, Bass Pro Shops, and everyone associated with Richard Childress Racing. We’re working hard and learning a lot. It was a good day and I’m excited for Charlotte Motor Speedway next week and finishing the rest of the season out strong.”
The American Ethanol group brought about 400 fans to the race on Sunday. The fans included farmers, ethanol producers and industry partners.
“Austin and Richard Childress are both fantastic spokesmen for American Ethanol and are true believers in the high performance qualities of ethanol blended fuel. They were excited to have the mechanics come through their garage Sunday,” added Krissek. “The mechanics in our group asked very good questions about the fuel and the NASCAR engines. They learned that ethanol blends work just fine in NASCAR race cars as well as the cars and trucks they work on every day.”
A renderer and recycler has acquired a controlling interest in a Southern California biodiesel operation that turns fats and oils into the green fuel. This article posted on Feedstocks.com says Baker Commodities, Inc., which has been a long-time supplier of fats and oils to the biodiesel industry, now controls San Diego-based New Leaf Biofuel, and the move will allow Baker to expand into other markets that vertically integrate with its rendering operations.
“We are excited to have New Leaf Biofuel as a division that will continue the recycling of fats and oils into an environmentally clean and sustainable fuel for all Californians to use,” said Jim Andreoli, Jr, Co-President, Baker Commodities. “As renderers, we in the industry have been recycling fats and proteins for hundreds of years, and to be able to use these materials to further support our society’s needs is a natural fit for our rendering business.”
Since 2006, New Leaf Biofuel has been converting used cooking oil into ultra-low carbon biodiesel, which is used in commercial and municipal fleets throughout California. New Leaf Biofuel President Jennifer Case and her husband Tyler Case, Vice President of Operations, are excited to work with Baker as the general operators of New Leaf Biofuel. “We couldn’t be happier about becoming part of Baker Commodities,” said Case. “We are both family-owned businesses and share very similar philosophies and corporate sustainability goals. We’re excited to help the company in its future growth.”
Baker has been rendering and removing grease since 1937.
Renewable diesel maker Neste Oil says it will move away from turning microbes into the green fuel and concentrate on other feedstocks, such as forestry and agricultural waste. This company news release says the Finland-based Neste Oil wants to increase the number of renewable inputs used for the renewable diesel.
“Our microbial oil pilot plant at Porvoo has demonstrated that we have the technical capability for producing microbial oil,” says Neste Oil’s Senior Vice President, Technology, Lars Peter Lindfors. “Seen in terms of sustainability, using waste and sidestreams generated by agriculture and forestry as well as industry has a very important role to play in the future, and we have successfully used straw, for example, to produce microbial oil. Two years of in-depth microbial oil research at the pilot plant has generated a lot of valuable know-how and extended our patent portfolio, and we will be able to use the results of this work in other research projects.
“The time is not yet ripe for a commercial-scale microbial oil plant, however. Lignocellulose material is not a financially competitive industrial feedstock for producing renewable diesel using the microbial oil process at the moment. We will continue researching agricultural and forestry waste and residues, and believe that lignocellulose inputs will play an important role in future renewable applications,” says Lindfors.
The release does not say how this could affect a recent deal with U.S. algae producer Renewable Algae Energy (RAE) to supply algae oil as an alternative feedstock for Neste Oil’s NEXBTL renewable diesel for the future.
The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RV0), Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research has developed a method that can help companies and government authorities create biobased chains, from source materials to end products. The method was developed out of a need for companies to develop successful production chains for the production of biofuels or biomaterials from biomass-based resources.
According to senior scientist Wolter Elbersen at the institute for Food & Biobased Research, the method is mainly intended for businesses and investors looking to establish a biobased production chain locally, or for export to the Netherlands or other EU countries. “They often have trouble evaluating whether developing a biobased production or export chain is feasible or how it can be done commercially,” said Elbersen. “This method provides an insight into which factors are at play.”
Scientist Jan van Dam at Food & Biobased Research explained that an analysis was made of which crops and products are most suitable, and how market demands are expected to develop. “We then described how businesses or investors can use a SWOT analysis to evaluate whether a local crop is a good starting point for the development of a biobased trade chain. This includes factors such as the availability of the crop and the infrastructure, security of supplies, costs and the degree to which the source material can be produced in a sustainable way.”
The method also offers a list of criteria for determining the most suitable location for converting the source material into tradable products. It deals with questions such as which country has the best infrastructure and the most educated employees? Which location offers the lowest operational costs and the best logistics? And where do the co-products or by-products have the most value? This involves issues such as heat for heating networks, CO2 for CO2 fertilisation or lignin for new chemical products.