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.
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.”
The method is a step-by-step plan for the development of a biobased export chain. It includes a classification of the various types of biomass.
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.
The inaugural Bioproducts Innovation of the Year awards were announced this week at the Bioproducts World 2014 Showcase and Conference in Columbus, Ohio and a co-product of renewable energy was named the consumer Bioproduct Innovation of the Year award at this first annual competition.
Cenergy USA of Little Rock, Arkansas won for the development of Magic Dirt, a recycled co-product of generating renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Cenergy specializes in the development and financing of renewable energy, distributed generation and energy efficient projects.
Magic Dirt™ is certified as a Premium Potting Soil by the Mulch & Soil Council, certified by USDA BioPreferred Program as 100% BioBased and approved for use in organic production by the State of Idaho. Each cubic yard of Magic Dirt™ is the end result of generating over 100 kWh of renewable energy and eliminating more than 1,800 pounds of greenhouse gases from the environment as a sustainable alternative to peat moss.
More use of biodiesel in heavy machinery, such as construction and agricultural equipment, means operators need to pay more attention to what kind of seals they use in the machines. This news release from Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies says that those engine and transmission seals need to be made of validated elastomeric materials that withstand unique operating conditions or they will prematurely fail.
“As the large earth moving equipment and other heavy machinery becomes cleaner by using biodiesel fuels, manufacturers are going to experience more motor oil contamination in their engines from this fuel,” [Joseph Walker, global director, Advanced Materials Development for Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies] said. “Biodiesel fuels have a much higher boiling point and the fuel is miscible with the engine oil. This means more fuel remains in the oil during use and this diluted oil mixture impacts engine and component operation.”
While industry studies that examine the impact of oil-fuel dilution on lubricants exist, this is the first time a company has undertaken efforts to understand how oil-fuel dilution affects sealing elements, he noted.
“This comprehensive study was designed to close that gap,” Walker said. “We realized that if we understood how these biodiesel fuel oil mixtures impacted elastomeric materials on a molecular level, we could determine which ones would perform best and longest for our customers and require the fewest seal replacements. And the dilution of the engine oil with biodiesel fuel does have pronounced effects on both lubricant and seal life.”
Freudenberg-NOK officials also note that the issue can be more pronounced in the construction industry where heavy machinery is being constantly leased and operated for long periods between maintenance cycles.
Walker will present his company’s finding’s at today’s SAE 2014 Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress (COMVEC) in Rosemont, Ill.
Biodiesel in Minnesota is more than meeting quality standards – it’s exceeding them! The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) reports that some recent field testing from more than 30 random retail stations scattered throughout the state of Minnesota showed biodiesel blends greatly exceeding important fuel quality parameters set by the industry.
“Biodiesel fuel quality is at an all-time high across the industry,” said Scott Fenwick, National Biodiesel Board technical director. “The recent results from the Minnesota testing is just another example of why consumers can feel confident filling up with biodiesel blends.”
A key indicator of fuel quality in biodiesel blends is oxidative stability, which is a measure of degradation caused by exposure to oxygen. Plymouth, Minn., based MEG Corp., a fuel consulting company, took blind samples in September from retailers across three regions in Minnesota — north, metro and south.
All of the samples taken surpassed the minimum required specification for oxidative stability and most of the samples were three to four times better than the minimum. Fenwick said higher values indicate even better stability, and this new real-world data is important as some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) look for more assurances that biodiesel blends are meeting specifications at the pump. The minimum stability requirements within the current biodiesel specs only recommend for biodiesel to be stored for up to six months which is more than enough time for most diesel applications.
Minnesota just completed the first summer of a successful run with 10 percent biodiesel (B10) in diesel fuel statewide, which was considered a success in no small part because of the high quality of the fuel in the system.
Our latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “When do you think medicinal marijuana will become a major cash crop?”
It looks like many believe we are very close to recognizing medicinal marijuana as a major cash crop here in the United States. Five to ten years really isn’t that far away. Many are already researching and learning the in’s and out’s of growing marijuana. Will you be the next farmer of this potential cash crop?
Here are the poll results:
- In the next 1-2 years – 16%
- In the next 5+ years – 42%
- Not anytime soon – 27%
- Never – 15%
Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, What is your favorite type of cheese?
I just wrapped up my first trip to World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. The event was full of cheese experiences so I thought I would ask you what your go to cheese was when sampling wine, cooking or simply having a snack. Personally, I haven’t found a cheese yet I didn’t like. Thanks again to New Holland Agriculture for making our coverage of the 2014 World Dairy Expo possible.