Renewable Energy Part of Next Farm Foundation Forum

farmfoundationforum3Get your reservation in for the next free Farm Foundation Forum, as the topic of discussion will turn to the subject of greenhouse gases and the options for agriculture.

Entitled “Carbon Policy Options and Implications for Agriculture,” the forum will be held on Tuesday, June 2:

Presenters confirmed for this Forum are Iowa farmer Varel Bailey, and Jon Scholl of American Farmland Trust. Invitations have been extended to the energy industry, the livestock industry and greenhouse gas researchers.

As usual, the National Press Club at 529 14th Street NW, Washington D.C. will be the venue for the two-hour event starting at 9 a.m. (get your coffee at 8:30 a.m.).

Make sure you RSVP to our friend Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation Director of Communication at mary@farmfoundation.org, by Friday May 29th. There is no charge to participate.

Making Ethanol from Solid Waste

enerkemCanadian waste-to-biofuels technology company Enerkem has received North America’s first unconditional commercial permit to produce advanced biofuels, in particular, ethanol, from sorted municipal solid waste.

This company press release says Enerkem GreenField Alberta Biofuels (EGAB) received the pemit to make the ethanol at a facility in Edmonton, Alberta:

“This unprecedented project is set to change the dynamics of the waste and fuel industries by making waste – that would otherwise be landfilled – a resource for transportation fuels,” said Vincent Chornet, President and Chief Executive Officer of Enerkem. “The City of Edmonton is a leader in waste management and is now pioneering this solution which is to become a model for cities around the globe.“

In 2008, EGAB entered into a 25-year agreement with the City of Edmonton to build and operate a waste-to-biofuels facility on municipal land and to receive the City’s sorted municipal solid waste as feedstock. The City of Edmonton will supply 100,000 tonnes of sorted municipal solid waste per year. The sorted municipal solid waste to be used is the end-waste after recycling and composting. These residues would otherwise be landfilled.

Enerkem is expected to start building the $61.5 million facility by the end of this year. It will turn out about 9.5 million gallons of ethanol a year, taking 6 million tons of carbon dioxide over the next 25 years out of the environment… roughly equal to taking 12,000 cars off the road annually.

Watermelons Could Source Ethanol

watermelonLook out corn and sugar, an untapped source for ethanol could be on its way — watermelon. According to the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Oklahoma has been testing ways to make the simple sugars found in watermelons into ethanol, and the USDA is now reporting some success on that front.

nwaThe National Watermelon Association began working with the USDA in 2006 to see if the 700-800 million pounds of blemished melons (and late-season melons that are not worth it for big farms to harvest) could find another life as ethanol instead of being plowed back into the ground.

ARS researcher Wayne Fish has found a way to get about 7/10ths of a pound of ethanol from a 20 pound watermelon. While that sounds like a pretty tiny amount, remember that these melons aren’t being grown as a biofuel crop; it’s just a way to get some oil independence out of leftover melons.

Making Algae Commercially Viable Workshop Coming Up

naalogoAlgae is being seen as the next great feedstock for biodiesel… if the industry can grow the algae and extract the oil in a commercially-viable way. To that end, our friends from the National Algae Association`s Mid-South Chapter are hosting a one-day workshop on algae commercialization on June 12, 2009 at the Doubletree Castle Hotel in Orlando, Florida.

According to the group’s Web site, the workshop, entitled “Algae: The Race for New Oil,” will feature several presentations including an update on algae production in the region. There are some deadlines coming up soon if you want to submit white papers and business plans for review during the workshop:

* White papers for algae-related growth systems and support products, as well as R&D overviews must be submitted also by May 26, 2009 for review by the executive committee for potential inclusion in the workshop.

* Three business plans will be picked to present to the National Algae Association. Business plans must be submitted by May 26, 2009 for review by the executive committee for potential commercialization production of algae.

“We have seen amazing developments in algae commercialization during this past year. NAA conferences and workshops have played an important role in bringing together the history-makers who are turning `algae for biofuels` into a household phrase,” says [Tamra Fakhoorian, President of the NAA Mid-South Chapter].

Organizers expect producers, equipment manufacturers, researchers, engineers, along with members of the legal, investment and financial communities to attend. More information is available on the NAA Mid-South Chapter Web site: www.NationalAlgaeAssociation.com.

World Ag Congress Discusses Biofuels

Biofuels from the perspective of India and East Africa, as well as Europe and the United States, were part of the discussion at the World Ag Congress in St. Louis on Tuesday.

World Ag ForumHenk Joos with London-based D1 Oils moderated the panel focusing on an integrated approach to biofuels. He stressed that the purpose of the panel was to find solutions. “We can decide to go again in an immense debate on food versus fuel,” he said. “I would like to take a different approach. I would like with my fellow panelists to identify responsible ways to make food and fuel at the same time.”

Joos noted, as did several others on the panel, that biofuels alone were not the cause of last year’s dramatic increase in food prices. “Food production per capita in the world has never been higher than it is today,” he said. “It’s not necessarily about the total production of food, it’s really food distribution, getting it to the people who need it.” Not only that, he added, a great deal of food continues to be wasted around the world.

He also pointed out the food and fuel example of Brazil, which has developed a very successful sugarcane ethanol industry using only 0.3% of total acreage to produce sugarcane. “That is a perfect example of how this production can go hand in hand,” he said.

The panelists included former Secretary of Agriculture for India Radha Singh, Lee Broughton with Enterprise, Bill Horan with 25x’25, and professor Nuhu Hatibu, CEO of Kilimo Trust, East Africa. All agreed that there are ways the world can produce fuel from various feedstocks – including non-food like jatropha and algae for biodiesel – and still feed a growing population.

You can listen to the opening remarks of the panelists here:

EU Wants to Extend Biodiesel Tariffs

useuflagsTemporary tariffs on American biodiesel imposed by the European Union could become more permanent.

In March, the EU, citing what it called unfair subsidies by the U.S. government that help American biodiesel producers, slapped temporary duties on biodiesel coming from this side of the pond. And, according to this story on CNMoney.com, the duties, which typically last five years, could be going up significantly:

The commission is proposing changes to the biodiesel duties: U.S. agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) will face a duty of EUR359 a metric ton of biodiesel, up from the temporary duty announced in March of EUR261/ton, the European official said.

ADM’s rival Cargill will have to pay EUR213.80/ton, down from the duty announced in March of EUR275/ton. Imperium Renewables will have to pay EUR293/ ton.

Green Earth Fuels will pay EUR284/ton, and World Energy Alternatives EUR294/ ton, according to the proposal. Fifty-three companies that cooperated with the E.U.’s investigation will have to pay EUR335/ton, including Louis Dreyfus Agricultural Industries, Vitol Inc., and U.S. Biofuels Inc.

Peter Cremer North America LP and all other companies will have to pay EUR409/ ton, down slightly from the temporary duty of EUR419/ton.

National Biodiesel Board officials have dismissed the Europeans’ complaints about American biodiesel as baseless.

Imperium Might Re-start Biodiesel Plant… IF…

imperium-logoWhat a rollercoaster couple of years it has been for Seattle-based Imperium Renewables. Back in August, 2007, I was telling you about how Imperium was opening a 100-million-gallon-a-year biodiesel plant in the Pacific Northwest, representing 30 percent of all U.S. biodiesel production. A year later, the company was in trouble, canceling long-term contracts, cutting production and laying off almost all of its workforce. The latest move by the European Union to impose trade protection tariffs against American biodiesel has all but shuttered the once mighty company. But as the man in the Monty Python movie said, “I’m not dead yet!”

This story from the Seattle Times says Imperium could re-start its biodiesel plant next year… IF the government doesn’t de-rail its latest efforts:

[Imperium founder and CEO John Plaza] hopes to resume operations next year, but that depends on what happens in a lengthy federal rule-making process to guide the future of biofuels.

An initial Environmental Protection Agency draft of those rules does not favor the canola-oil biodiesel Imperium produces.

“It’s been frustrating and difficult for the industry,” said Plaza, who challenges the EPA analysis.

A turnaround likely depends on how the EPA finalizes rules that flesh out biofuels legislation passed by Congress in 2007.

When the Imperium plant first opened, Plaza thought the rules would be in place by 2009 and would guarantee a significant U.S. market for biodiesel.

But the final rules are still awaited, and the EPA has launched an extensive review to address a hotly contested issue: how to accurately compare the greenhouse-gas impact of biofuels compared with petroleum fuels.

Maybe they should ask for a federal bailout. Isn’t it funny that an industry that has a product that is popular with the public gets government interference while another one that produces unpopular cars gets all the help it could want? Talk about providing a disincentive for hard work!

Interstate Oil Adds E85 Station in Northern CA

pacificprideInterState Oil Company is now offering E85 at the Pacific Pride station at 917 Cotting Lane in Vacaville, California.

“We want to be environmentally conscious,” said Greg Andrews, vice president of Interstate Oil. “Everyone is concerned about the air. We want to do our part.”

interstateoilThe company has been a family owned and operated business since 1970. It is a leader in promoting the use of alternative fuels in the California and Nevada markets. They offer terminal infrastructure and the ability to handle rail traffic.

Andrews acknowledged that the E85 venture is new for the company, which is curious to see how well the industry will do. “We’ll see what happens,” he said. “We feel there will be a demand and we wanted to align ourselves with what the state is already doing.”

Posted in E85

Sunoco Offers $8.5 Million for Ethanol Plant

northeast_biofuelsNortheast Biofuels, LP who filed bankrupcy in January of this year, could have a new owner. Sunoco Inc. offered to buy the 100 million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant in Fulton, New York for $8.5 million. Northeast Biofuels officials say Sunoco is interested in fixing up the plant and returning it to operation.

sunocoPhiladelphia-based Sunoco outbid companies that offered $1 million for the plant. Northeast Biofuels creditors claim they owe about $172 million. Many of the creditors have filed objections to the proposed sale. Now a bankruptcy judge must approve the sale.

The plant achieved “Mechanical Completion” on July 30, 2008 and “Interim Completion” on August 24, 2008. The plant was supposed to have reached “Interim Completion” by December 15, 2007 pursuant to the company’s agreement with its contractor, Lurgi PSI, Inc. The failure to meet construction milestones has led to significant disputes between the company and Lurgi PSI.

Sapphire Makes Case for Algae-Biofuels in Cap & Trade

sapphireThe head of a company that is making energy out of algae wants lawmakers to ensure that their type of fuel is part of upcoming Cap and Trade legislation.

The president of Sapphire Energy, Cynthia J. Warner, testified today before the full U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to encourage legislators to allow industries that produce carbon dioxide, such as coal-burning electric generators, to collect and transport their CO2 to companies like Sapphire Energy that make industrial waste and greenhouse gases (GHG) into low carbon gasoline, diesel and jet fuels:

“Sapphire Energy believes that the business opportunity presented by climate policy can be transformative as we enter this Green Era,” stated Warner. “By getting ahead of the curve, we can produce a new generation of transportation fuels for the world that are low-carbon, produced right here in the United States, and that generate renewed economic growth and new green-collar jobs.”

Sapphire Energy has successfully developed a process that with only sunlight and CO2 turns algae into fuels (gasoline, diesel and jet) that rival other alternatives. Sapphire’s Green Crude fuel not only fits into the current energy infrastructure as a complete drop-in replacement fuel, but it is scalable and can be grown on marginal desert lands in brackish or salt water, avoiding use of food crop lands. Most importantly, algae consume enormous amounts of CO2, drawn from both industrial and atmospheric sources, during its growth process.

“Sapphire’s algae-based fuels emit approximately two-thirds less CO2 than petroleum-based fuels at scale,” Warner explained. “When compared with conventional biofuels, such as corn ethanol and soy biodiesel, Sapphire’s Green Crude has significantly less than half their carbon impact, while delivering far greater energy density than either alternative.”

Warner says re-using the carbon dioxide to grow algae would remove that greenhouse gas from the environment and create a sustainable energy supply. Plus, she points out that over the next few years the algae industry will directly create approximately 11,700 jobs and another 30,000 jobs from indirect sources.

New Fuel Economy Rules Applauded by Industry

Obama 2008A new National Fuel Efficiency Policy was passed today adding to recent efforts to curb America’s dependence on foreign oil while spurring development in new clean transportation technologies that will help curb greenhouse gas emissions. This new policy, which sets the toughest fuel economy requirements in the country’s history, speeds up, by four years, the fuel economy standards that were passed in 2007 (CAFE).

This new policy will go into effect in 2012 and ramp up through 2016 and will require passenger cars and light trucks to get an overall average of 35.5 miles per gallon (it is currently 23.1 mpg) by 2016 while cars are expected to average 39 mpg (currently 27.5) and trucks will be required to get 30 mpg. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a public statement today saying, “Today’s announcement builds on Congress’ increase of fuel efficiency standards two years ago, speeds us toward meeting the goal of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2020, and establishes the first-ever national standard for global warming pollution from cars and trucks. These efforts will save consumers money at the pump, strengthen our national security by making America more energy independent, and cut global warming pollution that is causing a climate crisis.”

Pelosi is just one of dozens of organizations publishing statements today applauding the new policy. Bob Dinneen, President of the Renewable Fuels Association, stated, “President Obama has rightly recognized that improving vehicle fuel economy is an important tool in reducing America’s reliance on foreign oil.  Together with the increasing use of renewable  fuels like ethanol, these technologies represent the most immediate and effective solution available to help meet our energy and environmental challenges.”

Dinneen went on to state that today’s policy decision does little to effect ethanol’s role in the fuel market place and concluded with, “Raising fuel economy standards, allowing for ethanol blends in excess of 10 percent, and continuing to invest in next generation renewable fuel technologies are the kind of forward-looking policies that will begin to change America’s foreign oil habit. President Obama’s announcement today, together with his recently reaffirmed commitment to biofuels, are appropriate steps in that direction.”

Alltech Ethanol Project On Hold

A cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Kentucky has been put on hold due to funding concerns.

Dr. Mark LyonsA little more than a year ago, Alltech of Lexington, KY announced plans for a $70 million plant to be partially funded with state and federal grants. “We’ve basically looked at where ethanol is today and decided to put that project on hold,” says project head Dr. Mark Lyons. “The reason for this was generally in terms of the economic crisis where we all find ourselves. Funding ethanol is not very popular right now with the banks.”

Alltech
, which is a very successful international bioscience, animal health and nutrition company, received a $30 million Department of Energy grant for the project and planned to get bank financing for the balance. They had been talking about halting the project altogether, but DOE agreed to allow them to place it on hold.

Listen to an interview with Dr. Lyons conducted by Chuck Zimmerman at this week’s Alltech Symposium in Lexington.

St. Paul Wastewater Plant to Grow Algae for Biomass

stpaulsustainabilityOfficials in St. Paul, Minnesota believe a pilot project to grow algae at the city’s wastewater plant will clean the water before it’s pumped back into the Mississippi River and provide biomass for biofuels.

Biomass Magazine reports the process will also take nitrogen and phosphorus out of the water that can be used to make fertilizer:

A team of researchers from the University of Minnesota partnered with the Metropolitan Council for the project, using centrate—liquid waste separated from the solids—to grow several species of algae that can thrive in wastewater. The project started in 2006 on a much smaller scale, using wastewater in labs, and recently moved to Met Council’s treatment plant.

“It’s an opportunity to grow algae on a larger scale in colder climates,” said Todd Reubold, director of communications for the Institute on the Environment. “Rather than flushing all these nutrients, we’re recycling them.”

Heavy research and experimenting went into choosing the strains, and the discovery that centrate is the optimal element. “After screening all kinds of algae, we found types that can grow in concentrated wastewater without any additional nutrients,” said Roger Ruan, professor of bioproducts and biosystems engineering at the university, and director of the Center for Biorefining.

Using a wastewater plant to grow the algae saves a significant amount in capital and energy, said Rod Larkins, associate director of IREE. “You have to fertilize algae, but in our case, the fertilizer is already there,” he said. “You save significant money by not having to add nutrients to the algae.” The necessary high volume of water and heat are available, also.

The project will use an enclosed photobioreactor that allows the algae to grow in a smaller area. Officials believe they could produce daily 1,000 to 4,000 gallons of oil to turn into biodiesel.

Bill Could Renew Biodiesel Credit

The $1-a-gallon tax credit that biodiesel now enjoys… but is set to expire at the end of this year… could have new life if a new piece of legislation makes it through Congress this year.

According to the Northwest Arkansas News, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has introduced legislation that will promote several renewable energy options, including the biodiesel credit:

blanchelincolnLincoln said she introduced legislation to do the following:

· Provide parity in the value of the credit for all renewable energy resources, increasing the value of the credit to full credit level for those resources that now get only a partial credit;

· Encourage innovation and entrepreneurship through alternative energy and conservation incentives; and

· Allow electricity from biomass used on-site to qualify for a tax credit – the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit.

Alternative energy sources, such as biomass and biofuels, offer job-creation opportunities for new and expanding small businesses, and she is pushing for incentives to help build a strong alternative-energy industry in the state

The article goes on to say that Lincoln feels these incentives are necessary to sustain the renewable fuels market.

Pacific Ethanol Files for Bankruptcy

pei_logo_topPacific Ethanol, Inc. announced today that its has filed for Chapter 11 of the U.S Bankruptcy Code. Pacific Ethanol is just one of many ethanol plants that have filed bankruptcy protection over the past 12 months. The Company and its marketing subsidiaries, Kinergy Marketing LLC (“Kinergy”) and Pacific Ag. Products, LLC (“PAP”), have not filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. 

Pacific Ethanol is expected to continue to manage the Plant Subsidiaries under an Asset Management Agreement and Kinergy and PAP are expected to continue to market and sell the Plant Subsidiaries’ ethanol and feed production under existing Marketing Agreements. Pacific has reached a financing agreement with WestLB AG that will allow them to meet customer needs, but the financing deal still needs approval from the bankruptcy court. 

In a company statement today, Neil Koehler, Pacific Ethanol’s CEO and President said, “We have worked well with our creditors to develop a plan that we believe allows us to continue operations and meet our commitments to our customers and vendors.  We are unwavering in our vision of being a leading producer and marketer of low carbon fuels in the Western United States.  While the market environment for the ethanol industry has been challenging over the last several quarters, we remain confident that a restructured company will grow and prosper as the demand for low carbon fuels increases.” 

Pacific Ethanol’s Chairman of the Board, Bill Jones, added, “We appreciate the support of West LB, Wachovia and the work of our management team. Our objective is to move this process forward as quickly as possible so that we can maintain our focus on serving our fuel and feed markets.”