Green Racing Showcases Ethanol

St. Petersburg, Florida will be the site of the greenest racing event in history this weekend when both the IndyCar Series and the American Le Mans Series will compete on the streets in the Honda Grand Prix and Acura Sports Car Challenge. This is the second year that the IndyCar Series is racing on 100 percent ethanol and the first year the American Le Mans Series is offering cellulosic E85 racing ethanol to its teams.

Doug Robinson, executive director of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), which is the sanctioning body of the American Le Mans Series, says allowing the use of 85 percent cellulosic ethanol in that racing venue is part of their “green racing” platform that helps test alternative fuels and create public awareness.

“In rolling out that green racing strategy, the first step was to look at the renewable fuels and the greenhouse gas emissions,” Robinson said.

As a result, Robinson says, they set into motion a plan to develop a high performance, high octane, gasoline-based racing fuel as a baseline and allow alternative fuels into the series.

“Our base fuel has ten percent ethanol, much like many of the pumps that you buy fuel for your road car,” he said. “Then this year we started with an E85 fuel and we aligned ourselves with the first company to be producing second generation, cellulosic ethanol made from wood waste from the Black Hills forest.”

Ethanol Semi in St PeteThat company is KL Process Design Group of South Dakota, which has been contracted by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, the leader in bringing “green” fuels to motorsports, to provide cellulosic E85 racing fuel (E85R) for Corvette Racing.

The Team Ethanol transporter carrying the #17 Team Ethanol Indy Car arrived at St. Pete earlier this week, fresh off a 7th place finish in last week’s season opener under the lights in Homestead.

Team Ethanol driver Ryan Hunter-Reay is a big believer in ethanol and using it in racing to prove performance and environmental benefits. “Racing is the forefront of what goes on in the automotive market,” Hunter-Reay said. “So, it fits for racing to be going in this direction.”

This weekend’s American Le Mans Series and IndyCar Series races highlighting ethanol will be broadcast globally. ABC will televise the one-hour, 55-minute Acura Sports Car Challenge starting at 1:30 p.m. ET on April 5. The IndyCar Series Honda Grand Prix at 2:30 pm ET on April 6 will be broadcast on ESPN.

(Photo credit Steve Snoddy, Indy Racing League)

Growing Oil in the Texas Desert

valcentproducts.jpgWhile finding oil in the hot, dry regions of Texas might not be something new, how one company is going about it certainly is.

Last September, I told you about Valcent Product’s algae-growing operation that has the potential of producing 100,000 gallons of algae oil a year for every acre. That compares to corn’s 30 gallons per acre from corn and soybean’s 50 gallons per acre. Now, the company has attracted the attention of the national media in this CNN story:

“Algae is the ultimate in renewable energy,” Glen Kertz, president and CEO of Valcent Products, told CNN while conducting a tour of his algae greenhouse on the outskirts of El Paso.

Kertz, a plant physiologist and entrepreneur, holds about 20 patents. And he is psyched about the potential algae holds, both as an energy source and as a way to deal with global warming.

“We are a giant solar collecting system. We get the bulk of our energy from the sunshine,” said Kertz.

Algae are among the fastest growing plants in the world, and about 50 percent of their weight is oil. That lipid oil can be used to make biodiesel for cars, trucks, and airplanes.

Most people know algae as “pond scum.” And until recently, most energy research and development projects used ponds to grow it.

valcentbags.jpgBut instead of ponds, Valcent uses a closed, vertical system, growing the algae in long rows of moving plastic bags. The patented system is called Vertigro, a joint venture with Canadian alternative energy company Global Green Solutions. The companies have invested about $5 million in the Texas facility.

“A pond has a limited amount of surface area for solar absorption,” said Kertz.

“By going vertical, you can get a lot more surface area to expose cells to the sunlight. It keeps the algae hanging in the sunlight just long enough to pick up the solar energy they need to produce, to go through photosynthesis,” he said.

The article goes on to point out that the idea is not new, as the U.S. Department of Energy experimented with algae oil for about 20 years from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s. But the price of a barrel of oil in the mid-90s was only about $20. Now, with prices over $100 a barrel, experts think the process could now be profitable.

Valcent has a pretty cool video of the process on its web site: www.Valcent.net. Check it out!

Former Imperium VP Joins Harris Group

harrisgroup.gifInternational engineering firm Harris Group, which has a stake in the alternative energy game, has named former Imperium Renewables Vice President Mark Warner as the company’s director of the program management services.

A company press release says Warner’s experience with Imperium will serve him well at Seattle-based Harris Group:

Mr. Warner led the effort to build the largest biodiesel production facility constructed in the US, which was permitted, designed and constructed in 14 months. He is a chemical engineer with extensive background in chemical plant operations and maintenance, as well as environmental consulting. Mr. Warner will be the Director of Program Management Services for HGI’s Process Solutions Business Unit. In that role he will help develop and expand the services we can offer HGI’s biofuels customers.

Government Dispels Biofuels Myths

doe.jpgA new paper from the U.S. Department of Energy tries to put to rest some of the myths that still swirl around biofuels.

The document, posted on the DOE web site, takes on some of the most-often repeated arguments against renewable energy with solid facts:

doereport1.jpgMYTH: In terms of emissions, biofuels emit the same amount as gasoline or more.
FACT: Biofuels burn cleaner than gasoline, resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions, and are fully biodegradable, unlike some fuel additives.

MYTH: Ethanol cannot be produced from corn in large enough quantities to make a real difference without disrupting food and feed supplies.
FACT: Corn-based ethanol is only one source of biofuel. As we address the technical hurdles associated with the efficient and cost-effective production of biofuels, ethanol will increasingly play a more significant role.

doereport2.jpgMYTH: Ethanol gasoline blends can lower fuel economy and may harm your engine.
FACT: Ethanol blends in use today have little impact on fuel economy or vehicle performance.

MYTH: More energy goes into producing ethanol than it delivers as a fuel.
FACT: Each gallon of corn ethanol today delivers as much as 67% more energy than is used to produce it.

Although the document is just a couple of pages long, it should be must reading for anyone in the biofuels industry so they can dispel the myths with the facts.

Report: World Biofuel Demand Will Continue to Skyrocket

freedonia.jpgA study by the Freedonia Group Inc. says that demand for biofuels throughout the world will grow by 20 percent a year to 92 million metric tons in 2011.

This article from the International Business Times says the Cleveland-based industry research firm says the demand will increase despite the current food-versus-fuel and environmental debates:

Market expansion will come from a more than doubling of the world market for bioethanol, and even faster increases in global biodiesel demand, the study said.

Other biofuels will also experience strong growth, though much slower than either biodiesel or bioethanol.

The world market for biofuels has expanded rapidly in recent years as combination of domestic politics, rising oil prices, increasing concerns about global warming, and potential economic opportunity have spurred a broad range of countries to pass laws that support biofuel industries.

World biofuel production will track increases in demand as most countries seek to foster domestic biofuel industries, both to reduce reliance upon imported oil and to spur domestic economic development.

This will continue to favor the development of cereal based (maize and wheat) bioethanol capacity in North America and Western Europe, as well as sugarcane based bioethanol production in Latin America.

The article goes on to say in America, biodiesel production will center on soybean oil, while rapeseed oil will be the feedstock of choice in Europe. Asia and the Pacific region will feature palm oil with jatropha increasing in popularity. In addition, ethanol from cellulose and algae-based biodiesel will gain commercial significance in the long term.

Farm Foundation to Host Carbon Footprint Forum

carbonfootprint.JPGFarm Foundation, a non-profit group that works as a catalyst for farm policy discussion, is holding a forum on the lifecycle carbon footprint analysis of biofuels, this coming Tuesday, April 8 from 9 am to 11 am in the First Amendment Lounge of the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Speakers providing opening comments will be:

* Bruce McCarl of Texas A&M University, discussing lifecycle analysis.
* Brooke Coleman of the Renewable Energy Action Project, presenting the renewable fuels perspective.
* Laurent Javaudin, Delegation of the European Commission to the United States, addressing European Commission proposals on biofuels sustainability and GHG methodology.

This discussion will be opened up to the floor with Charlie Stenholm moderating.

The forum is free, but you are asked to RSVP by 10 a.m. CDT, this coming Friday, April 4, to Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation Director of Communication, mary@farmfoundation.org.

New Iowa Plant Gets Approval

Ethanol start-up, Red Rock Renewables LLC, is moving into the next phase of development on a new fuel ethanol plant to be located in Pleasantville, Iowa.

Last week, the company received approval on a final development agreement with the city of Pleasantville and the plant will now move into the next and most critical phase for ethanol plant construction, funding.

Iowa RFAAccording to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, only two Iowa ethanol plants started construction in 2007, the lowest number of starts since 1999. But there are at least four ethanol projects, including Red Rock Renewables, that have a good chance of getting launched this year.

Iowa currently has 28 operating ethanol plants and is the number one ethanol producing state with an annual capacity of 2.2 billion gallons.

Senator Pushes for Higher Ethanol Blends

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is continuing to push for the use of higher ethanol blends in regular car engines.

Chuck GrassleyLast fall, Grassley and several other senators wrote the Environmental Protection Agency requesting testing of blends of ethanol above 10% for non-flexible fuel vehicles. Now Grassley is asking car makers what they are doing in the area of research and testing on higher ethanol blends.

“It is becoming even more important as we see the maximum market demand for E-10 blends quickly approaching,” Grassley told reporters Tuesday. “It is believed that the E-10 market will be saturated by 2012 or 2013 at about 12 or 14 billion gallons a year. That’s about twice what we producer right now. It is critical that timely approvals be made for intermediate blends of ethanol-blended gasoline for non-flexible fuel vehicles.”

Grassley cites a year-long study by the state of Minnesota and the Renewable Fuels Association showing no problems with ethanol blends of up to 20 percent.

“When I was in Brazil in 2006 I saw first hand, non-Flex Fuel vehicles capable on running on blends of 20 percent to 25 percent ethanol,” he said.

Grassley says movement to higher ethanol blends requires cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Partnership for Cellulosic Technology

ConocoISUThe U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has entered into partnership with ConocoPhillips and Iowa State University to identify promising cellulosic biomass conversion technologies for the future. The collaboration will bring three independently established programs together to help identify the most efficient and cost-effective methods for making liquid transportation fuels from plants.

NREL“Research cooperation among government, industry and academia is needed to efficiently address the many questions about how to find the best ways to convert biomass to liquid transportation fuels,” said Tom Foust, technology manager for NREL’s National Bioenergy Center.

Each party is providing its own time and resources and the collaboration is expected to produce an initial report by January 2009.

Biodiesel Additive Approved by Texas

oryxe.jpgAn additive to biodiesel has been approved by the State of Texas for its low-emission program.

ORYXE Energy International’s ORYXE(R) LED for Biodiesel has received an unprecedented approval for use in the Texas Low Emission Diesel Program (TxLED). This press release from the company says it means fuel producers will be able to use the additive at a lower treat rate in biodiesel blends up to B20:

Under extensive testing at the West Virginia University Engine and Emissions Research Laboratory, ORYXE LED for Biodiesel eliminated the bump in oxides of nitrogen (NOx) associated with biodiesel. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report summarizing published studies shows that biodiesel reduces all regulated emissions, with the exception of NOx.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently developed an alternative testing protocol for biodiesel blends. Under the original protocol, B20 fuel (80% EPA diesel and 20% biodiesel) treated with the ORYXE additive was tested against a clean, prescriptively blended TxLED fuel. The significant difference in the new protocol is that the petroleum diesel component of the B20 fuel can now be TxLED-compliant, instead of EPA diesel. Therefore, the additive only has to address the increased NOx created from the biodiesel portion of the blend.

“The additional approval is great news for Texas air quality as well as our customers. They can now utilize ORYXE technology more economically to comply with the low-emission diesel standards established for Texas,” said James M. Cleary, ORYXE Energy chairman and chief executive officer. “The fact that our product is the only additive to pass two different tests says a great deal about the effectiveness of our technology to reduce NOx.”

Company officials say the key is the lower treat rate at 1.25 milliliters per gallon of the biodiesel blend, which will mean biodiesel and regular diesel sellers can use the one additive for either fuel.

Nilsson Named President of DMI Industries

dmi.jpgDMI Industries, a leading manufacturer of wind generator towers, has named Stefan Nilsson as president of the West Fargo, North Dakota-based company.

A company press release says he’ll lead a company that has its fingers in several other alternative energy sources:

“I am impressed with DMI’s recent expansion activity and excited to help guide the company’s strategic direction and future success,” Nilsson said. “The wind energy sector holds tremendous opportunity, and DMI will continue to grow as a leader in tower manufacturing.”

A native of Sweden, Nilsson moved to the United States more than 20 years ago. He holds a master’s in mechanical engineering and received his MBA in International Business Management from the University of Uppsala, Sweden. He will relocate from Michigan to the Fargo area.

DMI is a heavy steel wind tower manufacturer with plants located in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Ontario, Canada. The company also has capabilities to produce equipment for a wide variety of industries, including agricultural processing; ethanol production; oil and gas extraction, processing and refining; and water and waste water processing.

You can read more about the company at www.dmiindustries.com.

Albany Ethanol Plant Approved

Port of AlbanyThe Albany Port District Commission has approved a proposal to build an ethanol plant on port property which officials say it the largest development project in the history of the port.

According to the Albany Times-Union, the developer, Albany Renewable Energy LLC, would bring in 60 million bushels of corn annually — about what is produced in all of New York state — from regional and Midwest farmers.

The plant still needs to obtain financing and permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation before construction can begin. Company officials say construction would take 6 to 12 months.

The Schenectady Gazette reports that the plant will be designed and built by ICM Inc. of Kansas, and that the company is also looking to acquire the rights to build another smaller production facility at the port. The total cost of the two plants could reach $350 million.

Albany Renewable Energy plans to send processed ethanol from its plant by barge to terminals at the major ports in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia.

Cellulosic Firm Surpasses $100 Million in Funding

Range FuelsRange Fuels has announced that it has received private financing totaling over $100 million to complete the construction of the first phase of its commercial cellulosic ethanol plant located near the town of Soperton, Georgia. The first phase of construction for the Soperton Plant is targeted to produce approximately 20 million gallons of ethanol and mixed alcohols per year and is scheduled for completion in 2009.

Range Fuels uses a thermo-chemical process compared to most competing cellulosic processes which use biochemical technology.

The company will use woody biomass in the form of sustainably harvested forest trees and waste materials from Georgia forests.

Latest Ethanol Podcast Features Industry Leaders

The latest “Ethanol Report” podcast from the Renewable Fuels Association features comments from four ethanol industry leaders about the future of the ethanol industry and what role the RFA will play in it.

RFA PodcastFeatured are RFA Vice Chairman Tom Branhan of Glacial Lakes Energy in Watertown, South Dakota; Renewable Fuels Foundation chairman Bill Lee with Chippewa Valley Ethanol in Minnesota; RFA and RFF board member Dan Schwartzkopf with ICM’s LifeLine Foods; and Ryland Utlaut of Mid-Missouri Energy, a board member of RFA and past chairman of the National Corn Growers Association.

You can subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” by following this link.

Or you can listen to it on-line here:

Water Treatment Company Focuses on Ethanol Plant Needs

Fremont Industries has launched a new division to offer specialized water services to the biofuels industry. The new Biofuels Group division reportedly will help the ethanol industry become even better environmental stewards with a process that significantly reduces typical solid discharge levels from the water used during ethanol production.

Fremont Biofuels GroupThe innovative technology allows ethanol plants to recycle and reuse wastewater streams as an alternative to discharge.

“Starting with a plant’s re-engineered water balance, the design team optimizes current water use and then focuses on recycle and reuse options combined with creative equipment applications to reduce the environmental impact of the discharged water,” explained Chris Robbins, national sales manager of the Biofuels Group. “The result is reduced or elimination of plant water discharge.”

Fremont has been involved as a supplier for the biofuels industry for almost 20 years and they expect the new division to provide even more focused and committed resources to the unique needs of the ethanol industry.