Sweet New Crop for Ethanol

A Seattle-based biotechnology company is working on developing a crop that is somewhat of a cross between corn and sugar cane.

Targeted GrowthAccording to a story in the Kansas City Star, Targeted Growth has been testing “sugarcorn” in test plots in Illinois and Indiana.

Sugarcorn is a takeoff on a type of maize grown in the tropics, which grows traditional ears of corn.

Researchers found that when the tropical corn has a longer growing day, such as those in the Midwest, it delays its flowering and sends more energy into making sugar in the stalk instead of producing starch in the corn.

Targeted Growth is hoping to make sugarcorn commercially available in two years.

Alt Energy Bills Await MI Gov’s Signature

Bills addressing biodiesel and biomass are on Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s desk, waiting for her signature to help make the state a national leader in alternative fuel production.

This story from The Bay City (MI) Times has details about some of the bills:

• Dedicating five new Alternative Energy Renaissance Zones for facilities that use cellulosic materials for fuel production, bringing the total number to 15;

• Requiring the Michigan Department of Agriculture to develop standards for a 20 percent biodiesel blend;

• Expanding the role of the Renewable Fuels Commission;

• Creating a property, sales and use tax exemption for machinery used to harvest biomass.

Not only will the bills help alternative fuels in Michigan, they will help create thousands of jobs in a state that right now is on some shaky employment ground.

NH Getting Biodiesel Refinery with Another on the Way

New Hampshire is getting a couple of biodiesel refineries… one in Nashua and one in Keene… that will make the green fuel from used grease.

This story from WCAX-TV says Batchelder Biodiesel Refineries in Nahua is hosting a grand opening of its first refinery on Wednesday, while Keene’s refinery will open its refinery early next year:

The facility will convert yellow and brown waste grease into biofuel, a process that eliminates the “food vs. fuel” controversy…

Keene State College and the city of Keene are collaborating with the company to create one, too. The refinery would convert waste grease from across New England into more than 250,000 gallons of biodiesel per year.

Biodiesel, Ethanol Part of Alberta RFS

Some of our friends north of the border seem to be taking a cue from us, as Alberta has enacted a renewable fuel standard of 5% ethanol and 2% biodiesel by 2010 as part of Premier Ed Stelmach’s Provincial Energy Strategy:

This new standard of five-per-cent ethanol in gasoline and two-per-cent renewable content in diesel by 2010 will help Alberta meet its climate change targets by reducing CO2 emissions by about one million tonnes annually, and will support Alberta’s renewable fuels sector and the technology development of next generation biofuels.

Implementation of the Provincial Energy Strategy will include ongoing reassessment of objectives and strategies. The Government will report annually to Albertans on progress implementing the strategy.

The move has gained the praise of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association:

“Today, Alberta is building on its energy leadership by encouraging the use of cleaner renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel,” said Gordon Quaiattini, President of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association. “The Alberta Renewable Fuel Standard announced today will help reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, grow rural economies, and give consumers new choices at the pump.”

Renewable Fuel Standards are now in place at the federal level in Canada, as well as in Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The United States has a renewable goal of 36 billion gallons by 2022 – 21 billion to come from advanced renewable fuels. This goal, as well as new incentives to encourage their development, is strongly supported by President-elect Obama.

“Alberta, with its agricultural and energy infrastructure and expertise, is uniquely positioned to build a vibrant homegrown ethanol and biodiesel industry,” added Quaiattini. “This is the start of a new renewable energy era in Alberta.”

E85 Promotions in MN

Shakopee Dakota Convenience Stores will be hosting E85 promotions at two of their facilities on Friday, December 19. These stations will sell the alternative fuel $0.60 off per gallon.

The first E85 promotion on December 19 will be from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Shakopee Dakota Convenience Store #1 at 15035 Mystic Lake Dr NW in Prior Lake, Minnesota. The second will be from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. at Shakopee Dakota Convenience Store #2 at 14160 Wilds Path NW in Prior Lake, Minnesota. With each E85 fill-up customers will receive a free “silver carwash”.

Event Supporters for the events include: Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Scott County Corn Growers, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, General Motors Corp., National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, US Dept of Energy Clean Cities, American Lung Assoc. of MN & The MN Clean Air Choice Team.

Currently, there are more 356 E85 fueling locations throughout the state of Minnesota; more than any other state.

Wallis Oil to Provide E85 at Four Facilities in St. Louis Area

E85 is now available at the Mobil On the Run in the city of Wildwood, Missouri. A 6,000 gallon E85 tank services two fueling pumps for E85 compatible vehicles. The station is located at 16509 Old Manchester Road.

Nearly eighty postal vehicles will be using the E85 at the Mobil on the Run in Wildwood. Unfortunately, these vehicles have been forced to use gasoline since the closing of a previous E85 site.

A grand opening celebration is reportedly going to be scheduled some time in January 2009.

Wallis Oil Company will be installing E85 at three additional facilities in the St. Louis region in months to come. These sites include a BP facility at Chesterfield Airport Road and Long Road, in Chesterfield; a Mobil On the Run on Brentwood Boulevard in Brentwood; and a Mobil On the Run at Highways K & N in O’Fallon.

Experts: Offshore Grid Needs to be Built for Offshore Wind Power

I found a pretty interesting article in Popular Mechanics that outlined some of the issues regarding offshore wind power… namely, the problem of connecting offshore wind farms to make sure that when the wind is not blowing at one location, another offshore wind farm where it is blowing could pick up the slack.

Author Andrew Moseman chronicles some of the problems Europeans have been facing in this arena and how they are overcoming these issues, and he offers ideas on how America can learn from this:

According to the Department of Energy, wind power could supply 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030—and that would include sources offshore. Cape Wind is racing to build the country’s first offshore farm in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod, and Bluewater Wind is navigating the same maze of permits to build offshore wind farms in Delaware and the Northeast. This summer, even New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, proposed wind turbines off Long Island to provide renewable energy to the Big Apple. All of these projects would route power directly to a localized electrical grid—but if offshore wind begins to truly take off, the United States might look to a future European supergrid as an example of how to make the most of a finicky resource.

Pretty good article… give it a read.

Squeezing a Little Biodiesel Out of Your Cup of Joe

A new study has found a new use for used coffee grounds: biodiesel.

This story from ScienceDaily says researchers at the University of Nevada-Reno are reporting that waste coffee grounds can be made into biodiesel… making for a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly feedstock for the green fuel:

In the new study, Mano Misra, Susanta Mohapatra, and Narasimharao Kondamudi note that the major barrier to wider use of biodiesel fuel is lack of a low-cost, high quality source, or feedstock, for producing that new energy source. Spent coffee grounds contain between 11 and 20 percent oil by weight. That’s about as much as traditional biodiesel feedstocks such as rapeseed, palm, and soybean oil.

Growers produce more than 16 billion pounds of coffee around the world each year. The used or “spent” grounds remaining from production of espresso, cappuccino, and plain old-fashioned cups of java, often wind up in the trash or find use as soil conditioner. The scientists estimated, however, that spent coffee grounds can potentially add 340 million gallons of biodiesel to the world’s fuel supply.

And here’s another benefit to the coffee-fueled fuel: it has the aroma of coffee. Got to beat that thick, sick smell of non-renewable petroleum, right?

Biodiesel Byproduct to Help Grow Feed Supplement

With margins for biodiesel production getting tighter and tighter, it’s more important than ever to get every dollar you can out of refining the green fuel. That’s why some researchers are looking for a new use for one of the byproducts of biodiesel.

This story from cattlenetwork.com says the Ohio State University Department of Animal Science has received a $38,733 one-year grant from the Ohio Soybean Council to use crude glycerol to grow yeast to serve as feed supplement for dairy cattle:

“The idea behind the project is to take what is considered a waste product and turn it into a value-added agricultural commodity,” said Zhongtang Yu, a microbiologist with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and principal investigator of the project.

Approximately 1.1 million tons of crude glycerol is produced annually from production of biodiesel, mainly soy-based. The crude glycerol has little market value because of its impurities. In some cases, the glycerol is refined and used in a variety of skin care and cosmetic products. However, with biodiesel production increasing, finding a market for glycerol is becoming increasingly difficult. Yu speculated that the byproduct could be used as a food substitute for yeast microbes.

“Crude glycerol is unrefined, yet microbes like yeast don’t care about the impurities,” said Yu. “We wanted to see if we could use the glycerol as feed to grow yeast and then use that yeast in dairy cattle diets.”

Yu says the biggest challenge will be finding a yeast that will grow in glycerol.

Evansville, IN to Hold E85 Grand Opening Event

Evansville, Indiana drivers are about to have another option when it comes to filling their Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). It’s E85 and it’s made from U.S. corn. It’s great for your car, better for the environment and when you burn it you’re doing your part to lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

This CountryMark fueling site will mark Vanderburgh County’s first E85 pump. A grand opening celebration will take place on Thursday, December 18 at 11 a.m. at the station located at 5015 N. St. Joseph Avenue. Speakers at the event will include: Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel; Rick Madden of Superior Ag Resources Cooperative; CountryMark Vice President of Marketing Jon Lantz; and Executive Director of the Central Indiana Clean Cities Alliance Kellie Walsh.

Currently, there are over 115 E85 fueling locations in the state of Indiana.

New Energy Secretary Involved in Ethanol Research

President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be his Secretary of Energy.

ChuDr. Chu has been heavily involved in biofuels research to find alternative and more efficient feedstocks for ethanol and biodiesel production. At a 25x’25 Renewable Energy Summit earlier this year in Omaha, Chu said, “We should look at corn as a transitional crop,” but within five to 10 years he expects scientific discoveries and refining processes could improve enough to move grasses, woody substances and waste to the head of the line for making fuels.

Obama also plans to name Carol Browner to fill a new White House post overseeing energy, environmental and climate policies. Browner was Environmental Protection Agency administrator for eight years under President Bill Clinton.

USDA Lowers Corn Usage for Ethanol

The latest World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) from USDA projects less corn being used for ethanol this year.

USDAAccording to the report released this morning, ethanol use for corn was lowered by 300 million bushels lower “as prospects for blending above federally mandated levels decline.”

Financial problems for ethanol producers are reducing plant capacity utilization for existing plants and delaying plant openings for those facilities still under construction. Falling gasoline prices have also resulted in high relative prices for ethanol, reducing blender incentives.

There is no update for corn production from USDA this month, which remains at 12 billion bushels.

First Algae-Biodiesel Commercial Flight Scheduled for January

As you might remember from my post back last March 18th, Continental Airlines promised to test a biofuel in one of its commercial jets in 2009.

Now, according to this story in Biodiesel Magazine, the company has set a date:

On Jan. 7, Continental Airlines will conduct the first algae- and jatropha-based biofuel-powered demonstration flight of a U.S. commercial airliner in Houston. Continental is partnering with The Boeing Co.; CFM International, a 50/50 joint company of General Electric Co. and Snecma; refining technology developer UOP, a Honeywell company; algae oil provider Sapphire Energy; and jatropha oil provider Terrasol.

According to Continental Airline’s press release, the flight will be the first biofuel flight by a commercial carrier using algae as a fuel source and the first using a two-engine aircraft. A Boeing 737-800 equipped with CFM International CFM56-7B engines will complete the flight.

A blend of 50 percent biofuel and 50 percent traditional jet fuel will be used in one of the two CFM engines. The aircraft will be operating under a specially-issued “Experimental” aircraft type certificate, and will be flown by Continental’s FAA-licensed test pilots. There will be no passengers on the plane.

The article goes on to say that they’ll put the algae-biodiesel through the wringer, testing the green fuel during power accelerations and decelerations, in-flight engine shut-down, restart, and other flight maneuvers that include both normal and non-normal procedures. Officials expect the fuel will be able to be substituted for regular jet fuel without any loss in performance and/or safety… while also flying greener.

Soybean Genome to Further Biodiesel

Researchers have released a draft of the soybean genome, and the information is expected to have a big impact on biodiesel development.

This press release from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) says this is expected to help the research community come up with new breeding strategies to get the most out of one biodiesel’s most popular feedstocks:

DOE JGI’s interest in sequencing the soybean centers on its use for biodiesel, a renewable, alternative fuel with the highest energy content of any alternative fuel. According to 2007 U.S. Census data, soybean is estimated to be responsible for more than 80 percent of biodiesel production.

“The genome sequence is the direct result of a memorandum of understanding between DOE and USDA to increase interagency collaboration in plant genomics,” said DOE Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach. “We are proud to support this major scientific breakthrough that will not only advance our knowledge of a key agricultural commodity but also lead to new insights into biodiesel production.”

You can see more about the soybean genome sequence at www.phytozome.net/soybean.

Biodiesel Board Educating About Green Heat

Winter weather is upon us, and furnaces across the country have been kicking in. Now, that cozy heat on those frosty days can come to you in a green style: biodiesel.

With that in mind, the National Biodiesel Board has launched Bioheatonline.com, a new Web site designed to educate customers and dealers on the beneficial properties of Bioheat® fuel… an environmentally friendly home heating oil blended with pure biodiesel:

Bioheat oil meets the increasing demand for cleaner and greener home heat. Bioheatonline.com was created with two goals in mind – to educate home heating oil customers and dealers on the benefits of Bioheat fuel, and to provide top-notch marketing tools for local heating oil dealers. With a simple, video-based approach, Bioheatonline.com features personable hosts who walk consumers through the basics of biodiesel and Bioheat fuel while explaining the benefits for our country, our environment, and our homes.

For heating oil dealers, the site provides technical resources and clear, concise information about blending and selling Bioheat heating oil. The site also encourages heating oil dealers to register online to become Bioheat dealers. Once registered, dealers are given access to professionally produced advertising and marketing materials, customizable for their market, with the help of the Shaw Company, the campaign’s creator and authorized facilitator. In addition to marketing materials, dealers have access to the Bioheat hotline at 877-B5-1-LINE, where they can discuss technical and market issues with the industry professionals at Advanced Fuel Solutions led by Paul Nazzaro, Sr.

There are more than 100 Bioheat fuel dealers nationwide, and that number is growing.