The Andersons Marathon Ethanol Plant Starts Production

MarathonThe Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio.

AndersonsThis is the third ethanol plant investment for The Andersons, according to CEO Mike Anderson. “Locating in Darke County, the largest corn-producing county in the state, is ideal and the community’s reception has been exceptional. In addition to providing a viable alternative fuel source for our country, we look forward to serving the local farming community through corn sourcing and high-quality distillers dried grains.”

Gary R. Heminger, executive vice president of Marathon Oil Corporation says the Greenville facility is the largest ethanol plant in Ohio. “Marathon is one of the first U.S. oil companies to initiate its own ethanol production operations,” said Heminger. “Marathon has been blending ethanol fuels for more than 15 years and is among the largest blenders of ethanol in the United States.”

Ethanex Inks Deal to Buy Nebraska Plant

Ethanex Ethanex Energy has finalized an agreement to buy Midwest Renewable Energy in Sutherland, Neb., for $220 million in cash and Ethanex stock. The deal was first announced last November.

According to a company release, the existing plant, which has a production capacity of 26 million gallons per year, is currently undergoing a two-phase expansion, after which its total projected plant capacity will be 111 million gallons a year.

That’s Trillion – with a “T”

A new analysis by Cambridge Energy Research Associates estimates that $7 trillion in new investment is expected to flow into the alternative energy industry before 2030.

That’s TRILLION with a T.

GulfAccording to the report, “increasing public concerns about climate change — and its potential economic and political security consequences — are driving public policy and private investment to bring clean energy technologies from the fringes of the global energy industry to the center of activities as quickly as possible.”

The result of this rising public and private momentum is an increase in worldwide clean energy investment that could surpass US$7 trillion by 2030 in cumulative real 2007 dollars, according to the CERA report Crossing the Divide: The Future of Clean Energy. “We are seeing a major shift in public opinion, reinforced by the expectation that carbon policies could fundamentally change the competitive landscape of the global energy business,” said Daniel Yergin, CERA Chairman and IHS Executive Vice President. “This is providing a vital impetus that is moving clean technology across the great divide of cost, proven results, scale and maturity that has separated it from markets served by mainstream technologies and processes.”

The analysis looks at a variety of alternative energy sources, including biomass, solar and wind.

The Makers of “Fields of Fuel”

Josh Tickell and Greg ReitmanThe man behind the movie “Fields of Fuel” attended the National Biodiesel Conference this week in Orlando and held a private screening for the biodiesel-based film that won critical acclaim at the recent Sundance Film Festival.

Josh Tickell, who has been a biodiesel backer for more than a decade, is tickled that his labor of love was chosen for the Audience Award for Best Documentary Film at the Sundance.

“Of the thousands films that were submitted, the 16 that got in, ‘Fields of Fuel’ was the number one audience choice,” he said in an interview with Domestic Fuel after the screening. “It felt pretty fantastic to walk up on stage and get the award.”

“Fields of Fuel” producer Greg Reitman says they are now looking ahead to getting the film into other festivals. “From that point on, Josh will basically do a 50 city tour around the country and we will essentially be in theaters by mid-May.” He says there are several major theatrical distributors looking at the film now.

The film, which highlights both biodiesel and ethanol, has been years in the making and a number of industry sponsors aided in the effort including: Nova Biosource Fuels, Solazyme, BBI International, Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, Renewable Energy Group, Earth Biofuels, and John Deere.

You can listen to the full interview with Josh and Greg here:

GM Bets on E-85

GM E85General Motors unveiled the 2009 FlexFuel Chevy HHR this week at the Chicago Auto Show, a small SUV that will be the first four-cylinder model in General Motors Corp.’s North American lineup that can run on straight gasoline or blends of up to 85 percent ethanol.

In a speech at the show, GM North America President Troy Clarke stressed the auto maker’s commitment to ethanol.

“We will continue to make more of our lineup FlexFuel-capable because we believe ethanol, and specifically E85, is the best near-term answer to reduce our nation’s dependence on oil as energy demand rises here and around the world,” Clarke said.

“The focus needs to be on making E85 more available by developing cellulosic ethanol sources and dramatically increasing the number of stations that offer E85,” he said.

GM is the auto industry leader in offering FlexFuel models – 11 for 2008 and more than 15 planned for 2009. GM already has 2.5 million ethanol-capable vehicles on the road and hopes to have 20 million in service by 2020.

LifeLine to Supply Indy Fuel

Indy logoLifeLine Foods of St. Joseph, Missouri will join forces with the IndyCar® Series for the 2008 season as the official supplier of the 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol used in all IndyCar Series cars.

lifeline foodsLifeLine Foods is a unique company that uses corn to produce food and fuel. One portion of the kernel is processed and marketed to the food industry while the remainder of the corn kernel is used for, among other things, cattle feed and energy needs. Utilizing a bran energy recovery system, total plant energy needs will be reduced by approximately 50 percent. This method insures that the company is getting the most value out of corn, benefiting the agriculture, food and ethanol industries.

EPIC logoLifeLine was contracted by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) to supply approximately 120,000 gallons of the fuel to the IndyCar Series. With the transition to an ethanol-blend in 2006 and then 100% fuel-grade ethanol in 2007, the IndyCar Series was the first motorsports league to require use of a renewable fuel.

NEVC Board Meeting

The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition held its 2008 Annual Board of Directors meeting in St. Louis February 4 and 5.

At the meeting, two new board members and five executive officers were elected.

NEVCThe 2008 NEVC Executive Officers include: Chairman Bernie Punt, Siouxland Energy Livestock and Coop; Vice-Chairman Dwayne Siekman, Ohio Corn Growers Association; Secretary Scott Negley, Dresser Wayne; and Treasurer Roger Moore, Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

The new board members for 2008 are Kevin Kuykendall, president of White Energy, and Ray Hutchinson, vice president of Business Development for Gilbarco Veeder-Root.

Chairman Punt said, “As the 2008 Chairman of the NEVC, I look forward to establishing a relationship with the diverse group of their representing members. Working together will allow this organization to meet the challenges involved with introducing E85 into the marketplace and increasing ethanol use; and decreasing the country’s dependency on foreign oil.”

Secretary of Agriculture Biofuels Message To Livestock Producers

Me and Sec. EdOur Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Schafer, made his first major public policy speech today at the Cattle Industry Convention in Reno, NV. I had the pleasure of meeting him and talked someone into snapping a photo too. I thought you might be interested in hearing an audio clip from his speech here this morning since he hit the subject of high feed prices and renewable energy head on.

Basically, he said that with the growth of cellulosic ethanol production there should be an easing of feed price pressure within a short time as the technology and non-food stocks form of ethanol production continues to rapidly develop.

Sec. SchaferHe says there’s no way we can get away from the reality of the need to become more energy independent here in America.

He does admit that there will be higher feed prices in the short term but he stressed that the President’s energy bill provides an outline toward the future which is cellulosic.

You can listen to Secretary Schafer’s comments here:

Growing a Seed for Biodiesel and Plastics

danforthmetabolix.jpgA Massachusetts biotechnology company has joined with a Missouri research firm to develop an oilseed that can produce both biodiesel and plastics.

And this story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Metabolix Inc. and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will get some money from the state of Missouri to work on the idea:

“It’s exactly what the civic leadership in St. Louis has been positioning St. Louis and the state to become,” said Rob Monsees, executive director of the Missouri Technology Corp., which gave a $1.14 million state grant to the project. “Metabolix is hopefully the first of many examples of plant biotechnology companies that are going to be finding their way to Missouri.”

Scientists from the company and the Danforth Center are working to genetically modify certain oilseeds to produce plastic polymers as they grow. Once harvested, the crop would be broken down into oil for biodiesel refineries and polymers for the production of bioplastics that break down into environmentally friendly waste.

Bioplastics — plastic derived from plant or microbial sources, rather than petroleum — would provide biodiesel facilities with a valuable co-product that they could sell to offset the cost of producing fuel for autos and trucks.

“This is an opportunity that’s potentially very good in terms of the economics,” said Oliver Peoples, Metabolix co-founder and chief scientific officer.

The work will go on near the Danforth Center near St. Louis with plans to open a pilot plant in 2011.

Biodiesel Conference Wraps Up with Feedstock Forum

biodieselconference.gifProbably the biggest issue facing biodiesel producers today is what to use as a feedstock. With soybean prices going through the roof, refiners are trying to find additional feedstocks. During the recent National Biodiesel Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida, the last general morning session focused on the question of what to use for the green fuel.

The forum, led by Alan Weber, economic consultant to National Biodiesel Board, with Dr. Jack Brown from the University of Idaho, Keith Bruinsma, Vice President of Corporate Development for ethanol producer VersaSun, John Sheehan, Vice President of Strategy and Sustainability for Live Fuels, and John Soper, Senior Research Director for Soybean Product Development for Pioneer International.

nbbfeedstock.jpgBrown, who is Scottish, brought a European perspective and made the case for feedstocks made from non-traditional (at least in America) oilseeds, such as rapeseed. Bruinsma talked about how you can also get biodiesel from the same grain of corn used to make ethanol, while Soper talked about high oil corn and soybean seeds his company is developing. Sheehan, whose company makes biodiesel from algae, pointed out that they can get thousands of gallons for every acre of green pond scum they grow.

But most importantly, all of them agreed that ALL of the feedstocks are necessary, and no one gets ahead by tearing down the other guy. It wa’s a good point, and a great discussion.

Listen to some of that discussion here:

You can read more about what happened this week in Orlando by going to the conference blog.

Biofuels Put on Defensive Again

Biofuels were put on the defensive once again as the journal Science published new studies that claim biofuels are worse for global warming than fossil fuels.

Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen issued a statement which said the studies took a simplistic view of land use.

RFA“Understanding the land use changes occurring around the globe is important to developing strategies to combat the advance of climate change. However, like previous studies, those published in Science today fail to put the issue in context. Assigning the blame for rainforest deforestation and grassland conversion to agriculture production solely to the renewable fuels industry ignores key factors that play a greater role. The continued growth of the global population, surging global demand for food from expanding middle classes in China and India, and continued expansion of development and urban sprawl are all factors contributing to the increased demand for arable acres.”

The Washington Post quotes Brent Erickson, executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s industrial and environmental section.

“It makes no sense to continue burning fossil carbon, which is essentially carbon that has already been sequestered for millions of years in the Earth’s crust, and which when burned releases carbon dioxide and also creates a carbon debt that can never be paid back,” he said. “It is much more logical to produce biofuels that recycle carbon, even if a short-term carbon debt is created. Even if it’s 167 years, you’re still better off than burning oil that can never be paid off.”

The studies are making the claim that even alternative feedstocks like switchgrass would lead to increased global warming because more land would be cleared to grow more crops.

U. of Washington Moving Up to B20 and Beyond

washington.GIFThe University of Washington, already running its diesel vehicles on 5 percent biodiesel, is moving its mix up to a 20 percent blend… with plans to use an even higher percentage in the future.

This story in the university’s newspaper, The Daily, is wrapping up a trial period started in 2006 with just the 5 percent blend:

“The UW Motor Pool is going to start using B20 in the next few weeks, and there are plans for B90 in the future,” said Ari Kasapyan, marketing and communications manager at the UW Motor Pool.

The move to B20 in the coming weeks places the UW Motor Pool ahead of schedule on the biodiesel front. The spring 2006 UW Motor Pool newsletter, the first to outline plans for the implementation of biodiesel, pegged the starting date of the B20 biodiesel blends in 2009.

All of these changes are coming along as part of the Green Fleet Initiative for the University, originally authored by David Carr, the manager of Motor Pool Operations. The initiative covers a vast range of recycling, sustainability and other “green” policies meant to reduce the environmental impact of the University’s day-to-day operations.

“Each of us must be the change agent that moves the sustainability effort forward,” Carr said upon the creation of the Green Fleet Initiative.

The Green Fleet Initiative also includes a car-sharing program by the motor pool, along with replacing outgoing vehicles with hybrid and high-mileage ones.

Ethanol Education Pack and Contests

EPIC kids stuffThe science of ethanol can now be taught in the classroom in an informative and entertaining way with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council’s (EPIC) new educational fun pack and student contests.

The pack includes six different units for teachers – English, geography, science, math, vocabulary, and social studies. It also includes lots of fun stuff like the “How Ethanol is Made” video, several in-class activities including a crossword puzzle, word find and quiz, wristbands, environmental clings, children’s books, t-shirts and five Team Ethanol IndyCar® Series die-cast cars.

In addition, EPIC is sponsoring ethanol essay, podcast and coloring contests for students. Teachers who teach 4th through 6th grade can go online to to order their free educational materials and find out about the contests.

US BioEnergy and VeraSun Pick Sioux Falls

VeraSunVeraSun Energy and US BioEnergy will be moving in together later this year to start life as a merged company in Sioux Falls, SD.

US BioenergyThe two companies announced plans to get hitched back in late November and the marriage is expected to be finalized by the end of the first quarter of 2008, with the completion of the transition to the new headquarters targeted for the end of the summer. VeraSun is currently located in Brookings, SD while US BioEnergy is headquartered in St. Paul, MN.

Don Endres, VeraSun Chairman and CEO said “The primary objectives in determining a final location included the ability to retain and recruit an expanded workforce, the overall cost of doing business, proximity to our growing fleet of ethanol production facilities, access to travel and quality of life for our employees. When we evaluated all of the criteria, Sioux Falls emerged as the best location to meet our business objectives.”

Gordon Ommen, US BioEnergy President and CEO and future VeraSun Chairman said “Our biorefineries in Minnesota and South Dakota will employ hundreds of people and contribute significantly to agricultural markets and local and regional businesses and industries.”

Coskata Teams With ICM for First Plant

Next generation ethanol company Coskata on Wednesday announced an agreement with ICM Inc. to design and construct a commercial ethanol plant using Coskata’s biological fermentation technology.

CoskataLast month, the young company made a splash at the North American international Auto Show in Detroit where a strategic partnership with General Motors was announced.

Bill Roe, president and CEO of Coskata said, “Coskata and ICM will speed the commercialization of a process that will convert biomass into advanced biofuels from a number of renewable materials, at a production cost of less than $1 a gallon.”

ICMAccording to Dave Vander Griend, president and CEO of ICM Coskata’s thermal biomass conversion process offers promising technology.

“It has always been ICM’s mission to help sustain agriculture through innovation,” Vander Griend said. “Coskata’s production process makes them a valuable ally as we continue to pursue advancements in renewable technology towards the creation of advanced and cellulosic biofuels as directed by the recent Energy Bill.”

The location of the first Coskata plant will be announced at a later date, but officials say they expect the facility to open in 2010.