POET Wants LIBERTY From Foreign Oil

Jeff BroinJeff Broin is CEO of POET and his company just continues to make innovations in the ethanol production business. Lately they’ve been very focused on what they call Project LIBERTY. The goal is to make cellulosic ethanol out of corn cobs. The company held a field day to showcase some of the equipment that companies like John Deere, Case IH and others are developing to assist with the harvest and collection of this biomass that’s left over after harvesting the grain.

Forbes magazine calls Jeff, Mr. Ethanol and has a nice article on him titled “Mr. Ethanol Fights Back” in their latest edition. I spoke with him today about Project LIBERTY. He says they’re not only adding 100 million gallons of grain ethanol production to the Emmetsburg plant but an addition 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol production from corn cobs. They will begin construction on these additions late next year and will have the cellulosic production going by 2011.

Jeff says they’ve invested millions of dollars in the cellulosic ethanol process and have been working with ag equipment OEM’s on corn cob collection. I’ll have more interviews coming up on the various ways they’re doing that. One thing this effort to grow ethanol production from corn cobs does is show the close connection between agriculture and the renewable fuel business. Jeff says cellulosic ethanol production from corn cobs can potentially produce an additional 5 billions gallons of the fuel which would replace a significant portion of the fuel we have to import from foreign countries. He says that’s good for America and the future of our country.

You can see photos of today’s event here: Project LIBERTY Field Day Photo Album. I’ll have a lot more tomorrow. Right now I’ve got a long drive home.

You can listen to my interview with Jeff here:

You can also download the interview with this link (mp3).

POETry In Action

POET EmmetsburgAs I was driving into Emmetsburg, IA last night I saw this plant off in the distance. I’m pretty sure this is the POET Emmetsburg ethanol plant. Actually, it’s the AGP soybean processing plant. The POET plant is behind it from the direction I took the photo. I’m here in town for today’s Project LIBERTY field day. We’re supposed to see some field demonstrations but it rained last night and it’s raining right now so we’ll see what happens. Here’s some information about the field day from a recent POET news release.

Farmers next month will see first-hand how equipment manufacturers are responding to the latest advancement in ethanol production and the new revenue opportunity for farmers: harvesting corn cobs for cellulosic ethanol production.

POET hosts Project LIBERTY Field Day Nov. 6 in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The event, which is open to the public, will bring equipment manufacturers large and small together with farmers at POET Biorefining – Emmetsburg to show prototype equipment for efficiently harvesting corn cobs. Farmers will have the chance to talk with equipment dealers and see prototype equipment in action.

Renewables Have Mixed Results at Polls

Renewable energy proposals had mixed results in yesterday’s elections, with Missouri easily passing one measure but California rejecting two others.

This entry from the InformationWeek blog has details:

In Missouri, Proposition C was passed, requiring investor-owned electric utilities “to generate or purchase electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, and hydropower with the renewable energy sources equaling at least 2% of retail sales by 2011 increasing incrementally to at least 15% by 2021, including at least 2% from solar energy; and restricting to no more than 1% any rate increase to consumers for this renewable energy.”

In California, Proposition 7 on renewable energy generation was handily defeated. With 77% of precincts reporting, the measure lost by a 2-to-1 margin. Likewise, Proposition 10 failed by a wide margin. Had it been approved, Proposition 10 would, according to the official voter information guide, “eliminate a credit that allows oil and gas companies to deduct property taxes from severance taxes. The change would bring in an estimated $321 million in the first year, with most going to college scholarships, plus communities affected by energy development, wildlife habitat, and clean energy projects.”

California’s Prop 10 came under fire from some environmental groups… as well as some readers of this blog (see my post from Oct. 18th and the associated comments). Just a quick note to all readers: I’m not necessarily promoting any of the items I blog about. I just want to make you aware of these items. It’s up to you to evaluate these things for yourself (whether a ballot measure or some new product). I blog… you decide.

One VeraSun Plant Opening Delayed

The opening of one VeraSun ethanol plant is now in limbo since the company filed for bankruptcy.

VeraSunVeraSun announced that it is indefinitely delaying the startup of its 110 million gallon per year ethanol biorefinery in Janesville, Minnesota but will continue operations at its 14 facilities across an eight-state region.

Construction on the Janesville facility is nearly completed and the plant was scheduled to begin operations prior to the end of the year. Construction began in January 2007 and ownership of the plant moved under VeraSun following its merger with US BioEnergy in April. VeraSun started operations at three other plants recently in July, August and September.

ADM and Brazilian Company to Produce Sugarcane Ethanol

ADMArcher Daniels Midland Company and Brazilian agricultural company Grupo Cabrera have formed a joint venture to produce ethanol from sugarcane.

The joint venture will construct two processing complexes, each consisting of a sugarcane plantation, a sugar mill, an ethanol distillery and a biomass- powered cogeneration facility to provide power and steam. The complexes will be located in Limeira Do Oeste in the state of Minas Gerais, and Jatai in Goias. Upon completion, each mill will have crush capacity of three million metric tons annually.

USDA Under Secretary Resigns

The exodus of appointees under the Bush Administration has begun.

Tom DorrU.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer today announced the resignation of Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr.

“Tom Dorr has been a transformational leader for USDA Rural Development,” Schafer said. “As the transition to a new Administration continues in the months ahead, senior leaders will be moving on, but Under Secretary Dorr’s contributions to USDA and rural America will be felt for many years to come.”

Dorr has been a proponent of biofuels helping rural economies and has been a regular speaker at renewable energy conferences over the past several years. A native of Marcus, Iowa, Tom Dorr joined USDA in 2001, serving as USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development and Senior Advisor to the Secretary. He was appointed in December 2005 by then-Secretary Mike Johanns to chair the USDA Energy Council and served as co-chair of the Federal Biomass Research and Development Board.

His resignation is effective December 1. No word yet on where he will be going.

Ethanol Pleased with Election Results

The Renewable Fuels Association wasted no time today in congratulating Barack Obama on his victory.

RFA“Throughout this campaign, President-elect Obama has reiterated that American farmers and ethanol producers are a critical component of our national strategy to help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil,” RFA said in a news release. “We look forward to working with an Obama Administration and members of Congress from both sides of the aisle to ensure the full potential of America’s home grown ethanol industry is realized.”

EPICThe Ethanol Promotion and Information Council is pleased with “the role energy independence played in the 2008 presidential election.” Executive director Toni Nuernberg says that in this time of great uncertainty, it is time for the country to work together. “Our fight for Energy Independence should rival the efforts and sacrifices expended at other critical moments in our nation’s history; times when Americans pulled together not only by rationing and conserving, but thinking creatively, experimenting to develop new innovations and efficiencies, abandoning tradition, and working side‐by‐side to get the job done,” Nuernberg said.

In his so-called “closing arguments” in the Wall Street Journal this week, Obama said he would “invest $15 billion a year over the next decade in renewable energy, creating five million new, green jobs that pay well, can’t be outsourced, and can help end our dependence on Middle East oil.” The ethanol industry is reading that as good news for the next four years.

Ethanol and an Obama Presidency

What will an Obama presidency mean for ethanol and other biofuels?

VeraSun ObamaIn August of 2007, when no one was really expecting him to even get the Democratic nomination, Obama headlined the grand opening of VeraSun’s Charles City, Iowa ethanol plant. At the time he said that ethanol “ultimately helps our national security because right now we’re sending billions of dollars to some of the most hostile nations on earth, and makes it more difficult for us to shape a foreign policy that is intelligent and is creating security for the long term.”

About a month ago, Obama granted an interview to farm brodcaster Stewart Doan with Agri-Pulse who quizzed him on a number of agricultural issues, including biofuels. “I’ve been a strong supporter of biofuels in the past and a Renewable Fuels Standard,” Obama said. “What I do believe though is, given the pressure that we’re seeing on food crops and how that’s affecting feed prices, I do think that it is important for us to recognize that we need to move into things like switchgrass and cellulosic ethanol and we need to work with farmers to figure out how can we produce ethanol from non-food sources that would allow farmers to increase their incomes, would continue to improve rural economies, would help us with our dependence on foreign oil and would reduce climate change, but would not put so much pressure on feed prices.”

Listen to the Agri-Pulse interview with Obama here:

Underwriters Laboratory to Approve E85 Dispensing Equipment in 2009

Two years ago, Underwriters Laboratory (UL) rescinded certification on E85 dispensing products. According to Ethanol Producer Magazine, Gilbarco Veeder-Root and Dresser Wayne have each submitted pumps (Dresser Wayne dispenser shown left) for E85 UL certification and it is expected that there will be certification in 2009.

According to Scott Negley, Dresser Wayne’s director of product management for North America and secretary on the board of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, the equipment his company manufactures has already passed UL’s required testing procedures for E85. All equipment on the dispenser must be certified, however, and that is what the industry is now waiting for. “Until you get a full set of components certified, we are not allowed to put a label—a certification mark—on our dispenser because the system lacks certification,” Negley says. He says that dispensing hoses will most likely be the last piece of equipment to be certified.

Gilbarco’s Richard Browne, vice president of North American marketing, said, “Our flexible-fuel unit has special material coating and elastomers that will stand up to the aggressive/corrosive nature of high alcohol fuels,” Browne says. “Every component in the dispenser that comes in contact with the fuel has been upgraded.” Gilbarco’s dispenser expects UL approval by the end of this year.

Biodiesel, Wind & Solar Powered Hotel Offers True “Green” Acres

Looking to get away from it all… including the dependence on foreign oil? Well, a cozy little hotel on Virginia’s Eastern Shore might just be the ticket for you.

This story from The Chief Engineer says Thomas “Spess” Neblett, the owner and creator of The Neptune Vacation Suite Apartments in the quiet little town of Onley, Va. (population 450), says besides the quirky, 1960’s retro feel to the place, guests are enjoying a truly green vacation with alternative energy powering the place:

“We absolutely have to get off this addiction to oil and fossil fuels,” he said. “It’s killing us.”

So this year he started researching, and in June solar panels went up, the wind turbines were placed on the balcony and he started brewing biodiesel from waste oils and grease collected from local restaurants.

Neblett pays 10 restaurants for their grease, which he then dewaters and filters and later sells in recycled pickle barrels as Gassux.

He describes the Neptune as “the only solar- and wind-powered accommodation on the Eastern Shore” which is partially true; his inn is partially powered by those renewable sources, though the suites remain tied to traditional electricity.

The Neptune is not the only “green hotel” on the Eastern Shore, either. Hoping to take advantage of increasing environmental awareness, more than a dozen inns, hotels and bed-and-breakfasts now participate in the “Virginia Green” program, in which they pledge to reuse, recycle and reduce, according to the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission.

The article goes on to say that Neblett has built his own windmills to power the place and shares his knowledge with anyone who asks… even if you’re not a guest. Neblett says the turbines cost him about $100 each to build. Five are already up, and he’s hoping for more.

You can check out the place by clicking on its website: www.neptuneva.com.

PA. Biodiesel Mandate Awaits Sustained Triggers

Pennsylvania’s 2 percent biodiesel mandate, passed earlier this year, is on hold, despite the fact that the state is meeting a 40-million-gallon-a-year biodiesel production threshold.

This story from Biodiesel Magazine explains that there are some certification and sustainability measures that must also be met for the requirement to kick in:

Conditions that need to be met above and beyond the in-state volume requirements include certification that the biodiesel meets ASTM D6751 quality standards and installation of the necessary infrastructure, [John Nikoloff, a partner with the Pennsylvania Energy Resources Group LLC] said. “There is no storage infrastructure – storage facilities are not in place in the southeast part of the state,” Nikoloff told the conference audience. “There needs to be heated tanks with nitrogen blankets on top, so until that happens the mandate doesn’t take effect.”

Implementation of the Pennsylvania B2 mandate is under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. [Ben Wootten, Pennsylvania Biodiesel Producers Group spokesman and Keystone Biofuels Inc. president] explained how the process is intended to work. “When in-state production reaches 40 MMgy, they’ll look at us for three months and if they annualize those figures and it reaches the 40 MMgy threshold, then the trigger starts,” Wootten said. “The trigger is a 12-month waiting period so if it takes us six to 12 months to prove we meet the trigger point, then there’s 12 months until the mandate is enforced.” The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture may look at production numbers dating back to January, Wootten said, adding that if in-state production met the threshold then, it could count towards the trigger period.

The article goes on to say that the two men disagree on whether some of the infrastructure requirements at the pumps are delaying the implementation of the mandate as well.

Mini-Refiner Produces Ethanol and Biodiesel

Texas-based Allard Research and Development is now selling the “world’s first mini-refinery” for consumer use that produces both ethanol and biodiesel.

This post from the gas2.0 blog says it can crank out up to 120 gallons per day of ethanol and 450 gallons per day of biodiesel:

Consisting of two pieces of equipment — an ethanol boiler and the mini-refinery — the whole system can fit into an area of less than 30 square feet with 8 feet of clearance and is completely automated.

According to Adam Allard, President of Allard Research and Development, the EB120 ethanol boiler is their “core” product, acting as the “heart” of their systems. The AFS125 mini-refinery uses the boiler as part of its system, but the boiler and mini-refinery are sold separately.

The mini-refinery is computer touch screen controlled and features an Apple Mac Mini as its primary automation computer. When the boiler and the mini-refinery are used together, the Mac Mini also controls the boiler operation.

While the unit is designed for consumers, its $29,000 price tag (plus another grand for the separately-sold boiler) makes it a bit cost-prohibitive for the homebrewer just trying to save a few bucks on his gas bill. But for businesses, municipalities, farms, and even maybe some large home users, which would use the 120 gallons of ethanol and/or 450 gallons of biodiesel a day, this could be a good fit… maybe even saving you up to $500,000 a year.

Check it out for yourself on the Allard Research website: www.allardresearch.com/afs125.html.

B100 EcoJet On Display at SEMA Show

SEMA ShowThe Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) is holding their annual show in Las Vegas and Jay Leno’s Ecojet is on display. Besides the team from Jay Leno’s Garage, Joe Jobe, NBB CEO is also there to speak with the media and attendees. This is not a consumer show btw.

I just spoke with Joe via Skype from my computer to his mobile phone on the show floor. He says it’s a big show and the “sassy” Ecojet is a big attraction for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it runs on B100 and is totally environmentally friendly. I think the fact that it’s a Corvette with a jet engine also has something to do with it too.

You can listen to my interview with Joe here:

Or you can download the interview with this link (12 min. mp3 file).

Joe and the NBB have continued a working relationship with Jay Leno that started with New Holland’s involvement about a year and a half ago out in Jay Leno’s Garage. Since then Jay’s car has toured the country touting the benefits of biodiesel and raising awareness for the renewable fuel.

Besides working with Jay Leno I know that NBB and New Holland have also begun a relationship with Rolling Stones keyboardist, Chuck Leavell, whom I’ve met and interviewed several times. Joe also speaks to the importance of having a music celebrity like him involved in spreading the word about biodiesel.

Ethanol Demand Continues to Outpace Production

According to the latest Energy Information Administration figures, ethanol facilities were producing 647,000 barrels per day in August, up from 614,000 in July.

RFAThe Renewable Fuels Association reports that demand continued to outpace production, with demand in August calculated at 661,000 barrels per day, which exceeds 10 billion gallons a year. “This demand is approaching the legal limit of ethanol allowed, known colloquially as the “blend wall.'” according to RFA. “In order to achieve the full promise offered by America’s ethanol industry, expanding markets for ethanol is critical.”

RFA notes that the growth in ethanol production in August came amid declining corn prices that today are half of what they were at their peak in late June, which “erodes the argument of livestock, poultry and food processing companies that have argued ethanol is responsible for the dramatic increase in food prices.”

There was also a dramatic increase in ethanol imports for August, which RFA says is due to importers seeking to capitalize on the final days of a loophole in trade regulations known as the duty drawback. This provision allows for the import of ethanol and the export of another fuel, like jet fuel, to recapture the $0.54 tariff placed on foreign ethanol imports.

Biomass Ethanol Website Launched

A web site dedicated to the exchange of information on switchgrass and other biomass energy crops has been launched at BiomassConnections.com.

Biomass Connections“The focus of the site is to allow producers and stakeholders to openly share ideas and experiences gleaned from raising and marketing switchgrass and other biomass energy crops,” says site host and switchgrass farmer Andy Bater.

“Our intention with Biomass Connections is to provide a nationwide agricultural forum where producers can share their experiences raising switchgrass or other biomass, good or otherwise. We want our visitors to tell other growers on the bulletin board about the perennial grasses like switchgrass or miscanthus that they are already growing, or of their interest in harvesting woody biomass from poplar or willows to use for renewable energy. We would also love to hear from farmers raising more traditional crops like corn, since corn stover and corn cob waste are already playing a key transitional role in the development of second generation ethanol.”

Bater, who left a 25-year career in electronic media to return to the farm, says the site will initially be advertiser free and he will serve as moderator to postings that are made.