ATRI Releases Fleet Fuel Economy Survey

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

A new fleet fuel economy and fuel usage study has found that the median fleet-wide fuel economy of 6.5 miles per gallon is being achieved through a number of technologies including biodiesel. The survey was released by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and was sponsored by ExxonMobil. For truck-tractors, aluminum wheels, speed limiters and low rolling resistance tires were reported as the most common fuel-saving technologies. For trailers, low rolling resistance tires, aluminum wheels and weight-saving technologies were identified as the most common technologies.

Nearly 100 fleet managers participated in the study and provided views on current and future trends in fuel technologies. They also offered their opinions on alternative fuels. Respondents represented more than 114,500 heavy-duty truck-tractors and nearly 350,000 trailers.

The report, “A Survey of Fuel Economy and Fuel Usage by Heavy-Duty Truck Fleets,” found limited use of alternative fuels with biodiesel blends including B5, B10 and B20, identified as the most common alternative fuel being used today. The survey found that fleet managers generally see the top advantages of specific alternative fuels as lower in cost, cleaner (reduced emissions), and more available than other alternative fuels. Respondents indicated the disadvantages of using fuels include availability or infrastructure for distribution, increased cost overall and possibly lowering fuel economy for their fleet.


“This report shows which technologies fleets are using and which ones they are more skeptical about,” said Steve Niswander, vice president, safety policy & regulatory relations with Groendyke Transport, Inc. and Chairman of ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee. “It also serves to highlight the difficulties fleets face when deciding which technologies are the best investments.”

advance biofuels, Alternative energy, Biodiesel, Fleet

Ames Lab to Develop Imaging to Study Plant Walls

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

The saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is being put to the test with research funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to deconstruct plant cell walls as a means of learning how to more effectively convert plant material into bioenergy. The project has been awarded $1 million per year for three years.

emily-smith-300The research will be conducted at Ames Laboratory and led by Emily Smith, Ames Lab scientist. The goal of the study is to develop a subdiffraction Raman imaging platform. This platform, said Smith, will provide an unprecedented look at the specific chemical structures of plant cell walls. From there, the researchers will determine how best to deconstruct plant material as as source of biofuels. (In other news, DOE lab Oak Ridge National Laboratory is researching how to deconstruct plant walls using a supercomputer.)

The problem we have is that we can only get spatial resolution of a couple hundred nanometers due to the diffraction of light,” Smith explained, who is also an Iowa State University associate professor of chemistry. “When we look at plant cell walls at that resolution, we lose information about specific chemical details. At best, we get an average of the composition. However, if we can get to the subdiffraction level as we propose to do, it will open up new avenues to understanding the details of the cell walls. The trick,” continued Smith, “is to apply laser pulses in the right way so that you gain the resolution you need without destroying the sample in the process.

According to Smith, the instrument will be unlike anything currently available used to study biomass. To build such a complex instrument, she is working with pulsed laser spectroscopy expert Jacob Petrich, as well as computational and theoretical expert Xueyu Song, both Ames Laboratory scientists and ISU chemistry professors. The instrument has its origins in the class of super-resolution imaging methods referred to as stimulated emission depletion (STED).

We’ll be collaborating with (Ames Laboratory scientist) Tanya Prozorov who has been doing in situ correlative optical and electron microscopy on biological samples in their natural, fully hydrated state,” Smith said. “By comparing our chemical analysis results with the high-resolution images Tanya can provide, we hope to better interpret what we’re seeing in these natural polymer structures.”

The team also will obtain input on plant cell walls and biomass from Olga Zabotina, Ames Laboratory scientist and ISU associate professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, looking primarily at Arabidopsis and Brachypodium transgenic plants with modified cell walls, which were generated in the Zabotina lab as a toolset to understand cell wall impacts on plant fitness and biomass quality.

The group will also eventually investigate what happens as microbial action breaks down the plant cell walls. Ames Laboratory scientist and ISU assistant professor of Chemical and Biological engineering Zengyi Shao will provide a variety of microbes and enzymes, to identify and possibly tailor the ones that provide the best pathways to break down the cell wall structures into the most advantageous materials for biomass conversion.

biofuels, biomass, Ethanol, Research

RFA Offering NEC Student Scholarships

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-10-28-26-pmOnce again the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is offering six scholarships for college students interested in learning more about ethanol by attending the National Ethanol Conference (NEC). The annual event will take place February 20-22, 2017 in San Diego, California. Scholarships will cover the cost of the conference registration fee of $899. Recipients are responsible for other costs including travel airfare, hotel and meals.

The NEC is the most widely attended ethanol industry conference and provides an exclusive opportunity to directly engage key decision makers and industry executives,” said Bob Sather, chairman of the Renewable Fuels Foundation and chairman of ACE Ethanol. “This scholarship is an incentive to provide students with a real live experience with worldwide leaders in the ethanol industry. The conference is the best classroom for these students to learn and network.

The 2017 NEC theme is “Building Partnerships, Growing Markets.” The event offers students the opportunity to receive an in-depth look into the ethanol industry, as speakers are set to address such topics as higher ethanol blends, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), E15 and global marketing.

Interested students should submit a 500-word essay explaining how their attendance at the NEC will help them achieve their future goals. They should also submit two letters of recommendation, an up-to-date resume, and a school transcript. Scholarships are only available to students who are attending a U.S. institution of higher learning or foreign students who are affiliated with the U.S. ethanol industry.

For full consideration, applications must be received by Dec. 23, 2016. Application materials can be found here.

biofuels, Ethanol, Ethanol News, National Ethanol Conference, RFA

ORNL Researchers Deconstruct Biomass for #Ethanol

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

Better methods for deconstructing biomass will lead to more efficient conversion to biofuels; however, this is one of the most complex processes in bioenergy technologies. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have already uncovered information about how woody plants and waste biofuels can be converted more readily into biofuels. Now the team may have come one step closer to solving this riddle with the discovery of the chemical details behind the process.

An illustration that demonstrates how THF (orange) and water (blue) phase separate on the surface of cellulose (green), thus facilitating its breakdown. Image credit: Barmak Mostofian

The research team is using computer simulations to study the chemistry of biomass deconstruction. Collaborators from the BioEnergy Science Center previously developed a pretreatment method for breaking down biomass that initiates delignification, the removal of the rigid plant molecule lignin. The cosolvent enhanced lignocellulose fractionation pretreatment involves aqueous solutions of tetrahydrofuran (THF), a versatile organic solvent. This cosolvent mixture uniquely interacts with cellulose, the main structural component of plant cell walls, to enable its breakdown.

Celluolose must be broken down in order to be converted into ethanol. Therefore if scientists can better understand how this process occurs, then they will be able to improve current pre-treatment methods or even find new solvents to boost the process.

As a means to discovery the chemicals involved in the breakdown of biomass, Smith’s team created models of up to 330,000 atoms and ran simulations on ORNL’s flagship supercomputer—the Cray XK7 Titan located at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF). They found that the THF–water cosolvent phase separates on the faces of the crystalline cellulose fiber. These faces are distinct regions with which certain enzymes or molecules can interact. During the phase separation, THF preferentially binds to the hydrophobic, or “water-fearing,” faces of cellulose, and water preferentially binds to the hydrophilic, or “water-loving,” faces. THF enhances the binding of water molecules to the bonds that link two sugar molecules, which can potentially increase hydrolysis, the chemical breakdown of cellulose by water.

We saw this phase separation, and we knew it might mean there was chemistry that was taking place on the surface that we hadn’t observed, that we hadn’t considered before,” said Micholas Smith, a CMB postdoctoral researcher.

The team also discovered that when they broke the cellulose apart, single chains of cellulose became surrounded primarily by water, while THF—because of its molecular structure—remained bound to the hydrophobic surfaces of cellulose. These results provided researchers with a fine-tuned understanding of the chemical properties behind the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass found in plants such as cornstalks, straw and other woody biomass.Read More

biomass, Ethanol, Research

BioEnergy Bytes

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1With a broader range of market options and a growing infrastructure, the passenger electric vehicles (EVs) market is projected to have 11.4 million EVs on the road, with cumulative sales of 12 million EVs and a value of over $400 billion by 2025. This growth in EV adoption will create many points of complexity for grid operators and other electricity market stakeholders. In GTM Research’s recent report, “The Impact of Electric Vehicles on the Grid: Customer Adoption, Grid Load and Outlook,” these complexities are discussed and analyzed, to ultimately provide a perspective on how customer adoption and grid load will unfold.
  • Clean Energy Fuels Corp. has announced the opening of a new state of the art, public natural gas station along Interstate 5 in Fife, a suburb of Tacoma. The station adds to Clean Energy’s “Americas Natural Gas Highway”, allowing fleets to operate from state to state utilizing natural gas vehicle fuel. The station, located at 3013 20th Street East, was designed, built, and will be operated and maintained by Clean Energy. The station consists of two liquefied natural gas (LNG) fast-fill pumps, and is open to the public 24/7.
  • Alliance BioEnergy Plus has announced that the Airports Council International – North America has given its written support of the CTS process for the production of aviation biofuels and Alliance’s application to the Department of Energy for a bio-refinery demonstration plant, producing jet fuel from agriculture and yard waste.
  • Registration is open for the 14th International Conference on Renewable Mobility: Fuels of the Future, taking place January 23-24, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Geared to German and European biofuel industry, attendees will include international stakeholders from politics, the biofuel industry and research. The event will cover a myriad of topics including the diversification of engine technologies as well as the research and production of various fuels from renewable energy sources.


Bioenergy Bytes

Congress Urged to Extend Biofuel Tax Incentives

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

It’s time once again for the annual push to Congress to extend tax incentives before the end of the year, a plea which is usually ignored.

Renewable energy organizations sent letters to Congressional leadership this week calling for a multi-year extension of the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property – all set to expire at the end of 2016.

bio-newBrent Erickson with BIO (Biotechnology Innovation Organization) says they hope Congress recognizes the value of the advanced biofuels industry to the nation’s energy security. “The extension of these tax credits will continue to support the scale-up of second generation biofuels by supplying companies with the necessary capital and assurance needed to move into the next stage of commercial development – construction of cutting edge biorefineries,” said Erickson. “Advanced biofuel tax credits drive innovation while leveling the playing field for U.S. companies in the international marketplace. These tax credits foster American-born technology innovations and help keep them here at home.”

Bob Dinneen with the Renewable Fuels Association also sent a letter to Congressional leaders this week. “By extending these incentives, Congress will assure the policy certainty the industry needs to continue to grow, innovate and flourish, while encouraging further investment to help expand fuel choices for consumers at the pump,” said Dinneen.

advance biofuels, BIO, biofuels, Cellulosic, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Government, RFA

#Ethanol Breaking Through Blend Wall

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

car-wallThe average amount of ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply hit a new record last week of 10.4 percent, just breaking through the 10% blend wall for the second time in a month, according to the latest data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA Weekly Supply Estimate shows that an average of 8.798 million barrels per day (mbpd) of gasoline were supplied to the market last week, and ethanol blending in that fuel averaged 0.915 mbpd, meaning gasoline contained an average of 10.4 percent ethanol, beating the previous record of 10.21 percent three weeks earlier. EIA’s October Short-term Energy Outlook projected that gasoline consumed in 2016 will contain an average of 10.1 percent ethanol, up from 9.9 percent last year.

“This clearly shows that there’s no reason for the administration to roll back the 2017 RFS conventional biofuel blending levels required by the statute,” said Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “It also shows that supporters of legislative proposals to cap ethanol content at 9.7 percent are completely out of touch with what is really happening in the marketplace.”

In September, RFA ran ads showing that nearly half of the states in the U.S. had already blown by the 10.0 percent threshold as early as 2014.

blends, Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA

Record #Corn #Harvest Sets Tone for #ExEx16

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

corn-harvest-2An anticipated record corn harvest combined with expected record production of animal feed co-products forms the backdrop for the 2016 Export Exchange (#ExEx16) coming up next week in Detroit.

More than 200 international buyers and end-users of coarse grains and co-products, including distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), are expected to attend this biennial networking event co-sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

exportexchange1“At a time when we are looking at a record corn harvest and the clear need for international trade to be championed by our country’s leaders, Export Exchange is critical for our industry,” said Tom Sleight, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council. “It is essential for us to strengthen the bonds between suppliers and partner countries, and the connections made next week will not only help propel our industry this year, but for years to come.”

“In today’s volatile ethanol market, DDGs have become even more important for producers. A growing and vibrant export market will be key to future success. With buyers from more than 35 countries participating in this year’s event, the 2016 Export Exchange is a can’t-miss event,” adds RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen.

In this recent Ethanol Report, Renewable Fuels Association Dinneen talks about what’s on tap for this year’s event: Ethanol Report on Upcoming Export Exchange

In addition to networking opportunities, the conference will feature engaging speakers addressing critical issues facing U.S. agricultural exports, offering customers and sellers in attendance an increased awareness of the benefits of U.S. coarse grains and co-products.

Find more information at

Audio, corn, Distillers Grains, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Export Exchange, Exports, RFA, USGC

HPB – St. Joe #Biodiesel Has Grand Opening

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

hpbHigh Plains Bioenergy (HPB) celebrated the grand opening of HPB – St. Joe Biodiesel this week in St. Joseph, Missouri. The plant, which was just purchased by the subsidiary of Seaboard Foods last month, will use vegetable oils as the primary feedstock to produce up to 28 million gallons of biodiesel annually.

The grand opening celebration marks High Plains Bioenergy’s second venture to produce biodiesel that is a renewable, clean-burning fuel produced from natural oils, such as vegetable oils, and can be used with petroleum-based diesel fuel in existing diesel engines with little or no modification. HPB is a subsidiary of Seaboard Foods.

“The addition of HPB – St. Joe Biodiesel further solidifies our dedication to finding alternative energy sources,” said Gary Louis, executive vice president of Seaboard Foods. “This plant will help us continue to maximize our marketing opportunities by offering a variety of product options to our current and future customer base by combining the St. Joseph plant’s production along with the production at the Guymon, Okla., biodiesel plant. The addition of HPB – St. Joe Biodiesel will offer customers a wider range of biodiesel products for different environmental conditions while expanding our distribution footprint.”

Total biodiesel production capacity will be approximately 60 million gallons annually. Limited production is underway in St. Joseph and product is currently available by truck and rail.


NYC Bioheat® Bill Becomes Law

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

ny-bioheat-signNew York City Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday signed a bill into law that will increase the use of biodiesel, in the form of Bioheat, and decrease the use of heating oil in the Big Apple. The bill was passed by the city council last month and will increase the amount of biodiesel in heating oil from the current 2 percent level to five percent by October 2017, ultimately increasing to 20 percent in 2034.

“Congratulations to New York City for this tremendous move to clean heating with sustainable biodiesel,” said Donnell Rehagen, Chief Operating Officer of the National Biodiesel Board. “We applaud Mayor de Blasio for signing this bill that will reduce emissions and improve air quality for all New Yorkers. More biodiesel in the City also supports green jobs, local businesses, and American energy independence.”

It is estimated that the increase from a two percent biodiesel blend to a five percent blend in New York City would reduce the emissions equivalent to taking 45,000 cars off the road with the increase to 20 percent the equivalent of removing more than a quarter of a million cars.

Biodiesel, Bioheat