EPA Chief Defends #RFS Decisions

house-mccarthyDuring a hearing on Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee members questioned EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, on many agency actions, including decisions made regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

In her opening statement, McCarthy defended the volume obligation requirements under that RFS that EPA set last year, “The final requirements boost renewable fuel production and provide for robust, achievable growth of the biofuels industry,” McCarthy said. “The EPA took steps to improve the administration of the RFS program and continues to approve new agricultural feedstocks, increasing the number of pathways that biofuel producers may use to qualify their biofuel under the program.”

McCarthy was questioned heavily by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) about various aspects of the RFS decision making process, including whether EPA has the authority to abolish the blend wall. “These numbers actually push through the blend wall,” McCarthy answered. King then began to question her about approval to sell E15 year round, which McCarthy said it had, but she backed off when King noted the vapor pressure requirements that keep E15 from being sold in many markets during the summer months.

Listen to McCarthy’s testimony and some of the questioning by committee members here: House Ag Hearing with EPA Chief

Flint Hills Licenses Edeniq’s Cellulose Technology

Flint Hills Resources has signed an agreement to license Edeniq‘s Pathway Technology for all of its ethanol plants. The ethanol group has been an investor in the company since April of 2012 and a customer since June 2012.

Edeniq-Logo“This comprehensive Pathway agreement is the seventh license agreement between our companies, including the installation of Edeniq’s Cellunators at three of FHR’s plants,” said Brian Thome, President and CEO of Edeniq. “Our work with Flint Hills demonstrates the value of our technology to increase profitability in the ethanol industry.”

Edeniq’s Pathway Technology integrates its Cellunator technology that includes cellulase enzymes to convert corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol. The technology utilizes existing fermentation and distillation equipment to produce up to 2.5 percent cellulosic ethanol and a percent increase in overall ethanol yield. Edeniq’s technology also includes a technical validation process that allows ethanol plants to quantify the amount of cellulosic ethanol produced within their plants (the resulting ethanol is considered a D3 RIN under the Renewable Fuel Standard #RFS) and comply with federal registration record keeping and reporting.

Top 100 People in Advanced Bioeconomy Announced

The Top 100 People in Advanced Bioeconomy for 2016 has been released by Biofuels Digest. The top spot went to Tom Vilsack, USDA Ag Secretary. Other notables on the list included #3 Daniel Oh with REG; #10 Brent Erickson with BIO; #12 Terry Branstad, Iowa Governor; #21 Bob Dinneen with RFA; #22 Brooke Coleman with ABBC; #26 Joe Jobe with NBB; and #37 Ernest Moniz with the EPA.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 8.48.32 PMComing in at #93 was Joanne Ivancic, executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA who recently commented on her inclusion. “Recognition by the readers and editors of Biofuels Digest, “the world’s most-widely read biofuels daily” motivates all of us who volunteer at Advanced Biofuels USA to continue our efforts to transition the world to a sustainable, renewable future,” she said. “It acknowledges the work done by all the volunteers who comprise the organization and without whom nothing would be achieved. My thanks to all who work so hard to make this possible and to those who voted to give the organization this honor.”

Advanced Biofuels USA is a technology neutral and feedstock agnostic nonprofit educational organization that advocates for the adoption of advanced biofuels as an energy security, economic development, military flexibility and climate change mitigation solution.

Read the full list here.

Pacific Ethanol Improves Production Efficiency

Pacific Ethanol logoPacific Ethanol is reporting they have signed a technology license and purchase agreement with Whitefox Technologies. According to the agreement, Pacific Ethanol will be adopting Whitefox’s clean fuel membrane system that will separate water from ethanol during the plant’s distillation process. The ethanol plant expects commercial operations using the new technology in the third quarter of 2016.

Neil Koehler, Pacific Ethanol’s president and CEO noted, “We are pleased to be a first mover with an innovative technology that integrates well into our existing system. Whitefox’s technology is designed to increase operating efficiencies, lower production costs, and reduce the carbon intensity of ethanol produced at our Madera facility.”

whitefox_logoLast May the two companies announced the delivery of a stand-alone, container-based membrane system to the ethanol plant located in Madera, California. Since delivery, Pacific has been testing the technology. The results found the clean fuel membrane reduced the consumption of water and energy, reduced emissions during the production of ethanol all while increasing ethanol output.

“After an extensive trial period, our Whitefox ICE Solution was shown to remove bottlenecks and improve ethanol production efficiency at the Pacific Ethanol Madera plant,” said Whitefox’s CEO Gillian Harrison. “We are pleased Pacific Ethanol chose our membrane technology to provide them with a key competitive advantage in the industry and we look forward to an ongoing collaborative relationship.”

Ethanol Cmte Looks at Cal’s Green Fuel Industry

ethanolcal1California has an ethanol industry that is growing in size and importance. That’s why members of the National Corn Growers Association’s Ethanol Committee went to Sacramento last week to meet with California regulators and ethanol industry representatives in this important market. This news release from NCGA says the meetings focused on existing market conditions, modeling to calculate greenhouse gas emissions and efforts being made to expand higher blends of ethanol at the retail level.

Anil Prabhu of the California Air Resources Board’s Transportation Fuel Branch in Sacramento discussed the history behind CARB’s carbon emissions scoring and the criteria contained in the current Low Carbon Fuel Standard. According to Prabhu, there is potential for improving the methodologies for the models CARB uses. The Ethanol Committee will continue to serve as a resource for CARB as they seek to improve their scoring methodologies.

“California’s low carbon fuels standard presents an excellent opportunity for higher ethanol fuel blends to perform well in this market,” said Ethanol Committee Chair Paul Jeschke. “Although there have been improvements made in the GHG number assigned to corn ethanol by CARB, corn farmers feel there is more work to be done in order for CARB to recognize the true benefits of corn ethanol under California’s LCFS Program.”

The committee also met with Tom Koehler of Pacific Ethanol and Rob Elam, CEO of Propel Fuels, to discuss the E85 marketing efforts these companies are using in California. Pacific Ethanol supplies ethanol to Propel Fuels which is the largest E85 retailer in California. Low carbon fuels are more affordable than gasoline in this market. However, only three percent of the available market is being served. The keys to Propel’s success in capturing 75 percent of the current E85 market are ownership and maintenance of E85 infrastructure, extensive analytics and aggressive marketing to Flex Fuel Vehicle owners. After the presentation, the committee visited a retail station in a high FFV volume area where Propel has a canopy with dedicated pumps for higher blends.

Phibro Ethanol Group’s Lactrol Helps Bottom Line

The FDA’s Food Modernization Safety Act (FMSA) has been creating some confusion among ethanol plant operators who produce the co-product distiller’s grains (DDGS) for livestock feed, due to the use of antimicrobials in the production process.

Phibro Ethanol Performance Group logo“Interestingly enough, the actual Food Safety Modernization Act document in the federal register does not mention the words antimicrobial or antibiotic once,” says Phibro Ethanol Performance Group vice president Scott Gemmell. “The only reference it makes in this area is that bacterial problems can occur in fermentation and plants should take action to try and control that.”

That is the ultimate purpose of the Phibro product Lactrol, which not only meets FMSA requirements, it also helps an ethanol plant’s bottom line. Gemmell says products like Lactrol have been used in ethanol production for decades and are considered “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA with no concerns about possible residues being passed on in animal feed. “In terms of Lactrol specifically, we’ve been studying residues since our GRAS confirmation in June 2010,” he said. “We’ve embarked on our own sampling program with customer concerns in the area and since this time we’ve analyzed well over 800 samples of various co-products. And since June of 2010, we have yet to find any residues.”

So the bottom line is that ethanol plants using a product such as Lactrol to control bacterial contamination during ethanol fermentation and increase efficiency should have no concerns as it relates to FMSA and improve their bottom line. Learn more about Lactrol and FMSA in this interview. Interview with Scott Gemmell, Phibro Ethanol Group

#RFS is a Top Issue for Ag Equipment Makers

nfms16-aem-panelThe Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) hosted an Ag Executive Outlook panel during the opening day of the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville this week and one of the top issues for the organization is maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

AEM’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Nick Yaksich says building demand is vital for the agriculture economy right now and that is why the RFS is important. “There’s great opportunities with corn ethanol and beyond,” he said. “There is a push from the oil industry to fight back and repeal that. So, top of our list is to maintain what the government has put into law.”

Industry executives on the panel with Yaksich included Todd Sutcke with Kubota, Leif Magnusson of CLAAS Global Sales Americas, Jim Walker with Case IH NAFTA, and Great Plains Manufacturing president Linda Salem who each gave their perspectives on industry issues including the RFS, government regulations and trade.

AEM stresses industry involvement in policy issues with the I Make America campaign, which is dedicated to advocating for policies that strengthen their industry and economic vitality. “The key is grassroots involvement by voting members,” said Yaksich. “We started the I Make America campaign to reach beyond the corporate CEOs.” The campaign is in its fourth year and is equipped with a mobile marketing tour featuring a video game component to reach different groups within companies.

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Nick Yaksich, AEM

Sandia Labs’ Launches New Algae Raceway

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed a new algae raceway testing facility to bridge the gap between lab and real world. Today, scientists have not yet discovered a cost-competitive way to convert algae to renewable fuels. The new Sandia algae testing facility is comprised of three 1,000-liter oval raceway ponds that feature advanced monitoring.

The new algae raceway testing facility at Sandia National Laboratories will help scientists advance laboratory research to real-world applications. Shown here is one of the three 1,000-liter ponds, outfitted with custom lighting and 24-hour advanced hyper spectral monitoring. Photo credit Dino Vournas.

The new algae raceway testing facility at Sandia National Laboratories will help scientists advance laboratory research to real-world applications. Shown here is one of the three 1,000-liter ponds, outfitted with custom lighting and 24-hour advanced hyper spectral monitoring. Photo credit Dino Vournas.

“This facility helps bridge the gap from the lab to the real world by giving us an environmentally controlled raceway that we can monitor to test and fine tune discoveries,” said Ben Wu, Sandia’s Biomass Science and Conversion Technology manager. “The success of moving technologies from a research lab to large outdoor facilities is tenuous. The scale-up from flask to a 150,000-liter outdoor raceway pond is just too big.”

According to Wu, the “raceway” design features several benefits:

  • Easy scale-up to larger, outdoor raceways
  • Customizable lighting and temperature controls, operational by year end, to simulate the conditions of locations across the country
  • Fully contained for testing genetic strains and crop protection strategies
  • Advanced hyperspectral monitoring 24 hours a day

The new facility is already in use with researchers Todd Lane and Anne Ruffing testing genetically modified algae strains as part of a project funded by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program. The algae raceway should enable the researchers to more quickly identify strains that promise improved performance.

“The bioeconomy is gaining momentum,” Wu said. “Biofuels from algae may be further off, but algae has sugar and proteins that can make fuel or higher valued products, such as butanol or nylon — products that currently come from fossil fuels.”

Wu expects the facility will expand opportunities for Sandia researchers to develop algae as a robust source of biofuels and increase collaborations and partnerships with the private sector, particularly in California where efforts to transform transportation energy are prevalent.

ICM, Inc Names New VP of Technology

icm-hartigICM, Inc. has named Steve Hartig vice president of technology development.

ICM, Inc. CEO Dave VanderGriend says Hartig brings 35 years of experience leading global businesses with much of his career spent working in biofuels, coatings, resins, biomedical materials and polymers. “We strive to build the best team in the industry … and we feel confident Steve will be a key factor in our continued growth,” said VanderGriend.

“Our company continues to use our know-how to improve processes and efficiencies across the entire renewable energy sector,” added company president Chris Mitchell. “Steve’s substantial track record of driving growth and building productive teams should only accelerate our desire to continue to be the technology company of choice.”

Hartig recently served on the advisory boards of the Department of Energy Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the University of Illinois Integrated Bioprocessing Research Laboratory.

Ensyn Corp Receives CARB Approval

Ensyn Corporation has receive regulatory approval from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for the use of Renewable Fuel Oil (RFO) as a feedstock for refineries in California for the production of renewable gasoline and renewable diesel. The approvals come as part of the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). RFO is a collaboration between Ensyn, Tesoro Corporation and Chevron.

Ensyn BiofuelEnsyn converts forest residues and other non edible biomass to biocrude, or RFO using its proprietary RTP technology. With the CARB approval, the company now has plans to increase production capacity for a broader commercialization of its fuels business including Refinery Co-processing.

CJ Warner, executive vice president of Strategy and Business Development at Tesoro, said, “We are very pleased to see these regulatory pathways confirmed. These approvals help support and validate our plans to process these renewable feedstocks using our existing infrastructure to produce less carbon-intensive fuels and help lower the cost of compliance with LCFS requirements in California.”

CARB approvals cover the production of both gasoline and diesel via RFO co-processing in specified refineries located in California using forest residues from Ontario. The carbon intensity of the resulting renewable gasoline and diesel was determined to be in the range of approximately 20-25g CO2e/MJ, or approximately 70 percent less than traditional petroleum-based fuels. Ensyn expects that RFO produced at locations closer to the refineries will have reduced carbon intensity due to lower transportation impacts.