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.”

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

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.

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.

December Ethanol Exports Surge

According to a blog from Geoff Cooper, senior vice president for the Renewable Fuel Association (RFA), U.S. ethanol exports did well in December 2015 with 81.7 million gallons (mg) of product exported, 39 percent higher than November 2015. Canada was the top destination receiving 21.3 mg followed by Oman (13.4 mg), China (10.6 mg), the Philippines (8.8 mg), and the Netherlands (8.8 mg). U.S. ethanol exports totaled 836 mg in 2015—identical to the 2014 final tally according to recent report from RFA that includes details on top export destinations, shifts in the marketplace, ethanol import volumes, the value of exports, and other key data regarding U.S. ethanol trade in 2015.

Monthly US Ethanol Exports and ImportsDenatured fuel ethanol exports totaled 50.3 mg in December, the highest monthly total of the year and up 57 percent from November. At 19.3 mg, Canada was again the leading importer of denatured product. December exports of undenatured fuel ethanol tallied at 28.6 mg, up 18 percent from November. The Philippines (8.8 mg), Brazil (6.4 mg), the Netherlands (4.5 mg), Belgium-Luxembourg (2.6 mg), and Mexico (2.2 mg) were the top five markets for undenatured product in December.

U.S. fuel ethanol imports fell to 9.4 mg in December, less than half of the November import volume. Total imports of fuel ethanol finished the year at 93.2 mg, up slightly from 2014. Brazil represented more than 99 percent of the December imports with the remaining imports coming from Germany.

Exports of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product manufactured by dry mill ethanol plants increased slightly in December, with 988,356 metric tons (mt) of outbound shipments. That was up 5 percent from November, but still well below monthly export levels recorded from May through October. DDGS exports finished the year at 12.55 million mt, a new annual record.

China remained as the top market for U.S. DDGS exports in December, despite setting an 11-month low. China received 226,049 mt, down 20 percent from November and less than one-quarter of the DDGS volume imported as recently as July. However, other markets saw big increases including Mexico, South Korea, Canada, and Vietnam. For the full calendar year, China was the top market followed by Mexico.

South Dakota Gets Grant to Increase Ethanol Use

The USDA Commodity Credit Corporation has given a $1.5 million grant to the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) to increase the state’s use of ethanol. The program receiving the funds is the state’s Ethanol Infrastructure Program that helps fuel retailers install blender pumps to sell mid-level and high-level ethanol blends such as E15 and E85. With the additional funds, retailers will be able to receive 90 percent of the first $29,000 in costs for each blender pump. The goal is to have 74 new blender pumps installed statewide with the support of the USDA grant.

EthanolBlenderPumpinSouthDakota“As the ethanol industry continues to grow, we feel it is imperative to utilize more of this environmentally friendly renewable energy source. The grant monies we received from the USDA will help facilitate this initiative,” said GOED Commissioner Pat Costello.

Another change to the program allows for additional funding for the state’s storage tank installation program that assists stations purchase and install additional fuel storage if needed for the installation of new ethanol blender pumps. The storage tank program will now pay costs of a new tank at 90 percent of the first $40,000 in costs.

To help promote and manage the application process, the GOED has contracted with Project Solutions, Inc. (PSI), a company based in Rapid City. “PSI will become our front line in working with station owners on questions about the program. The company will help walk them through the application process, as well,” said Costello who added their number one goal is to increase ethanol usage in South Dakota.

The first round of applications is now being accepted, and the deadline to apply is March 1, 2016 with a fully completed Formal Application will need to be submitted by March 15, 2016 to remain in the first round cycle. Additional application round deadlines are scheduled for April 15 and June 15, if required.

Students Discuss Biodiesel Research Projects at #NBB16

Students who are part of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel had the opportunity to share their research during the recent National Biodiesel Conference and Expo. The students all have one thing in common – their passion for the biodiesel industry.

nbb-16-thomas-kwanI spoke with several of these budding biodiesel leaders during the poster session. Thomas Kwan is a PhD candidate at Yale and is part of the Center for Green Chemistry & Green Engineering. While doing his undergraduate he looked at emissions from diesel fuel, particularly locomotives. He then leveraged this interest into looking not at the tailpipe, but the fuels themselves for emission reductions.

Thomas’s research is framed around an integrated biorefinery with algae as the foundation. In other words, the “plant” accepts some biomass and then produces biodiesel and other biobased products. Enabling technologies for the idea of an integrated biorefinery. Used micro algae that has high content for biodiesel lipids as well as other compounds, in particular, astaxanthin, a powerful antioxident. IN the case of algae, the bioproduct is not yet approved for human consumption but Thomas hopes this research will help change that. Ultimately, they looked at how to tweak the biorefinery to get more lipids for biodiesel, or to get more astaxanthin. To learn more, listen to my interview with Thomas Kwan here: Interview with Thomas Kwan


Clemson University Biosystems Engineering students Eric Monroe and William O’Connell, present their biodiesel research during the poster session.

William O’Connell is a senior at Clemson University in Biosystems Engineering. He became interested in biodiesel while doing his undergraduate research, and then attended the conference last year. He’s back and this year presented his research during the poster session.

The focus on the project is to reanalyze the school’s current process of collecting used cooking oil and converting it to biodiesel. William said they are looking to see if there is a more efficient way to produce the biofuel. What they have discovered is using interesterification is more efficient. To learn more, listen to my interview with William O’Connell here: Interview with William O'Connell

nbb-16-james-davisJames Davis is in his fourth year of his PhD at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has a keen interest in fatty acids of seed crops such as canola or camelina sativa. He explained that his research is focused on altering the lipid profile of camelina sativa.

The idea is to apply a cutting edge gene editing technology to knock out certain genes. Essentially, his goal is two-fold. One, to alter the fingerprint of the lipid profile and they are also trying to eradicate erucic acid, a semi-negative toxic lipid that is bad for livestock making camelina seed meal restricted for use in feeding livestock. James notes that if they can get rid of some of the negative profile, they can create a more high-value byproduct. To learn more, listen to my interview with James Davis here: Interview with William O'Connell

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Geothermal Collaboration for Use in Clean Power Plan

With the Clean Power Plan (CPP) moving forward, several groups have collaborated to show states how geothermal can be a part of meeting their clean energy needs. The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA), Geothermal Resources Council (GRC), and Geothermal Exchange Organization (GEO) have released the first set of free state-by-state guides that outline the benefits of geothermal energy and three major types of geothermal applications: power generation, direct use and heat pumps.

Geothermal energy is in an ideal position to help states meet emission reductions and their clean energy targets,” said Paul Brophy, GRC President.

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 10.56.17 AMThe materials provide state officials, regulators and the public with information about geothermal energy uses in their individual states. The first four guides cover Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, and Colorado. The state guides find that geothermal power boost jobs and the economy. They also find that for a handful of states with high geothermal power potential, adding one or two geothermal power plants would offset all their emissions reductions required by the CPP.

“Geothermal can be an important part of state clean power plans, particularly when all of the benefits of firm and flexible geothermal provides are taken into account,” said Ben Matek, GEA analyst and research projects manager. “The Guides we are providing today will help overcome a major hurdle for geothermal – lack of recognition,” said Karl Gawell, GEA Executive Director. “We hope the states will recognize geothermal energy is part of the solution, and that each has potential it can tap.”

According to the guides, large-scale geothermal power plants directly employ an estimated 1.17 persons per MW. They account for nearly $6.3 to $11 million dollars in property taxes over the lifetime of the power plant and provide multiple benefits to the environment including lowered emissions and water consumption compared to other forms of baseload generation, and geothermal energy is always available. Click here to access the free guides.