Biodiesel Industry Responds to EPA 2014 RVOs

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its proposed volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) today and the biomass-based diesel category was proposed for 1.28 billion gallons, less than what the industry is currently able to produce. Biodiesel production is on track to set a production record exceeding 1.7 billion gallons this year, using an increasingly diverse mix of feedstocks including recycled cooking oil, agricultural oils and animal fats.

In response, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) warned that the EPA’s 2014 proposal would cause plant closures and layoffs in the U.S. biodiesel industry and called on the Obama Administration to recommit to developing American-made Advanced Biofuels.

nbb-logo“The growth in domestic biodiesel production dovetails exactly with President Obama’s statement in July of this year that ‘biofuels are already reducing our dependence on oil, cutting pollution and creating jobs around the country,’” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “This is why EPA’s action today is so surprising and disappointing.”

Steckel continued, “This proposal, if it becomes final, would create a shrinking market, eliminate thousands of jobs and likely cause biodiesel plants to close across the country. It also sends a terrible signal to investors and entrepreneurs that jeopardizes the future development of biodiesel and other Advanced Biofuels in the United States.”

“This Administration has for years supported strong renewable fuels policies and encouraged investment in this industry,” Steckel added. “The private sector has responded to these policies by meeting or exceeding the Advanced Biofuels requirements in every year of the RFS. The Administration should be celebrating that success and continuing the momentum, not retreating.”

Amanda Cunningham of Veros Energy, a biodiesel producer in Moundville, Alabama, is among those in the industry whose job is at risk under the proposal. Cunningham and her husband both work at the company, supporting a family of six children.

“If biodiesel volumes are decreased, it has a hard, hard trickle down impact,” Cunningham said. “We would surely have layoffs; layoffs reduce production; reduced production drops the bottom line; and at that point the plant might as well shut down.” Continue reading

EPA Announces 2014 RVO Numbers for RFS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its proposal for the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for the amount of renewable fuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel. The EPA has proposed to set the cellulosic biofuel category at 17 million gallons, biomass-based diesel at 1.28 billion gallons, advanced biofuel at 2.20 billion gallons and renewable fuel at 15.21 billion. Development with input from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture, the proposal seeks public input.

epaAccording to the EPA, the proposal seeks to put the RFS program on a steady path forward – ensuring the continued long-term growth of the renewable fuel industry – while seeking input on different approaches to address the “E10 blend wall.”

“Biofuels are a key part of the Obama Administration’s “all of the above” energy strategy, helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut carbon pollution and create jobs,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “We have made great progress in recent years, and EPA continues to support the RFS goal of increasing biofuel production and use. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to develop a final rule that maintains the strength and promise of the RFS program.”

EPA says the proposal discusses a variety of approaches for setting the 2014 standards, and includes a number of production and consumption ranges for key categories of biofuel covered by the RFS program. The proposal seeks comment on a range of total renewable fuel volumes for 2014 and proposes a level within that range of 15.21 billion gallons.

The EPA cites that the majority of gasoline sold in the U.S. is now “E10,” which is fuel with up to 10 percent ethanol. Production of renewable fuels has been growing rapidly in recent years. At the same time, advances in vehicle fuel economy and other economic factors have pushed gasoline consumption far lower than what was expected when Congress passed the RFS in 2007. As a result, the country is now at the “E10 blend wall,” the point at which the E10 fuel pool is saturated with ethanol. If gasoline demand continues to decline, as currently forecast, continuing growth in the use of ethanol will require greater use of higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85.

The EPA says that the Obama Administration has taken a number of steps to allow or encourage the use of these higher ethanol blends. In 2010, EPA approved E15 for use in vehicles newer than model year 2001 and developed labeling rules to enable retailers to market E15. In addition, since 2011, USDA has made funding available through the Rural Energy for America Program to support deployment of “flex-fuel” pumps that can dispense a range of ethanol blends. The 2014 proposal seeks input on what additional actions could be taken by government and industry to help overcome current market challenges, and to minimize the need for adjustments in the statutory renewable fuel volume requirements in the future.

Looking forward, says the EPA, the proposal “clearly indicates” that growth in capacity for ethanol consumption would continuously be reflected in the standards set beyond 2014. EPA also says it looks forward to further engagement and additional information from stakeholders as the agency works in consultation with the Departments of Agriculture and Energy toward the development of a final rule.

In a separate action, EPA is also seeking comment on petitions for a waiver of the renewable fuel standards that would apply in 2014. EPA expects that a determination on the substance of the petitions will be issued at the same time that EPA issues a final rule establishing the 2014 RFS. Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, it will be open to a 60-day public comment period.

Bison Wind Energy Center Wins Award

bison-wind-farmMinnesota Power’s Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota was voted the best wind project of the year at the 2013 POWER-GEN International Conference. According to Minnesota Power spokespeople, this award is considered the industry’s top honor for a new wind generation project.

“It’s gratifying to be honored by your peers for conceiving and completing a world-class renewable energy project,” said Al Hodnik, chairman, president and CEO of ALLETE Inc., the parent company of Minnesota Power. “Wind generation is a critical component in achieving our EnergyForward resource strategy of an energy mix that is one-third renewable, one-third coal and one-third natural gas as we help transform the nation’s energy landscape.”

Minnesota Power was honored for phases 2 and 3 of the Bison Project, whose capacity of 292 MW includes 85 state-of-the-art direct-drive Siemens 3MW turbines. The energy is delivered to customers using a repurposed direct current transmission line, originally built in the 1970s to send coal-based power from Center, North Dakota to Duluth, Minn.

On August 1, Minnesota Power announced it was moving ahead with phase 4 of the Bison project pending regulatory approval, a 205MW addition that will make it the largest wind farm in North Dakota at nearly 500 MW of capacity.

‘Operation Free’ on Renewable Energy

Lt. Gen. Norman SeipArizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability recently hosted guest speaker and Operation Free representative Lt. Gen Norman Seip (USAF, ret) on the topic of sustainability and national security. The event was part of the Sustainable Speaker lecture series at ASU’s Tempe Campus.

Lt. Gen. Seip retired after 35 years of military service with his last assignment as commander of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. The three-star general continues his military support through his work with such non-profit military support organizations as Operation Free and the Truman National Security Project.

“Our nation’s dependence on unstable and unsustainable forms of fuel is a strategic vulnerability,” remarked Lt. Gen. Seip. “The military is moving out rapidly to combat this vulnerability. The Navy and Air Force are using advanced fuels to power its fleets and aircraft. At the 2012 RIMPAC exercise, which is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, the Navy powered an entire Carrier Strike Group fueled by alternative sources of energy. Pilots flew the world’s most advanced combat aircraft up to twice the speed of sound, powered by an American-made biofuel blend made from algae and recycled cooking oil.”

Also in attendance at the lecture was 33-year veteran of the Army and Army National Guard, Lt. Col. Joseph Knott, who was one of 12 veterans recognized during a Nov. 5 ceremony at the White House for their work advancing clean energy and climate security. Lt. Col. Knott is a PhD student at ASU’s School of Sustainability, and a supporter of Operation Free.

operation free logo“I spent my career making our military more sustainable and more combat effective and Arizona’s military installations are leading the way,” shared Knott. “Davis Monthan and Luke Air Force bases installed a combined 30 MW of solar. The Army is moving forward to acquire up to 20 MW of solar power for Fort Huachuca, located in Cochise County. And the Arizona National Guard is also leading the way, already having installed over 800 KW of photovoltaic renewable energy generation operating at Guard facilities across Arizona. They have plans to increase their use of renewable energy to support the military readiness of the Arizona National Guard.”

Following today’s event, Operation Free representative and Afghanistan veteran, 1st Lt. Aaron Marquez shared his enthusiasm for the advancements in military sustainability. “I have seen it on the ground in Afghanistan and right here at home. A more sustainable military is a more effective fighting force. Our national security depends on our ability to adapt to the world’s evolving energy environment and innovate new solutions to our energy footprint. It is exciting to see this work taking place at the Pentagon, at Luke Air Force Base and right here at ASU where the School of Sustainability is actively engaging on military sustainability.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) is pleased to welcome Algenol Biofuels as a new member. Algenol is a global, industrial biotechnology company focused on commercializing its patented algae technology platform for the production of ethanol and other biofuels. Algenol’s DIRECT TO ETHANOL technology uses sunlight, algae, non-arable land and carbon dioxide to produce ethanol and waste biomass that can be converted into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
  • Nominations are open for the Sustainable Bio Awards 2014 taking place on March 5, 2014 in Amsterdam during the 9th Annual World Bio Markets Congress. The awards recognize the innovations that are taking place in the development of sustainable and renewable fuels. Categories include Industry Champion 2014, Breakthrough Technology of the Year, Collaboration of the Year, Bio-based Product Innovation of the Year and Bio-Based Strategic Financier of the Year. Nominations will close on Friday, 31st January at midnight GMT.
  • There are only three months left to register to compete in the global Valeo Innovation Challenge. Engineering students around the world must register before February 14, 2014. The goal of the Valeo Innovation Challenge is to design equipment that, between now and 2030, will make cars more intelligent and intuitive. Students taking part in the challenge must develop bold, revolutionary solutions for the cars of 2030. To date, 91 teams of engineering students from 17 countries have signed up for the contest and people from over 129 countries have connected to the Valeo Innovation Challenge website.
  • Morrison & Foerster, wind power and renewable energy project advisers, has just concluded the final PPA for Apex Clean Energy’s 300 megawatt (MW) Balko Wind project, which will produce enough electricity to power 110,000 U.S. homes. The firm was counsel for Apex in its deal to sell the remaining 100 MW of wind energy capacity from its 300 MW Balko Wind Project through a Renewable Energy Purchase Agreement with the Western Farmers Electric Cooperative. The deal is expected to come online in 2015 and WFEC’s total power capacity will rise to 1,850 MW.

Eight Gas Stations in St. Louis Go Solar

Eight gas station and convenience stores owned by Home Service Oil Company, along with its headquarters in the St. Louis, Missouri area are going solar. Real Goods Solar has been selected to design, install, monitor and maintain the solar power systems. When combined, the solar systems will provide an estimated 378 kW of power and generate nearly 478,000 kilowatt hours each year.

Home Service Oil Convenience StoreThe project involves the deployment of solar power systems on the rooftop of the gas station and convenience stores. Construction is scheduled to begin in December 2013 and be completed in January 2014. This project marks the company’s entry into the fuel retail industry.

“Our selection of Real Goods Solar, a premier solar company in the country, to deploy solar energy at our locations will reduce our carbon footprint while generating significant electricity savings,” said Zach Mangelsdorf, director of real estate and development at Home Service Oil Company. “We see this as a smart investment and a great way to use renewable energy in our operations. We also expect these rooftop solar systems to inspire greater customer loyalty by the many environmentally conscious customers we serve.”

With the solar systems, the gas station and convenience store chain expects to reduce the facilities costs of electricity by at least $43,000 in the first year. This is expected to add up to more than $1 million over the next 25 years, while eliminating more than 18 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions or the equivalent of taking more than 1,757 cars off the road or not consuming 945,225 gallons of gasoline (per EPA-based data).

Justin Pentelute, Real Goods Solar’s president of residential and small commercial systems, added “This win demonstrates our capabilities to pursue new market segments which have significant regional and national growth potential. Not only are we successfully executing our growth strategies in residential, but we are also gaining traction in small commercial systems that represents a fast-growing part of the market. We are proud to work with Home Service Oil Company and applaud their decision to go solar to reduce their operating costs and their carbon footprint.”

Avantec Bringing Ethanol Producers Results

According to Niels Miles Frandsen, Marketing Director, Biofuel, with global biocompany Novozymes, their company’s enzyme Avantec is now used to produce over 20 percent of the U.S. corn ethanol after only being on the market for just over one year. He said that both Avantec, that was released in October of 2012 and Spirazyme Achieve that was released in June of 2013, and now has 10 percent of the market, are doing better than they even hoped.

corn field near ethanol plant“Right now ethanol producers are running really tight operations and are constantly looking for ways to improve their production,” said Frandsen. “This technology we have today called Avantec and Spirazyme Achieve actually allows customers to save a lot of corn and still produce the same amount of ethanol.”

Avantec is used in the first part of the production process called liquefaction; whereas Achieve is used in the subsequent process called Saccharification Fermentation. While the two enzymes can work independently of each other, Frandsen said when used together, the enzymes enable producers to squeeze more ethanol out of the corn while saving on energy and chemicals, improving profit margins and efficiency, and reducing their environmental footprint.

When the enzymes are paired together along with Olexa, Frandsen said they are seeing ethanol yield increases of up to 5 percent and corn oil extraction increases by to 13 percent, while saving 8 percent energy. “And all of these things together are big drivers for ethanol producers in the market today.”

To look the savings another way, a typical U.S. ethanol plant uses around 900,000 tons of feed-grade corn per year to produce 100 million gallons of fuel ethanol, 300,000 tons of animal feed and 8,500 tons of corn oil. With Avantec and Spirizyme Achieve, such a plant can either save 36,000 tons of corn while maintaining the same ethanol output or produce an additional 4 million gallons of ethanol without increasing input costs. Either way, profits improve substantially.

Frandsen also gives ethanol producers tips on how to transition their plants to the next generation enzyme technologies.

Learn more about Avantec and Spirazyme Achieve in my interview with Niels Miles Frandsen. Avantec Bringing Ethanol Producers Results

McGinness Hills Geothermal Project Expands

Ormat Technologies has announced that a key milestone was reached in the 30MW expansion of the McGinness Hills geothermal plant complex located in Lander County, Nevada. NV Energy and Ormat signed an amendment to the existing McGinness Hills power purchase agreement (PPA) allowing Ormat to sell 63.7 MW (net average annual capacity) from the complex. Under the amendment, a new energy rate of $85.58/MWh with a 1 percent annual escalator will be set for the entire complex once Phase II enters commercial operation. The amendment is subject to approval by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

Ormat's McGinness Hill geothermal plant“The favorable performance of the reservoir and the PPA amendment give Ormat the ability to further expand this geothermal site,” explained Yoram Bronicki, president and chief operating officer at Ormat.

“Phase I of our McGinness Hills geothermal power plant has been in commercial operation since June 2012 and the strength of the reservoir allowed the power plant to consistently produce more energy than what was contracted in the original PPA. We are eager to continue development at the site which we hope to complete in mid-2015, as wellas our work with NV Energy to deliver more clean, renewable power to Nevada,” concluded Bronicki.

The McGinness Hills power plant received favorable project financing terms from the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program under section 1705. The proposed expansion was approved by the lenders, John Hancock Life Insurance Company and the U.S. Department of Energy, and is covered under the existing financing structure. The economics of the expanded power plant and the potential availability of government incentives for projects that start construction before the end of 2013 enabled Ormat to provide a reduced power price to electricity customers in Nevada.

LNG To Fuel Locomotives

CSX Corporation and GE Transportation, a division of GE, has announced an agreement to explore emissions-cutting and efficiency breakthroughs in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) technology for locomotives beginning with a pilot program in 2014.

“LNG technology has the potential to offer one of the most significant developments in railroading since the transition from steam to diesel in the 1950s,” said Oscar Munoz, executive vice president and chief operating officer, CSX Corporation. “That change took many years to complete and began with a lot of unknowns, and this one is no different. csx_railroad_2 Photo Andrew MooreBut aggressively exploring this technology is consistent with CSX’s focus on tomorrow, its longstanding commitment to efficient and environmentally friendly transportation, and its role in helping to promote U.S. energy independence. GE Transportation has the know-how to provide the right LNG solution for our locomotive fleet and help us better understand the feasibility of LNG technology from a safety, operations and economic perspective.”

According to the two partners, natural gas-fueled locomotives can travel longer distances without refueling stops, as well as provide environmental and economic benefits. Adoption of natural gas-fueled locomotives will make freight rail an even more attractive transportation solution and furthers the industry’s ability to absorb traffic from the nation’s highways in an environmentally efficient way.

“Locomotives are at an inflection point in balancing engine performance with efficiency and adherence to emissions standards,” said Russell Stokes, chief executive officer, GE Transportation. “As we enter a new era of energy sources and what’s possible for rail transport, we are excited to partner with CSX and lead the LNG transformation for the industry.”

GE has been testing low-pressure natural gas technology since spring of 2013, and is working closely with CSX and other Class 1 partners. Field tests are expected to begin in 2014. GE’s NextFuel kits allow railroads to use natural gas as a fuel source, reducing emissions and potentially reducing fuel costs while not compromising performance. An Evolution Series locomotive equipped with the NextFuel Natural Gas Retrofit Kit meets US EPA Tier 3 emission standards.

CSX will be working over the next few months to develop a test plan and secure regulatory concurrence. For CSX, GE Transportation will deploy its new NextFuel Natural Gas Retrofit Kits that enable existing Evolution Series locomotives to operate with dual fuel capabilities. CSX and GE will also work on the continued development of LNG technology for other classes of locomotives to promote gains across a larger portion of the CSX locomotive fleet, and will work closely with key stakeholders and agencies across government to ensure safety, realize environmental and other benefits, and advance LNG deployment.

Ethanol – The Complete Fuel Wins Awards

The Union of the Industry of Cane Sugar Association’s (UNICA) “Ethanol – The Complete Fuel” has won four awards including the Sponsor of the Year for 2013 during the 17th Annual Brazilian Association Rural Marketing and Agribusiness. The country-wide campaign was designed to educate consumers about the benefits of ethanol. The association has also called upon the government to assist with this educational campaign.

We want to recognize the effort made ​​by the entire sugarcane industry, who made this campaign a reality and achieved significant results. The campaign was spearheaded by UNICA with strong engagement with its affiliates, but had important additional support from several plants that are not our affiliates and entities that helped expand the reach of the campaign said UNICA President Elizabeth Farina. Three associations – the Alcopar, Paraná; the Sifaeg; and Siamig Goiás, Minas Gerais – invested its own funds in the campaign and rolled it out in their respective states.

In addition to receiving the award for the UNICA Advertiser of the Year for 2013 in agribusiness, Farina delivered a special tribute for ABMR & A to honor former Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues. He was recognized for his leading role in building the movement Am Agro, which among other elements, conducted an advertising campaign in 2011 in favor of agribusiness, which had as protagonists actors Lima Duarte and Giovanna Antonelli. UNICA was the main supporter of the Movement am Agro.

The Borghi/Low , the agency that developed the campaign “Ethanol, Complete Fuel,” also received several achievements during the awards, including the Agency of the Year in agribusiness in 2013, for their work on behalf of UNICA and the Box Economica Federal, another client of the agency.

We want to give our appreciation for the efforts of all UNICA professionals, Borghi/Lowe and other service providers, which directly contributed to the success of the campaign. It was an intense job that lasted over a year and is now getting due recognition added Farina. And we can not forget the excellent work of Lúcio Mauro Filho, who is a true ally of ethanol.