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.

Donnelly ‘Friend of Farmers’ for Support of Ethanol

in-corn-donnellyA U.S. senator’s support of ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard has garnered him the inaugural “Friend of Farmers” Award from the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers Association. This news release says Sen. Joe Donnelly was recognized for his unwavering support of Indiana farmers’ policy efforts.

The Friend of Farmers Award was established by ICGA’s Board of Directors and ISA’s Membership and Policy Committee to recognize a public official at the state, federal, or local level who advocates for agriculture.

“Senator Donnelly has been among the top supporters of ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard of anyone in Washington,” said Mike Nichols, a farmer from Spencer County and president of the Indiana Corn Growers Association. “At a time when big oil is funneling millions of dollars to kill this law that increased demand for the corn we grow, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and promotes rural economic development, Senator Donnelly has stood strong for Indiana corn farmers.”

Donnelly also led a charge in 2015 to roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.

“When the EPA overstepped its authority by regulating farm fields and roadside ditches, Senator Donnelly was one of the first to stand up for farmers and introduce legislation to stop this overreach,” said Jeanette Merritt, a farmer from Peru and chair of ISA’s Membership & Policy Committee. “Regardless of party, Senator Donnelly has been a bipartisan leader for Indiana farmers.”

Donnelly says working on behalf of agriculture is one of the most important parts of his job.

“Hoosier farmers are growing the food and fiber that drive our economy, strengthen our local communities, and help feed the world. As I’ve always said, I’m the hired help and I’m committed to listening to Hoosier farmers and working together for commonsense, bipartisan solutions that promote agriculture,” said Donnelly. “I am honored to receive the inaugural Friend of Farmers award, and will continue working on behalf of all Hoosier farmers and our agriculture community.”

Minnesota Biodiesel Looks to Make it in Big Apple

mnbioheatA group of Minnesota soybean farmers recently made the trip to New York City to see how one of their products, biodiesel, is making a big splash in the Big Apple. This article from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council says the group was able to see several success stories of the green fuel being used in the big city, such as the New York Department of Sanitation that runs about 3,000 vehicles on a minimum of B5, or 5 percent biodiesel, and how bioheat, a mix of biodiesel with heating oil, is keeping New Yorkers warm at home.

The New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is no stranger to using biodiesel in its fleet. City vehicles are required to run a blend of 5 percent biodiesel, or B5. But DSNY Deputy Commissioner Rocky DiRico said his department has run blends of B20 for years. “We’ve had our obstacles along the way while pursing green,” he said. “We started using biodiesel eight or 10 years ago, and we’ve been pushing the move to B20 for a long time.” DSNY has nearly 6,000 vehicles in its fleet, and while not all of them are diesel engines, roughly 3,000 run on biodiesel. “I don’t know if there is a more simpler, more economically feasible way to cut our fossil fuels down,” he said.

Spiro Kattan, DSNY Supervisor of Mechanics of Clean Fuels & Technologies Division agrees. “We went citywide with B5 In 2007, and today, from April to November, we are a B20 fleet and from December to March we are a B5 fleet,” he said. “We’ve displaced over 4 million gallons of fossil-based petro fuels, something we are very proud of, just by using biodiesel the past several years.”

Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) Vice Chairman Craig Bangasser attended the National Biodiesel Board Bioheat Tour to New York City to learn about NRDC and DSNY, as well as other agencies using biodiesel and Bioheat. He came away impressed. Bangasser says it’s up to the Council to figure out how Minnesota can play a role in the growing biodiesel market in NYC.

Pfizer Grant Boosts Biodiesel at NJ College

pfizer1Biodiesel is getting a boost at a college in New Jersey, thanks to a grant from Pfizer. This article from the Morris (NJ) NewsBee says the College of Saint Elizabeth has received the grant through Pfizer Undergraduate Research Endeavor (PURE).

PURE’s goal is to support and encourage undergraduate students, especially underserved students, to participate in research opportunities. The student projects that were outlined which require the advanced technology and equipment are enzyme kinetics, properties of aspirin derivatives, synthesis and analysis of biodiesel, and Great Swamp Watershed monitoring.

The grant allows the college to purchase such equipment as high performance liquid chromatography column to analyze aspirin purity, gas chromatography column to analyze fatty acid methyl ester components of biodiesel, a rotational viscometer, a spectrophotometer and other highly specialized equipment as well as software for data collection and analysis.

“Our recent grant from the Pfizer PURE Initiative will allow us to pursue several research opportunities with our students,” said Kimberly Grant, professor of chemistry. “These projects encompass a number of pertinent questions in the fields of organic, bioorganic, biochemistry and environmental science.”

Grace Bailey, a junior chemistry major from Vernon, said, “The viscometer has made my research so much easier and faster. Before, I would have to spend many more hours on my research, and this equipment has cut my time by more than half.” Bailey is conducting the research on synthesis and analysis of biodiesel fuels and will be presenting her research to the Independent College Fund of New Jersey in March 2016.

REG Buys Sanimax Biodiesel Plant

REGBiodiesel giant Renewable Energy Group got a little bit bigger. This company news release says REG bought Sanimax Energy, LLC’s 20 million gallon nameplate capacity biodiesel refinery located in DeForest, Wisconsin.

Under the asset purchase agreement, REG will pay Sanimax approximately $11 million in cash and will issue 500,000 shares of REG common stock in exchange for the biorefinery and related assets. REG will also pay Sanimax up to an additional $5 million in cash over a period of up to seven years after closing based on the volume of biodiesel produced at the plant, which will be re-named REG Madison, LLC. Sanimax operates a grease processing facility at the same location, although that facility is not part of the acquisition. Closing of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.

“With growing biomass-based diesel volumes in the U.S., REG is continuing its growth as well,” said Daniel J. Oh, REG President and CEO. “This plant will add to our network of lower-cost, lower-carbon intensity, multi-feedstock biorefineries. Having a dependable feedstock supplier co-located next door should provide an opportunity for additional cost savings and logistical advantages. We have done business with Sanimax and the Couture family for many years and look forward to a continuing prosperous relationship.”

“This agreement is in line with our business plan to improve focus on our core businesses,” said Martin Couture, Sanimax’s President and CEO. “We are pleased that our biodiesel employees will have an opportunity to pursue their career with an industry leader. This is a reflection of the excellent work they have achieved over the past several years. Sanimax looks forward to continuing its excellent business relationship with REG as a shareholder and a reliable feedstock supplier.”

REG says this latest acquisition brings its capacity at its 11 biodiesel refineries to 452 million gallons per year.

Senate Bill Looks to Clear, Simplify Rules on Biomass

collins1A bill that has the backing of Democrats, Republicans and Independents in the U.S. Senate would clarify and simplify federal rules on biomass. This news release from Maine Sen. Susan Collins says an amendment sponsored by Collins and Sen. Angus King from Maine, and cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Al Franken (D-MN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), and James Risch (R-ID) has been adopted unanimously as part of the Energy Policy Modernization Act, which is currently under consideration in the Senate..

This amendment echoes the principles outlined in a June 2015 bipartisan letter Senator Collins sent to the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Agriculture, which was signed by 46 Senators, including Senator King. The amendment is supported by the National Alliance of Forest Owners, the American Forest and Paper Association, and the American Wood Council.

In November 2014, one hundred nationally recognized forest scientists, representing 80 universities, wrote to the EPA stating the long-term carbon benefits of forest bioenergy. This group weighed a comprehensive synthesis of the best peer-reviewed science and affirmed the carbon benefits of biomass.

“Biomass energy is sustainable, responsible, renewable, and economically significant as an energy source, and many states, including Maine, are already relying on biomass to meet their renewable energy goals,” said Senator Susan Collins. “While the carbon neutrality of biomass harvested from sustainably managed forests has been recognized repeatedly by numerous studies, agencies, institutions, and rules around the world, current policy uncertainty could end up jeopardizing rather than encouraging investments in working forests, harvesting operations, bioenergy, wood products, and paper manufacturing. Our tripartisan amendment would help ensure that federal policies for the use of renewable biomass are clear, simple, and reflect the importance of biomass for our energy future.”

“Not only is forest biomass a home-grown and environmentally-responsible source of energy, but it can also be a significant boon to rural economies in Maine and across the country,” Senator King said. “That’s why it’s time that the federal government recognizes the environmental and economic benefits of this renewable resource. By requiring every federal department to be on the same page when it comes to biomass policy, our amendment will ensure that biomass will play an important role in shaping a clean and affordable energy future for America.”

The amendment requires the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure federal policies regarding biomass are consistent across all departments and agencies and these federal agencies establish clear and simple policies for the use of biomass as an energy solution.

Enviva Building NC Biomass Wood Pellet Plant

envivaAlternative energy maker Enviva will begin construction on a biomass wood pellet plant in North Carolina this year with a projected opening in 2017. This article from the Richmond County (NC) Journal says a company representative made the announcement at a Richmond County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Glen Gray, project sponsor for the proposed sites in Richmond and Sampson counties, said the company just recently passed a major hurdle and is moving forward.

Gray added that the N.C. Division of Environment and Natural Resources reported there was “overwhelming support” for Enviva’s project in Richmond County.

He said the company needs to be making product by the fourth quarter of next year, so construction at the site outside Hamlet should begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

Enviva has already spent more than $3 million on the project, has cleared the property and has been working with CSX and the N.C. Department of Transportation, he added.

“We’re like a duck in a pond,” Gray said. “Don’t look like we’re doing much, but if you look under the water, there’s a lot going on.”

State and local officials announced in September of 2014 that the wood pellet manufacturer will bring 80 jobs and a $107 million investment to Richmond County.

This will be the company’s fifth plant in the past five years.

Gevo, Porta Building Isobutanol Plants in Argentina

Gevo logoRenewable energy technology company Gevo, Inc. has inked a deal with South American alcohol maker Porta Hnos S.A. to build several isobutanol plants in Argentina. This Gevo news release says they plan to use corn as a feedstock.

The first plant is to be wholly owned by Porta and is anticipated to begin producing isobutanol in 2017. The plant is expected to have a production capacity of up to five million gallons of isobutanol per year. Based on projected isobutanol pricing, Gevo estimates that it could generate approximately $1 million in annual revenues once the plant is operational, through royalties, sales and marketing fees, and other revenue streams such as yeast sales.

The agreements also contemplate Porta constructing at least three additional isobutanol plants for certain of their existing ethanol plant customers. For these projects, Gevo would be the direct licensor of its technology and the marketer for any isobutanol produced, and would expect to receive all royalties and sales and marketing fees generated from these projects. As one of the leading engineering, procurement and construction (“EPC”) service providers to the ethanol industry in Argentina, Porta would provide the EPC services for the projects. The production capacity of these additional plants is still to be determined.

“Porta is a unique partner for Gevo, as they are expected to be both a direct isobutanol licensee, as well as a partner in building out isobutanol plants for other plant owners. We are excited to leverage their EPC expertise and their local Argentinian presence to accelerate the adoption of our isobutanol technology throughout Argentina, and potentially elsewhere in South America. By partnering with Porta, this will dramatically decrease the investment in engineering and business development resources that Gevo would otherwise have to deploy to roll out our technology in the region. As a result, we anticipate any revenue derived from the Porta relationship to be high margin in nature,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s Chief Executive Officer.

“We appreciate Porta’s desire to be the first direct licensee of Gevo’s isobutanol technology, as well as their agreement to be our EPC partner in Argentina. Consequently, we have agreed to waive an up-front license fee for the first plant that is to be wholly-owned by Porta,” added Gruber.

Oil Prices, Incentives Making Biodiesel Free

biodiesel pumpA combination of low oil prices and incentives are making biodiesel sell for free… and in some cases even less! This article from Bloomberg.com says in some places are being paid to use the green fuel.

Midwest refiners are paying as little as 64.5 cents a gallon for the fuel after factoring in a $1-a-gallon tax subsidy and other credits. Add further incentives offered by California into the mix and some customers are effectively getting biodiesel for free in the Golden State.

The cause is twofold. Crude oil’s 71 percent slump since 2014 has dragged down the price of everything from diesel to gasoline. At the same time, the U.S. has shown a renewed commitment to renewable fuels in the battle against climate change, with the Obama administration mandating their increased use.

“They got the tax credit and the higher mandate,” Wallace Tyner, an agricultural economist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, said. “They’re coming out looking like roses.”

The article goes on to point to how the raise in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for biodiesel, along with the renewal of the federal $1-per-gallon tax credit in recent months have contributed to the boon for blenders and consumers. Add in state incentives, such as California’s, and suddenly the price can drop to below free.

When refiners buy a gallon of biodiesel, they’re essentially getting the fuel as well as the credits and subsidies, said Jennifer Case, chief executive officer of New Leaf Biofuel, a San Diego-based company.

In some instances, biodiesel producers and blenders share the value of the tax credit. Some contracts are negotiated taking into account the incentives, while others may be agreed upon without factoring them in.

“Those are really strange,” Case said. “Those are the ones that actually could result in reversing the invoice. The customer has to charge me to take the fuel.”

IndyCar Pit Crew to Run on Solar at Indy 500

wilsonsolar1An IndyCar pit crew will be the first ever to be powered by solar. IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson and the #ThinkSolar campaign team will be sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) for Wilson’s 2016 Indianapolis 500 bid.

Wilson aims to realize a dream of following his late brother Justin Wilson’s path to the Indy 500 by merging the worlds of motorsports and solar energy through #ThinkSolar. ASES and Wilson share the common goal of moving solar forward, faster.

ASES is the nation’s leading association of solar professionals and advocates. For 61 years, ASES has provided leadership in the renewable energy sector hosting important annual events such as the ASES National Solar Tour and ASES National Solar Conference, and also publishes the award-winning Solar Today publication. Alignment with Wilson’s #ThinkSolar campaign represents an interesting collaboration for the organization in bringing the solar, renewable energy and IndyCar industries together.

The ASES mission to “inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy” aligns well with Wilson’s #ThinkSolar objectives. Among these are connecting race teams, track and sanctioning body officials with solar companies that can design and engineer solar systems to power practical needs in the sport such as charging stations, lights, other electronic assets, beginning with his own.

This endorsement by ASES is a really exciting development and validation of the #ThinkSolar campaign’s vision,” said Wilson. “They’ve helped shape an industry that’s committed to solving many of the energy challenges we face today. Together, we’ll strive to invigorate conversations around commonplace solar applications as well as the design and engineering innovations that will drive the future of renewable energy for this sport and the world.”

ASES Executive Director Carly Rixham is equally excited about the partnership. “We think Stefan’s #ThinkSolar campaign is a great way to get solar in front of people in a new way. There is already some solar in the racecar industry. In fact, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a 9 MW solar farm nearby with 39,312 solar panels,” she said. “Now, bringing solar onto the track will increase the visibility of the technology with a diverse audience. It’s an honor to support Stefan and his earnest interest to reduce environmental impact.”