METRO Helps NY

Recently, I told you about how New York loves biodiesel, using the green fuel to run many of the city’s parks and recreation department vehicles and heat the agency’s buildings. One company that’s helping parks and rec keep their buildings warm with biodiesel is Brooklyn-based METRO Fuel Oil Corp.

“Our initiative is to help New York become a cleaner, greener city,” says Jason Abrams, a marketing communications specialist with METRO. He says besides the city’s parks and rec department, they provide the biofuels, biodiesel and bioheat in fleets, buildings and homes.

Abrams points out that diesel fuel burners don’t need any kind of conversion to run biodiesel. In fact, it can even help a motor or boiler run better, and of course, cleaner … even to the point of actually cleaning a burner.

“I remember one [superintendent] I was talking to telling me that he could actually see the metal, where before he was using such dirty oil, he could just see the black of crude oil.”

METRO has been around since 1942, using petroleum to replace the even dirtier fuel, coal. He sees the company continuing the tradition of finding a better, cleaner burning fuel by now distributing biodiesel. Right now, they get that biodiesel through a pipeline from the Midwest. But soon, they’ll have their own refinery scheduled to open in 2011 that will use a variety of feedstocks, including soy oil, canola oil and even waste grease. And even the grease collection will be something that gives back to the community. They’ve teamed up with The Doe Fund, Inc., operator of New York City’s largest socially-conscious collector of used cooking oil, to get waste grease picked up and delivered to METRO’s soon-to-be-completed refinery.

“[Doe] employs formerly homeless people to pick up the grease from restaurants across the city,” giving needed jobs to those who desperately need them.

Abrams says when they go to trade shows they give out green apples to reinforce their message of “Greening the Big Apple.”

Listen to more of my conversation with Jason in the player below.

Jason Abrams METRO interview

ASTM Voting on Biodiesel Standards at KC Meeting

Biodiesel could be divided into two different grades, if some backers of a new grading system at the ASTM meeting this week in Kansas City, Mo.

Biodiesel Magazine reports there are several ballots up for a vote that would have biodiesel graded as No.1 and No.2, much like regular diesel … a proposal backed by the National Biodiesel Board’s technical director Steve Howell:

“The specs we currently have work just fine for 99 percent of the people. The philosophy is like with No.1 and No.2 diesel—No.2 works fine for about everybody, but if for some reason it doesn’t work for you, try premium diesel fuel.”

Not everyone, however, agrees that a No.1/No.2 biodiesel spec would be good for the industry. One source told Biodiesel Magazine that this approach could drive down the price of most biodiesel, what would be No.2, while placing a premium on No.1. It could also discourage use of feedstock with less than desirable cloud point and other properties.

Howell said as diesel fuel and engines change, the biodiesel specification will have to adapt.

The article goes on to say that a new test method allowing the Cognis QTA system to be used for analysis of multiple biodiesel properties is also being considered. NBB officials say, if adopted, it would be the first time an American Oil Chemists Society (AOCS) test method would be adopted into an ASTM method. The benefit would be that it allow suppliers and users to simply put a drop of fuel on the analyzer and get instant analysis for several properties, making the process cheaper and quicker.

Biodiesel Credit Fails to Pass Key Vote

Just in case you think that I’m just re-running the same story from all this past winter and spring, honestly, I’m not. But there’s trouble … again … for the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax incentive.

This article from ICIS.com says while the measure, tied to unemployment benefits, failed to garner enough votes by just three that would have ended debate on the bill. But, it might not be completely dead yet:

The vote sends the bill back for reworking despite weeks of lawmakers debating the overall cost of the package.

Biodiesel brokers said the move would result in more gridlock in a biodiesel market already frozen by confusion over price ideas. The industry is currently running at 10% or less of capacity.

“It never seems quite dead,” one biofuels broker said. “Everyone still assumes there is life to this bill, and we’ll be frozen until the next time around.”

Leaders thought they had pared the bill (with the bulk of the cost coming from the unemployment benefits section) down far enough to satisfy fiscal hawks … down to an estimated $33 billion from the original price tag of $190 billion … but the money is still holding it up.

Ironic, isn’t it, that a bill that would help put back to work or preserve the jobs of an estimated 23,000 biodiesel workers is being stopped over arguments over unemployment benefits?

Possible Future World Cup Site to Use Solar Power

In light of the dramatic American soccer victory at the World Cup in South Africa (and moving on to the next round), I thought you’d be interested in knowing that the power of the sun could help run some of the venues at one country’s bid to host the event in the future.

While seems a long way off, inhabitat.com reports the Middle Eastern country of Qatar is already putting together its bid to host the 2022 World Cup, and solar-powered stadiums will play a big role:

Three new eco stadiums and sports complexes will be built close within the city limits allowing fans as well as teams to easily access the arenas. The Al-Wakrah stadium will be able to host over 45,000 spectators and be located in a mixed-use complex along with an aquatic center, spa, sports facilities and a mall, which will continue to be utilized all year long even after the competition ends. Then the Al-Khor and Al-Shamal Stadiums will also be constructed with seating capacity greater than 45,000. Qatar plans on using solar technology to power carbon-neutral technology in order to cool the stadiums and keep the temperature inside less than 27 degrees celsius.

The stadiums are planned to be built by German architectural firm AS & P – Albert Speer & Partner.

Algae Producers to Help Fight Gulf Oil Spill

Got an urgent message from my friend Tamra Fakhoorian with the Mid-South Chapter of the National Algae Association looking for volunteers to help with a cleanup effort some members of the algae-producing community are sponsoring. She says they need 10,000 volunteers to help algae oil and biofuel producers Ultra Green International and Algaeventure Systems use their algae know-how to clean up the millions of gallons of petroleum pouring into the Gulf of Mexico:

The plan is simple: we’re using a highly absorbent matting invented by US scientists in Ohio to mop up the spill, cleaning the Gulf and collecting the oil at the same time. A flotilla of 168 ships manned by local fishermen is poised and ready to patrol the Gulf, literally vacuuming up the 36 million gallons of oil threatening the beaches.

BP has failed to act quickly to solve this crisis and Ultra Green intends to fill the gap. With the help of our science partners Algaeventure Systems, and hundreds of local fishermen who have seen their livelihoods disappear, we are planning to Save the Gulf from the worst ecological disaster in American history.

More details and information on how to volunteer are available at www.sossavethegulfcoast.com.

Biodiesel Has Place in USDA Biofuels Report

While the ethanol industry has been praising the USDA’s report entitled “Roadmap to Meeting the Biofuels Goals of the Renewable Fuels Standard by 2022,″ there’s plenty in there for biodiesel fans to like as well.

The feds are optimistic that biodiesel will be able to carry its share of the overall 36 billion gallons of biofuels goal:

The U.S biofuels industry is on track to produce 1 billion gallons of biodiesel by 2022. In 2009, the United States already produced 550 million gallons of biodiesel. There are presently 173 plants and nearly as many companies that have invested millions of dollars into the development of biodiesel manufacturing plants and are actively marketing biodiesel. Twenty-nine companies have reported that they have plants currently under construction and are scheduled to be completed within the next 12-18 months. Their combined capacity, if realized, would result in another 427.8 million gallons per year of biodiesel production.

Furthermore, the report recognizes the importance of the soybean industry as being the main feedstock for biodiesel production, especially in the Midwest, and the rise of more non-traditional sources, such as algae and waste cooking greases.

USDA Releasing Report on Biofuels

The USDA is releasing a report on renewable transportation fuels and the role the agency will play in development of those biofuels.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the report comes as the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) gets ready to kick in on July 1st and will require that 36 billion gallons of biofuel per year be in America’s fuel supply by 2022:

“The Obama Administration has made domestic production of renewable energy a national priority because it will create jobs, combat global warming, reduce fossil fuel dependence and lay a strong foundation for a strong 21st Century rural economy, and I am confident that we can meet the threshold of producing 36 billion gallons of biofuel annually by 2022,” Vilsack said. “As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, we must reaffirm our commitment to bring our country closer to complete energy independence and this report provides a roadmap to achieve that goal.”

Vilsack says the ag department’s role will be to identify numerous biomass feedstocks to be utilized in developing biofuels and to call for the funding of further investments in research and development of feedstocks, sustainable production and management systems, efficient conversion technologies & high-value bioproducts, and decision support and policy analysis tools.

“Our focus at USDA is primarily on how do you build biorefineries in all parts of the country, how do you take advantage of the most efficient and effective feedtsocks that are available in each region of the country, and how do you create enough blender pumps so there’s customer convenience to build greater demand on Detroit and other auto manufacturers to produce the kinds of cars to use more ethanol.” He adds the program needs to go national, on a governmental and private business level, for the biggest impact.

You can read the report at www.USDA.gov.

USDA: Ethanol Plants Gain in Net Energy Output

A new report shows that ethanol plants are becoming even more efficient in turning energy into more energy, showing great energy gains.

The USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey of corn growers for the year 2005 and the 2008 survey of dry mill ethanol plants show that dry grind ethanol plants that produce and sell dry distiller’s grains and use conventional fossil fuel power for thermal energy and electricity produces nearly two times more energy in the form of ethanol delivered to customers than it uses for corn, processing, and transportation. The ratio is about 2.3 BTU of ethanol for 1 BTU of energy in inputs, when a more generous means of removing byproduct energy is employed.

Just back in 2004, the ratio was only 1.76 BTUs for every 1 BTU of energy inputs. And the report shows that some dry mills that use 50 percent biomass power have an energy output of 2.8 times the energy it takes to make one unit of energy. The news was welcomed by Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association:

“This study clearly demonstrates the technological advancements that have taken place in ethanol production in just a short period of time,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “The findings prove that ethanol production is becoming cleaner and more efficient at a time when oil production continues to become dirtier and more difficult to extract.”

“If previous ethanol energy analyses have been nails in the coffin of the stale and distorted ‘negative energy balance’ myth, this report serves as the final burial,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “As better and more current data become available, there can be no doubt that ethanol offers tremendous energy benefits while greatly reducing consumption of crude oil. American ethanol producers continue to evolve, becoming more efficient and producing greater environmental benefit. This evolution stands in stark contrast to the worsening profile of oil production.”

The full report is available here.

More Senate Inaction on Biodiesel Bill Draws IRFA Ire

Another procedural vote failure in the U.S. Senate has put up yet another roadblock to renewal of the federal $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax incentive. And that isn’t sitting well with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association. Past President and Western Iowa Energy Board Member Denny Mauser blasted the Senate and the Obama administration for having plenty of time to help doctors but can’t seem to be bothered to help the 23,000 people in the biodioesel industry who either have lost their jobs or soon will because of the loss of the credit:

“As the U.S. Senate continues to tinker with the tax extenders package, biodiesel plants in Iowa and around the country remain idle and continue to lay-off workers. The President stated on Tuesday that he would not settle for inaction on tackling America’s addiction to fossil fuels, but that is exactly what happened. The Senate failed once again to jumpstart the proven petroleum-displacing ability of America’s first advanced biofuel. By restoring the biodiesel tax incentive, one billion gallons of renewable fuel can begin displacing crude oil immediately.”

Further complicating the process, the Senate today passed legislation by unanimous consent to prevent Medicare doctors from receiving a 21 percent pay cut starting next week. This “doc fix” provision was cherry-picked out of the tax extenders bill.

“It took one hundred senators to agree to the doc fix,” Mauser continued. “While I understand that is important, how can the biodiesel industry be left in the lurch as a million or more gallons of crude oil continue to spew into the Gulf waters each day? Any one senator could have stood up and said, ‘Let’s end the pay cuts and job losses for workers in the biodiesel industry at the same time as we pass the doctor pay-cut fix.’ After six months of devastating inaction, it’s past time for that type of Senate leadership.”

The IRFA recently has been quite vocal in its criticism of the lack action on the biodiesel credit. Just a few days ago, the group challenged Obama to put up a little less talk and a lot more action to promote biofuels after the President put such a high priority on renewable energy during this week’s address on the Gulf oil spill.

Alaska Gets First Commercial Biodiesel Plant

Alaska is finally producing biodiesel.

This article from Biodiesel Magazine says the Alaska Green Waste Solutions plant (which uses equipment and know-how from its sister company, Pacific Biodiesel Technologies) is the state’s first commercial biodiesel plant and can turn used cooking oil into 1,000 gallons of the green a day:

“This is a great example of the community-based model we believe in,” said Bob King, President of Pacific Biodiesel. “Here we have a city that has very limited options for feedstock because of the harsh growing conditions, yet they can still be producing their own sustainable fuel. Use the resources in your area and it can happen.”

Constructed in Salem, Ore., by Pacific Biodiesel Technologies and JVNW, the plant was disassembled for shipment and reassembled in Anchorage. Built in six shipping containers, the facility includes storage for feedstock, biodiesel and glycerin, utilities and the biodiesel produces system. It can be shipped anywhere, assembled on site and ready for production quickly.

Alaska Waste officials are pretty pleased at the development of the Anchorage plant:

“Today is very exciting for us because this program has been in the development for several years. We were the first refuse company to introduce curbside recycling, the first to offer commercial customers pre-consumer food waste composting and now we are diverting more than 200,000 gallons of used cooking oil from the waste stream and using it to fuel our fleet,” said Jeff Riley, Chief Operating Officer for the company.