Am. Lung Assoc. in MN to Hold Biodiesel Workshops

Just about everything in this country moves by a truck, train or barge running on diesel. The folks up in Minnesota, with their first-in-the-nation biodiesel mandate, are holding some workshops to show just how important the green version of diesel … biodiesel … is:

To help people better understand recent changes in diesel fuels and engines, and the growing role of biodiesel in Minnesota’s transportation industry, the American Lung Association in Minnesota is hosting two free workshops featuring Hoon Ge of MEG Corp. The workshops will discuss recent refining changes in traditional petroleum diesel and how to recognize and respond to problems with diesel fuels. The event and lunch are free, but attendance is limited. Contact Kelly Marczak at Kelly.Marczak@lungmn.org to register.

The workshops will be held in Duluth at the Duluth Holiday Inn, Downtown Waterfront, 200 West First Street on Monday, August 23rd and in Bemidji at Hampton Inn & Suites Bemidji, 1019 Paul Bunyan Dr S. Both run from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm.

The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council and United Soybean Board are sponsoring the workshops.

REG to Re-Open Seneca, Illinois Biodiesel Plant

Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group (REG) will hold a grand re-opening of its Seneca, Illinois biodiesel plant. The biodiesel maker and marketer became the operator of the 60 million-gallon-a-year biodiesel and glycerin facility, taking over from Nova Biosource Fuels.

REG will have Congresswoman Deborah Halvorson on hand to make remarks on the start-up of the plant and to “[c]elebrate the start of biodiesel production at the 60 million gallon per year biodiesel facility, recognize industry partners, welcome 38 full-time employees and increase awareness of biodiesel’s benefits for Illinois’ environment, economy and energy independence.”

The REG Seneca facility has three side-by-side 20 mgy biodiesel process units, a technical grade glycerin refining facility, raw material and finished product storage as well as rail car and truck unloading and loading with the potential for barge transportation that had been idled for more than a year.

REG now wholly-owns five biodiesel production businesses and markets biodiesel in 49 states.

Green Fuel Biodiesel Finds Green Party Opposition

A political party that claims to back environmentally friendly causes has inexplicably come out against biodiesel, even though the feedstock for the green fuel would actually remove waste from a landfill.

The SF Weekly blog says San Francisco’s Green Party has come out against a proposal to make biodfiesel in the city:

The Examiner reported this morning that a facility that renders bones and fat from slaughtered animals into oil is moving to upgrade its facilities to make biodiesel from animal parts, as well as from used cooking oil from local restaurants. The facility, owned by Darling International, is located in the city’s Backlands industrial area.

While the proposal has the backing of officials at the Port of San Francisco, which runs the Backlands, the San Francisco Green Party is loudly opposing the project. The proposed expansion was also targeted by a lawsuit last year filed by the Bayview Hunters Point Community Advocates.

Eric Brooks, chairman of the Green Party’s sustainability working group, told SF Weekly the idea that biodiesel is environmentally superior to traditional fuels is nonsense.

“Biofuel has got this good image, even with a lot of environmentalists,” Brooks said. “And biofuel is not good.”

I think we really get to the heart of his opposition when we look at his dietary habits:

Said Brooks, “I’m a vegan, and animal-rights person. The first thing that caught my attention was, ‘Wow, we’re going to make fuel out of animals. That can’t be good.'”

No, you’re wrong Mr. Brooks. It CAN be good. Using what would fill up the sewers and landfills as a feedstock for a renewable energy source that actually burns much cleaner than its fossil-fuel cousin is one of those win-win-win situations … unless you’re crazy or dumb … or maybe both.

Kerry Proposes New Biodiesel Tax Break Renewal Route

The renewal of the $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax credit seems to have been left in the doldrums as the U.S. Senate went to August recess without agreement on the number of amendments to the Small Business Bill, which contained a renewal of the incentive.

But Biodiesel Magazine reports that a whole new bill, “The Clean Energy Technology Leadership Act of 2010,” introduced by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, could provide a new path for restoration of the biodiesel tax incentive:

Kerry’s bill will extend the excise tax credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel retroactively for 2010 and through 2012, according to a statement by Kerry’s office on the content of the bill. “While we continue to fight to bring comprehensive energy legislation to the floor of the United States Senate, it’s essential that we take action to start moving in the right direction,” said Kerry. “Providing incentives for clean energy production will drive our economy forward and take us one step closer to reducing our carbon emissions and ending our dependence on foreign oil.”

Also included in the bill are provisions to include algae-based fuels in the cellulosic biofuel tax credit, provide $3.5 billion more in clean renewable energy bonds, and a number of other energy efficiency-based incentives.

I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but we have heard this story before. Lets see if Senate leadership will allow this to go through.

Algae Biofuel Maker Gets First Customer

A California-based biofuel maker that extracts its feedstock oil from algae and uses that oil for several other products has its first customer.

OriginOil, Inc. has announced that it is shipping a Quantum Fracturing™ System, the first unit in a multi-phase commercialization program, to Australian company MBD Energy Limited:

“This is a major milestone for OriginOil and represents our first revenue event,” said Riggs Eckelberry, CEO. “We are excited to support MBD Energy, a leader in the global race to help coal-fired power plants absorb their massive CO2 emissions using algae.”

Recently, OriginOil notified MBD Energy that it is ready to ship a Quantum Fracturing System, designed to maximize algae CO2 absorption with minimal energy, to MBD Energy’s research and development facility at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. The company’s Single-Step Extraction™ System, designed to efficiently separate algae oil from its biomass, will be the next deliverable and will trigger another payment under the purchase order.

In May, the parties agreed on a multi-phase commercialization program under which OriginOil will supply MBD Energy with its algae-to-oil technology platform in progressively larger installations. Subject to the success of the initial test phase, MBD will purchase significantly larger systems to serve its power station projects in Australia, beginning with a one-hectare pilot plant at Tarong Power Station in South Eastern Queensland, and expanding to full production sites at all three of MBD’s power station projects in Australia.

OriginOil’s Quantum Fracturing System will make nutrients, such as CO2, able to stay suspended in water longer, and that allows algae to feed more efficiently.

Biodiesel to be Part of NY’s Cleaner Heating Oil Plan

New York City is trying to clean up the emissions from the city’s burning of heating oil, and biodiesel is part of the plan for the Big Apple to go greener.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Quinn that they have agreed on legislation to cut allowable sulfur levels for No. 4 heating oil in half. This press release from the Environmental Defense Fund says this bill will also work with current state law that tries to cut the pollution levels from the 9,500 buildings in New York City, which burn the dirtiest of diesel fuel grades and put out more pollution than all cars and trucks on the city’s streets combined:

“This landmark legislation shows that the mayor, the speaker and city council members care deeply about New Yorkers breathing cleaner air and living a healthier life,” said Andy Darrell, New York regional director and deputy director of Environmental Defense Fund’s national energy program, and a member of New York Mayor Bloomberg’s Sustainability Advisory Board…

The recently enacted state law—requiring regular No. 2 heating oil to go down to 15 ppm sulfur levels—will reduce emissions from all No. 2 heating oil burning buildings dramatically…

This new law also require that all heating oil contains 2% biodiesel, resulting in about 20 million gallons of biodiesel replacing petroleum heating oil. EDF hopes that this law will help stimulate the local waste vegetable oil market and that more restaurants will have their cooking grease turned into biodiesel. From an environmental perspective, it’s best to use the local restaurant grease right here in New York City, rather than shipping it to landfills or even worse, pouring it down the drain illegally, which does tremendous damage to sewage treatment plants.

Boeing: Biofuel Use by Airlines Up to 1% by 2015

Boeing’s top environmental officer says that commercial airlines might use up to 1 percent biofuels made from plants and algae by the year 2015.

Bloomberg quotes Billy Glover, managing director of environmental strategy at Boeing’s commercial airplanes unit, as pointing out that has worked with airlines from the U.S. to Japan to test jet fuels made from plants such as jatropha and camelina:

“We need to get to 1 percent to get that foundation and then the trajectory will be significantly steeper,” Glover said in a telephone interview in London. “We’re aiming for a 1 percent penetration around the middle of this decade, and we think that’s quite achievable.”

Airlines are striving to reduce emissions that the United Nations says account for at least 3 percent of the global- warming gas pollution. The environment group Greenpeace estimates output of the gases from carriers will double by 2050. To help curb pollution, the 27-nation European Union will bring airlines into its carbon cap-and trade system in 2012.

No carriers use biofuels for regularly scheduled flights though airlines have tested biofuels in flight since 2008. That was when Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., controlled by the U.K. billionaire Richard Branson, tested a jumbo jet partly powered by fuel from babassu nuts and coconut oil.

Since then, airlines including Air New Zealand Ltd., Continental and Japan Airlines Corp. have tested biofuels sourced from various crops in their planes.

Officials say the key for success with airlines using biofuels will be to scale up production of the green fuels.

Feds Give $228 Mil. for Sun- and CO2-to-Fuel Projects

The federal Department of Energy is giving $228 million for projects that will turn sunlight directly into fuel and carbon dioxide (CO2) into fuel and other products, such as plastics, cement and fertilizers.

This article from Biofuels Digest says $122 million will go to start an Energy Innovation Hub for the sun projects, and $106 million for six projects dealing with CO2:

The Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub is one of three Hubs that will receive funding in FY10. The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), to be led by the Cal Tech in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The goal of the Hub is to develop an integrated solar energy-to-chemical fuel conversion system and move this system from the bench-top discovery phase to a scale where it can be commercialized. JCAP research will be directed at the discovery of the functional components necessary to assemble a complete artificial photosynthetic system: light absorbers, catalysts, molecular linkers, and separation membranes.

The Hub will then integrate those components into an operational solar fuel system and develop scale-up strategies to move from the laboratory toward commercial viability.

In addition to the major partners, Cal Tech and Berkeley Lab, other participating institutions include SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford, California; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Santa Barbara; the University of California, Irvine; and the University of California, San Diego.

The article goes on to say $156 million in private cost shares will match the $106 million for the CO2-to-products grants.

Truckstop Operators Lobby for Biodiesel Incentive Renewal

The group that represents truckstops and travel plazas is urging renewal of the federal $1-a-gallon biodiesel tax incentive.

Refrigerated Transporter reports that NATSO has teamed up with other partners in the industry, such as the National Association of Convenience Stores, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America, to send a letter to U.S. Senate members, asking them to support U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley’s amendment to the Small Business Lending Act of 2010 that would extend the biodiesel tax credit through December 31, 2010:

“It is vital that Congress reinstate the biodiesel tax credit to ensure a healthy biodiesel market for producers and consumers,” said Lisa Mullings, NATSO president and chief executive officer. “The lapse of this credit and drastic cuts in production are undermining fuel retailers’ commitment to offering alternative fuels to the public and to investing in biodiesel infrastructure. The expiration of the tax credit has put thousands of jobs at stake and threatens the industry’s ability to meet the mandated renewable fuels standard.”

Since the $1 per gallon biodiesel tax credit expired, US biodiesel production has plummeted by more than 80%. At the same time, motorists are changing buying habits as the price of biodiesel surpasses other fuels. The $1-per-gallon blender tax credit makes biodiesel cost competitive with conventional diesel fuel. The expiration of the tax credit, coupled with sagging consumer demand, has caused many producers to shut down or severely scale back production.

Truckstop operators say this is also part of their efforts to support environmental efforts.

EPA Data on Canola Biodiesel Pathway Released

Canola-based biodiesel is closer to becoming a fuel authorized for biomass-based diesel Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs), now that the EPA has released a Notice of Data Availability (NODA) for its recent modeling of the canola oil biodiesel pathway.

Earlier this year, EPA announced the final rule for the new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2), but the canola pathway was not yet looked at as biofuel feedstock able to meet required greenhouse gas reduction standards. Now, Biodiesel Magazine reports that the EPA says canola oil biodiesel could reduce GHGs by 50 percent compared to petroleum-based diesel:

“These results, if finalized, would justify authorizing the generation of biomass-based diesel RINs for fuel produced by the canola oil biodiesel pathway modeled, assuming that the fuel meets the other definitional criteria for renewable fuel (e.g., produced from renewable biomass, and used to reduce or replace transportation fuel) specified in EISA,” EPA said in the NODA memo.

EPA analyzed canola oil as a feedstock “assuming the same biodiesel production facility designs and conversion efficiencies as modeled for biodiesel produced from soybean oil.” To assess the impact of producing biodiesel from canola oil, the EPA also created a control case projection estimating 200 million gallons of canola-based biodiesel per year by 2022. “While we recognize that some canola oil has historically been used to make biodiesel for domestic use,” EPA said, “this range of production (zero to 200 million gallons) covers the range of production likely by 2022.” To create the projection, the EPA used a number of factors including historical volumes, potential feedstock availability and competitive uses, potential increases in crop acreage and potential increases in crop and conversion yields.

“As with other EPA analyses of fuel pathways with a significant land use impact, the proposed analysis for canola oil biodiesel includes a best estimate as well as a range of possible lifecycle greenhouse gas emission results based on formal uncertainty analysis conducted by the agency,” EPA also noted.

The EPA believes canola crop yields will increase in the long term.