REG Celebrates Opening of Washington Refinery

REGgrays1Biodiesel giant Renewable Energy Group (REG) has cut the ribbon on its latest refinery. This company news release says REG formally opened the 100-million gallon capacity Grays Harbor, Washington, biorefinery, formerly owned by Imperium.

“REG Grays Harbor’s addition to REG is a significant milestone for our company,” said Daniel J. Oh, President and CEO, noting that the plant is the Company’s 11th, and now largest, biorefinery and its first west coast production facility. “The transition has been seamless thanks to the dedicated employees here and to other teams within our company.”

Oh also thanked local government leaders in Hoquiam and Aberdeen for working with the Company during the transition and praised the work of Washington’s congressional delegation and Governor Jay Inslee for being champions of advanced biofuels.

Gary Haer, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, told the crowd that production at the Grays Harbor biorefinery will aid REG’s efforts to grow biodiesel sales along the west coast region. “We can now serve customers and expand sales of high quality REG 900™ fuel in Washington, Oregon, western Canada as well as increase sales throughout California to meet LCFS demand,” Haer said. “And with the multi-modal capabilities at the terminal and port, we increase our flexibility to fulfill orders via the use of truckload, rail car, or Panamax class tanker shipments.”

Local leaders welcomed REG to the area business community. “Today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for biodiesel production in Grays Harbor,” said Dru Garson, CEO of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. “We’re excited by the prospects of having REG as a community partner, as their track record of operating plants and re-investing in the community is impressive.”

REG Grays Harbor also boasts 18 million gallons of on-site storage and a terminal that can accommodate feedstock intake and fuel shipments by truck, rail and deep-water vessel.

Biodiesel Board Responds to EU Protectionism

nBBThe European Union has extended its protectionist trade duties that have kept the American green fuel out of the continent since 2009. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is calling on Congress to reinstate the U.S. tax incentive now to help counter what NBB sees as unfair trade practices.

“The European Commission has decided to continue a policy that is clearly aimed at giving European biodiesel producers an edge over their competition and a lock on the European market. It is disappointing, and we will continue evaluating our options for fighting these protectionist duties,” [said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for NBB.]

“This decision highlights why the U.S. biodiesel tax incentive should be reformed and converted into a domestic production credit so that we have a level playing field. When the U.S. biodiesel tax incentive is in effect under the current structure, European biodiesel can be shipped to the United States only to be rewarded with a $1-per-gallon incentive, while at the same time U.S. biodiesel shipped to the EU is slapped with punitive duties. This is obviously unfair to American companies and workers.”

The punitive duties were first imposed by the European Commission on July 7, 2009, and were slated to expire last year. However, in July 2014, the European Biodiesel Board pushed to extend them for another five years, and the Commission has been conducting an “expiry review” for this purpose. The EU has cited the $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax incentive in the U.S. as a reason to extend the duties, ignoring the fact that the biodiesel tax incentive is currently expired and that European biodiesel was eligible to receive the tax credit so long as it was blended in the U.S.

NBB pointed out that European biodiesel producers are able to sell biodiesel in both Europe and the United States without duties or limitation and can freely participate in U.S. policies such as the Renewable Fuel Standard and, before it had expired, the U.S. biodiesel tax incentive.

Glycerol Recycled into Biodiesel Catalyst

Hutchings-CCI1Researchers in the United Kingdom have found a way to recycle a biodiesel by-product back into a catalyst to make the green fuel. This article from Cardiff University says its scientists turned glycerol into methanol.

To achieve this, the researchers reacted glycerol with water, to provide the element hydrogen, and a magnesium oxide (MgO) catalyst. The reaction involved a simple one-step process and could be performed using mild conditions.

Using the recycled methanol, the researchers estimate up to a 10 per cent increase in biodiesel production, which they claim would be very helpful to industry at this point in time.

The work is currently in its early stages and in future studies the researchers will look to optimise the design of the catalyst and significantly increase its activity and selectivity.

Lead author of the study Professor Graham Hutchings, Director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, said: “Biodiesel manufacture is a growing part of the EU fuel pool, with statutory amounts being required to be added to diesel that is derived from fossil fuels.

“We’ve provided unprecedented chemistry that highlights the potential to manufacture biodiesel in a much more environmentally friendly, and potentially cheaper, way, by converting an undesired by-product into a valuable chemical that can be reused in the process.”

Two Wood-Burning Plants Being Built in Georgia

GeorgiaFlag1An Alabama company is building two wood-burning electricity plants in Georgia. This article from the Athens (GA) Banner-Herald says state environmental officials have approved one of the two applications for the GreenFuels Holding Company’s plants expected to produce a total of nearly 140 megawatts of electricity.

The company filed its application for a 58 megawatt plant near Colbert about two weeks ago. State officials won’t begin to evaluate it for another couple of weeks, until a 30-day window has passed when the public can make formal comments, said Eric Cornwell, the Air Quality Branch’s program manager for stationary source permitting.

GreenFuels has a policy to not comment publicly to media, said GreenFuels vice president Steven Ingle.

But much of what the company has planned is outlined in documents on file with the state detailing their predicted emissions of pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrochloric acid.

Explaining Dropping Biodiesel RIN Prices

The price for D4 biodiesel renewable identification numbers (RINs) has dropped by more than 50 cents since the middle of June, leaving many scratching their heads and asking, “Why?” Analysts from the University of Illinois have an explanation.
The first factor contributing to the decline in D4 biodiesel RINs prices is the price of soybean oil, which is the main feedstock used to make biodiesel in the U.S. The price of soybean oil has fallen about 7 cents per gallon since mid-June due to improving soybean production prospects in the U.S. and concerns about economic growth in China. With a binding volume mandate, soybean oil prices are the main determinate of biodiesel prices, so the decline in soybean oil prices has led to a decline of more than 60 cents in the price of biodiesel. In turn, the decline in biodiesel prices has been the main factor in narrowing the biodiesel blending margin by about 25 cents. Since the biodiesel blending margin, at least in theory, is equal to the RINs value (ignoring time value), we are left with the puzzling result that the decline in D4 RINs prices is slightly more than twice the size of the decline in biodiesel blending margins. The most likely explanation for this puzzling result is that traders have been revising upward their estimate of the chance that the biodiesel tax credit will be reinstated for 2015. Since a tax credit reduces the RINs price when there is a binding volume mandate, it is rational to reduce D4 prices sharply if traders perceive a high chance of the credit being reinstated. Recent activity in the U.S. Senate is consistent with such an expectation.

You can read the full explanation here.

GE Provides Biomass Gasification for Project

GEPowerWaterGE is providing an integrated biomass gasification solution to power a bioenergy plant in California. This news release from the company says it struck the deal with Western Energy Systems and San Francisco-based Phoenix Energy to provide this for the North Fork project, the next in a series of bioenergy plants that Phoenix Energy is building in the state.

GE’s integrated biomass gasification solution includes an Ecomagination qualified, 1-megawatt engine and biomass gasification system. Phoenix Energy and GE have collaborated to design and implement this solution statewide.

For the North Fork project, Phoenix Energy will use the GE gasification solution to convert excess forest biomass to electricity, heat and biochar, supporting the state and federal efforts to reduce wildfire risk, eliminate wasteful pile and burn management practices and improve carbon sequestration. The renewable biomass is procured locally from U.S. Forest Service and CalFire managed lands. With GE’s process, the carbon in the biomass is left mostly in solid form as biochar. This biochar is then put back into California agriculture to improve soil health and water retention and can also be used as carbon filter media. GE will provide an integrated biomass solution including the gasifier, gas conditioning system and engine.

“GE is the first company to offer us a single end-to-end solution on the complete biomass system, rather than piecing it all together from multiple vendors. This is game changing for the forested communities,” said Phoenix Energy CEO Greg Stangl. “By working together, GE has given us the confidence that this is the right solution to use throughout California to produce sustainable local energy from local biomass, creating local jobs.”

The North Fork project received a $4.9 million California Energy Commission grant as part of a larger plan to support further deployment of bioenergy in the state.

California City Switches to Renewable Diesel

walnutcreekA California city has switched to using renewable diesel in its municipal fleet. This story from says Walnut Creek in the Bay area is one of the first cities in the area to make the switch.

So far, the conversion has been seamless, Walnut Creek Public Works Manager Rich Payne said.

“We haven’t noticed anything in terms of performance and it didn’t require any retrofitting of our equipment,” Payne said.

The city had been using low-percentage biodiesel, which is blended with petroleum diesel, for its fleet of street sweepers, dump trucks, backhoes, lawn mowers and other equipment, Payne said. Representatives from NeXgen Fuel LLC, which is distributed by Golden Gate Petroleum, approached the city about switching fuels, Payne said.

Renewable diesel is similar to biodiesel in that it is made from the same stock, which include fats, oils and greases, but that’s where the similarities end, said Pat O’Keefe, NeXgen CEO and Vice President of Golden Gate Petroleum. “The process to manufacture it is completely different,” O’Keefe said. “Renewable diesel acts and behaves in the engine just like regular diesel.”

The price for the renewable diesel is on par with regular diesel and about 10 cents per gallon cheaper than biodiesel.

German Biodiesel Quality Group Starts Glycerol Test

AGQMA German group that maintains quality standards for biodiesel will carry out round-robin tests for pharmaceutical glycerol. This news release from AGQM (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Qualitaetsmanagement Biodiesel) says this will be the first time for the tests, and registrations will still be accepted until Sept. 20, 2015.

Round Robin Tests to check test methods and the proper handling of professional laboratories have a long and successful history. That is why AGQM has also carried out round robin tests for Biodiesel analytics as part of its quality management system since being founded in 1999.

Apart from Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) which is mainly used as fuel (Biodiesel) and which must comply with high quality standards, glycerol – a by-product of the Biodiesel production – is also gaining continuously in importance. In the past it was used primarily in the fields of cosmetics and technology but nowadays it is used more and more as high-quality pharmaceutical glycerol which is gained by refining raw glycerol.

With this Round Robin Test we wish to enable both company laboratories as well as commercial service laboratories to carry out external quality assurance for selected parameters of the analytics of pharmaceutical glycerol.

Bubbles Could Make the Difference for Biodiesel

Researchers in Canada might have found a way to increase biodiesel production by using bubbles. This article from McGill University’s The McGill Daily says Peter Adewale, a PhD student in the school’s Bioresource Engineering Department, has devised a method to shorten the production time of biodiesel to twenty minutes, a significant drop from previously reported production times ranging from 24 to 96 hours.
The biodiesel was made from inedible tallow – a type of animal fat – using enzymes as a catalyst, and the bursting of bubbles formed by ultrasonic waves, a process known as ultrasonic mixing, to speed up the process…

Adewale tells The Daily, “When you are using edible canola oil, you are competing with human [consumption]. Down the road, it will lead to either high cost or scarcity.” To become a more viable alternative fuel, biodiesel would need to be made from non-edible sources such as animal fat waste, generated by the meat processing industry and tanneries.

Originally, Adewale was interested in creating models of the interactions of methanol and animal fat to see how those two reagents mix with each other to produce biodiesel. According to Adewale, after spending two years trying to learn how to use the modelling software COMSOL, he was told by the software’s producers that what he was trying to do was simply not possible. The level of modelling needed to simulate the particles mixing was too complicated, given the software that was available at the time. “Eventually, I had to drop the idea,” Adewale explains.

And so, two years into what he had hoped would be a three year PhD, Adewale decided to try an experimental approach, since dropping his theoretical modelling approach. He started by studying the characteristics – like the free fatty acid content and melting points – of different animal fats, such as tallow, lard, choice white grease, and yellow grease, all of which could be used to make biodiesel.

Adewale found tallow was conducive to ultrasound mixing and eliminated the use of some caustic catalysts.

Gevo Selling Isobutanol for Boats on Missouri Lake

gevoGevo is selling gasoline blended with isobutanol at a Missouri lake. This company news release says Harbor Marina Pumps at Lake Pomme de Terre is the first U.S. marina to sell gasoline blended with Gevo’s renewable fuel at the pump.

Lake Pomme de Terre is located in one of the premier recreational boating regions of the country. Gevo is now working to strategically roll out its marine fuel blend to marinas on other lakes including Lake of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake, as the company ramps up isobutanol sales to marine, outdoor equipment and off-road vehicle markets…

In June, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) officially endorsed isobutanol as a drop-in fuel for marine and recreational boat engines. Gevo’s bio-based isobutanol helps meet renewable fuel and clean air standards, while solving concerns that many boaters have with ethanol-blended fuels, which can damage internal engine parts.

Harbor Marina owner Todd Spencer said he made the decision to offer isobutanol-blended gasoline to his recreational boating customers once he concluded that it would be a superior renewable fuel for their boats. Gevo’s isobutanol is moisture resistant, does not cause phase separation and helps reduce engine corrosion. It is a highly stable, high octane marine fuel.

“My fuel supplier introduced me to the idea of blending Gevo’s renewable isobutanol with the straight, ethanol-free gasoline my marina was previously offering,” Spencer said. “At Harbor Marina, we pride ourselves on providing the best in entertainment, food and beverages – and now we can add: the best-in-marine fuel.”