Biodiesel Helps 4-H Students Learn Science

4HSome Minnesota 4-H students are learning more about science, thanks to biodiesel. This story from the St. Paul Pioneer Press says this knowledge could help these kids fill an expected 1,000 person gap in those able to fill the business, science engineering and agriculture jobs in this country each year.

For junior high and high school students, “4-H involvement could lead to college, university or even trade school and an ag-related job,” said Josh Rice, who runs the science of agriculture programming at University of Minnesota Extension. “Agricultural awareness is a very important piece of this. There are ag jobs out there and it’s not just production agriculture. It can be marketing, processing, distribution and even social science.”

Minnesota is the first state to start a 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge, which is a team competition showing science and engineering understanding. The teams have three or four members between grades six and 12 who share a common interest. A coach guides them through the scientific or engineering process. The teams also meet with a mentor from the industry, who gives guidance and an inside view of an agricultural career.

Brian and Anna Prchal of Montgomery and their cousin Tyler Fromm of New Hope teamed up to work on biodiesel.

Jodi Prchal, Brian and Anna’s mother and a fifth-grade teacher, is their coach.

Brian created biodiesel from used fryer oil at a local restaurant. He describes the process in detail on how to transform that oil into fuel.

“You can burn straight filtered vegetable oil in a diesel engine, but it gums up the engine,” Brian said…

Jodi Prchal says the critical moment came when they tried it in an engine. Brian had bought a single-cylinder, nine horsepower diesel engine and it ran smoothly on the biodiesel.

The article goes on to say that Brian learned how to make biodiesel for just 70 cents a gallon, as opposed to the $4 a gallon conventional diesel goes for. Anna and Tyler learned how much cleaner the biodiesel burned and how much better it was for engine wear.

Later this summer, they’ll present their work to a panel of judges and compete for scholarship money. Organizers would like to see this state program go nationally.

New White Paper Shows California’s E85 Success

A new study shows how E85 has been a success in California. Published by Propel Fuels, the white paper titled, “E85: A California Success Story White Paper,” and associated website illustrate the state’s emergence as the national leader in the use of sustainable E85 Flex Fuel.

Key research findings include:

● California has the highest rate of E85 growth of any state in the nation. E85 use has expanded 600% in California since 2009, while gasoline demand has decreased.
● E85 use has significant positive impacts on air quality, greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and petroleum reductions; providing air quality benefits in severe non-attainment areas by contributing 18-53% reduction in NOx as well as a 32% reduction in GHG emissions.
● E85 use has specifically benefited CalEPA designated Disadvantaged Communities.
● E85 is California’s value fuel, with 92% of users saying it is the same or better value than gasoline.
● California’s 1 million Flex Fuel vehicles can displace 600 million gallons of petroleum gasoline with E85.
● California’s retail E85 volume per location exceeds the national average by 300%.
● As a result of its policies, California is home to the lowest carbon ethanol in the country.

“Thanks to smart public policy and a strong value proposition for consumers, California’s E85 use has become a success story, and a road map for our nation for implementing low carbon fuels,” said Rob Elam, CEO of Propel Fuels. “This research conclusively demonstrates that E85 is a successful, sustainable, cost-effective fuel that consumers are choosing when they have retail access.”

California boasts 1 million Flex Fuel vehicles (FFV’s) that can use E85 interchangeably with conventional gasoline with no modification.

Renewables Hit Highest Levels Since 1930s

Consumption of renewable energy sources hit the highest levels in 80 years. This report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says renewables accounted for 9.8 percent of total domestic energy consumption in 2014, the highest renewable energy share since the 1930s, when wood was a much larger contributor to the domestic energy supply.

EIA 28may

Renewable energy use grew an average of 5% per year over 2001-2014 from its most recent low in 2001. The increase over the past 14 years was in part because of growing use of wind, solar, and biofuels. Wind energy grew from 70 trillion Btu in 2001 to more than 1,700 trillion Btu in 2014. During the same period, solar energy (solar thermal and photovoltaic) grew from 64 trillion Btu to 427 trillion Btu, and the use of biomass for the production of biofuels grew from 253 trillion Btu to 2,068 trillion Btu. Hydroelectricity was the largest source of renewable energy in 2014, but hydro consumption has decreased from higher levels in the mid-to-late 1990s. Wood remained the second-largest renewable energy source, with recent growth driven in part by demand for wood pellets.

In 2014, slightly more than half of all renewable energy was used to generate electricity. Within the electric power sector, renewable energy accounted for 13% of energy consumed, higher than its consumption share in any other sector.

The industrial sector used 24% of the nation’s renewable energy in 2014. Nearly all of that renewable energy was biomass, which included wood, waste, and biofuels used in manufacturing processes as well as in the production of heat and power. The production of biofuels results in energy losses and co-products, which are also included in industrial consumption of renewables.

EIA says more wood for home heating and more solar panel systems are the main contributors to increasing renewable energy consumption in residential buildings and, to a lesser extent, in commercial buildings.

Ethanol Industry Pleased with NREL Study

The ethanol industry is pleased with a new study released this week by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) showing existing service station equipment is compatible with E15, a 15 percent blend of the green fuel. The study also looked at vapor control equipment and found “an extensive list of E15 and E15+ compatible equipment available.”

lamberty“Rumors of E15’s impossibility and high equipment cost have been greatly exaggerated,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty. “NREL’s analysis confirms what we have been telling station owners since E15 was approved – most underground storage tanks (USTs), piping, and other fueling equipment are already compatible with E15.”

Lamberty said the ethanol industry has been criticized and called “dangerous” and “dishonest’ for suggesting marketers could simply put E15 in tanks they previously used for premium or midgrade gasoline. “Even after highlighting real-world fuel marketers selling E15 from existing equipment, the myth of high priced E15 infrastructure remains,” said Lamberty. “This study effectively busts that myth.”

Lamberty went on to say that “in stations where Big Oil couldn’t contractually ban E15, they had to scare the owners out of offering the less-expensive, higher-octane fuel.”

dinneen-capitolBob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, also commented on the study:

“This comprehensive analysis is both timely and relevant to the current debate about the so-called ‘blend wall’ that some would like to use to limit the growth opportunities for ethanol under the RFS. Clearly, the constraints to the increased use of E15 have more to do with the recalcitrance of refiners and marketers than they do any real infrastructure barriers. Today’s comprehensive study should once and for all belie the misplaced conclusion that infrastructure and ethanol demand limitations should justify a reduction in the RFS as it found most equipment at a retail fuel station today, including underground storage tanks, are compatible with E15. This study demonstrates that most retailers will not be required to break concrete and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to offer E15.”

The study was funded by the Blend Your Own Ethanol campaign, a joint effort of ACE and RFA to provide information for fuel retailers considering ethanol blends beyond E10. A full copy of the report can be found at BYOethanol.com, and interested parties can also register on the BYO website for an NREL webinar on the report which will be offered June 11, 2015 at 1:00 PM CDT.

Ethanol Gears Up for Friday’s RVOs Announcement

epa-150Ethanol advocates are gearing up for Friday’s announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the levels of renewable fuel to be mixed into the nation’s conventional fuel supplies. The Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) are mandated in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), but the EPA has been tinkering with the amounts, which could put the biofuels industry in jeopardy.

Fuels America continued its campaign leading up to the proposed rules with a full page ad in the New York Times today and a week-long sponsorship of Politico’s Morning Energy. The ads both present the choice before the EPA: rural economies and American innovation, or oil industry profits.

America’s Renewable Future (ARF) also announced that Iowa’s entire federal delegation – including Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Reps. Dave Loebsack, Steve King, David Young, and Rod Blum – is joining ARF in urging the EPA to set strong Renewable Fuel Standard volume requirements consistent with Congress’s intent when the law was passed.

“Farmers and biofuels producers have done their part. The EPA needs to do its part,” Grassley said. “The levels ought to reflect the reality of what can be accomplished in an unbiased way. That’s what the law requires, and that’s what consumers who want fuel choices deserve.”

Brent Erickson, the executive vice president of BIO, published this blog on Medium about the EPA’s choice and how the agency should follow the law:

Back when Congress was considering the RFS, oil companies fought tooth and nail against a part of the bill that I call the “Consumer Choice Provision” (CCP). This provision directs the EPA to set annual [RVO] levels based on the renewable fuel industry’s ability to produce and supply biofuels. The oil lobby instead wanted a law that would have allowed the EPA to set RVO levels below those in the statute if the oil industry simply refused to invest in renewable fuel infrastructure…

Instead, Congress designed the RFS to increase America’s energy security, lessen our dependence on foreign oil (which often comes from hostile regions), extend its commitment to America’s rural communities and green energy investors and innovators, and encourage infrastructure development. The RFS now supports more than 852,000 jobs across America. And thanks to the promise of the RFS, green energy investors have brought three commercial scale cellulosic ethanol facilities online, producing the world’s cleanest motor fuels from agricultural residue.

USDA Turning Wildfire Fuel into Biofuels

usda-logoThe fuel for wildfires is being converted to biofuels. This posting on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) blog says the agency is tackling the issue of what to do with the trees killed by bark beetles, a source of fuel for forest fires. While the huge bioenergy resource (projected to be 46 million acres) has potential, it faces some real challenges, including access to industrial centers able to process it into biofuel. Several USDA programs look to overcome that issue.

One such program, the Sustainable Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR), is led by Colorado State University. BANR brings together scientists, educators, and extension specialists from universities and government agencies to work with industry partners to address the major challenges that impact economical and sustainable utilization of insect-killed trees for the production of biofuels and biochar.

Because collecting beetle-killed trees is more of a salvage operation than a harvest, BANR has created teams to address the various challenges. The first order of business is locating the feedstock, which BANR does through various sensing approaches. They will also develop models to predict future beetle infestations. Another team is tackling the logistical problems of harvesting, collecting, transporting, and storing the raw biomass without negatively impacting natural forest regeneration and water resources. Specifically, goals for this aspect of the operation include benchmarking the performance of equipment used to harvest, process, and deliver beetle-killed trees, and then optimize the logistics for site conditions, specific end uses, and facility locations.

USDA also wants to educate youth by developing middle and high school science units that focus on bioenergy; professional development for K-12 teachers; research opportunities for K-12 teachers and undergraduate students; and online coursework for undergrads, graduate students, and K-12 teachers.

Massachusetts Town Preps for $4 Mil Biodiesel Plant

co-op powerA Massachusetts town is making final preparations for a $4 million biodiesel plant. This story from WWLP 22News says hundreds of families in the town of Greenfield have invested in the Co-op Power project.

The plant will be able to collect and recycle used cooking oil to produce 3 and half million gallons of biodiesel fuel per year. That fuel will then be used for heating, construction equipment and transportation.

However, Co-op Power, which is the company building the plant, says they need to raise about 850,000 dollars more to make this plant a reality.

The CEO of the company told 22News, the inspiration behind this plant is the need for sustainable energy production, “Yea, this plant here is owned by hundreds of families in the region and we got together and decided that a biodiesel plant was one of the most important things we could do to help us transition to a more sustainable future,” said Lynn Benander, Northeast Biodiesel Company.

Co-op Power will have an update on the project later this week. The company hopes to raise all the money it needs by June 1st.

Report Details Use of Biodiesel in Heating Oil

noraA new report details how biodiesel could play a significant role in heating oil in the U.S. The congressionally mandated report, titled, “Developing a Renewable Biofuel Option for the Home Heating Sector” from the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) says ultra-low sulfur heating oil (ULSHO) has been one of the biggest transitions in heating oil, and biodiesel blends at 20 percent (B-20) with ULSHO are lower in Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) than natural gas when evaluated over 100 years, while blends of 2 percent (B-2) or more are lower in GHG than natural gas when evaluated over twenty years.

Other key findings in the report include:

– Biodiesel blended at 5 percent would require approximately 300 million gallons of biodiesel produced per year. Assuming the biodiesel industry average of 50 million gallons per year per plant. Bioheat® would be responsible for 6 plants built and continuously operated. Thus, nearly 270 full time jobs can be directly attributed to Bioheat®.
– Studies on the operation of Bioheat® on the basic burner operation with biodiesel blends at B-20 (at least) is the same as with unblended heating oil.
– NORA (the Alliance) and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) have communicated the value of using biodiesel and selling Bioheat®. The Alliance features information about Bioheat® on its consumer website, OilheatAmerican.com. The NBB has a webpage, Bioheatonline.com that describes the advantages of Bioheat®. Further, the Alliance and its affiliated state associations have worked to provide education on this product to consumers and retail oil companies through the use of mass media and informational brochures.
– State and local governments have utilized a number of strategies to encourage the use of biofuels in their communities. It is often necessary to encourage its use with incentives or mandates to develop the infrastructure and overall market acceptance for a new fuel.

Novozymes Talks Flexibility for Ethanol at FEW

Novozymes_logo_leftNovozymes, our sponsor for coverage at the upcoming Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW), June 1 – 4 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, will be talking about the company’s flexible solutions to increase ethanol plant profitability and achieve operational goals during FEW. Novozymes invites everyone to stop by its booth #1021 and chat with its knowledgeable team.

Get a sneak peek at Novozymes Bioenergy University – an online training platform to help you boost your operators’ competencies
Play Ethanol Challenge – our fun, interactive new game that explores ethanol production (each day’s top scorer wins an iPad, and everybody who plays gets a prize!)
Fuel your own engine at the Common Ground Cafe – our coffee bar

We also encourage you to join Novozymes in the following FEW sessions:

Yield maximization: propagation and fermentation optimization
Presenter: Derek Payne, Research Associate

Tues., June 2, 1:30-3 p.m.
Track 1: Production and operations
Exploring best practices for yield maximization Continue reading

Making More Sustainable Ethanol at FEW

celleratesyngentaAttendees of the upcoming Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW), June 1 – 4, will have the chance to learn about the next leap forward for ethanol production, as Syngenta presents: Cellerate – a revolutionary ethanol process technology that converts corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol.

Quad County Corn Processors CEO Delayne Johnson will discuss Cellerate as part of, “Grabbing that Next Rung: Advanced Ethanol Production for Existing Starch Producers.” Don’t miss his presentation:

When: Tuesday June 2, 1:30pm – 3:00pm
Where: Room 101 DEFG

Syngenta also invites you to stop by booth 701 at FEW to learn how Syngenta is making ethanol more sustainable by integrating Cellerate process technology and Enogen corn enzyme technology.