New Ethanol Production, Corn Oil Comes to Market

Pacific Ethanol has begun commercial production of corn oil utilizing Valicor’s corn oil recovery system at its Columbia ethanol plant located in Boardman, Oregon. With the completion of this 2-year initiative, all four of the western Pacific Ethanol plants are now producing corn oil.

Neil Koehler, the company’s president and CEO, said of the milestone, “With the production of distillers corn oil at our Columbia plant, all eight of our ethanol facilities separate corn oil for sale into high-value markets. Corn oil production has been a major milestone for the company, and one that we expect to provide significant benefits as it broadens our co-product mix, further diversifies our revenue streams and enhances operating income.”

Cellulosic sugars, following extraction from bagasse at Iogen's Raizen Costa Pinto Plant (Brazil) where cellulosic ethanol is not being produced. Photo Credit:  novocana.com

Cellulosic sugars, following extraction from bagasse at Iogen’s Raizen Costa Pinto Plant (Brazil) where cellulosic ethanol is now being produced. Photo Credit: novocana.com.

Moving to the Midwest, the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol plant was fully commissioned. The 65 MMGy facility, located in Spiritwood, North Dakota, is the first corn-ethanol plant to be built in the U.S. in more than five years. The plant is unique in that the process steam is purchased from Great River Energy’s nearby Spiritwood Station and is used to help produce electricity.

Across the pond (and an ocean) in Brazil, Iogen Energy’s cellulosic ethanol plant is now up and running at the Raízen`s newly expanded Costa Pinto sugar cane mill in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was on hand for a celebration and noted, “the production of second generation ethanol from sugarcane bagasse is the realization of a dream for the country. The collaboration between the State and Raízen is part of the government’s commitment to ethanol production as a strategic measure for economic development.”

NBB Cites Biodiesel Benefits of RFS

The comment period has officially ended for the final 2014 and 2015 final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule as set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The National Biodiesel Board submitted comments but has a different take on how to keep the legislation moving forward and successful.

Biodiesel at the pumpBiodiesel falls under the Biomass-based Diesel category of the RFS, which is a subset of the overall Advanced Biofuels category. The EPA proposal, which is slated to be finalized in November, would gradually raise biodiesel volumes by about 100 million gallons per year to a standard of 1.9 billion gallons in 2017. The overall Advanced Biofuel standard would rise to 3.4 billion gallons in 2016.

NBB wrote in their comments, “The growth and expansion of the U.S. biodiesel industry in recent years represents a tremendous success story under the RFS. Today, nearly 2 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel displace an equivalent amount of petroleum diesel. This has resulted in significant reductions in pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact across the nation.”

“The industry now has production plants in nearly every state in the country making fuel from an increasingly diverse mix of feedstocks, including recycled cooking oil, plant oils such as soybean oil, and animal fats,” the comments state. “In short, the biomass‐based diesel program has exceeded expectations and is achieving the goals that Congress outlined in creating the RFS. As a result, it warrants additional volume growth to meet the objectives of Congress in expanding renewable fuel use in the diesel market and in promoting advanced biofuels under the program.

NBB’s comments follow a letter from 36 U.S. senators last week calling for increased biodiesel volumes, and add to thousands of comments submitted by biodiesel supporters to the EPA in recent weeks. The comment period on the EPA’s pending proposal closed at midnight Monday.

“The EPA’s proposal is an improvement over its initial draft, but the agency can and should do much better,” said Anne Steckel, NBB vice president of federal affairs. “We have presented credible, compelling reasons for increasing biodiesel use under the RFS, and we hope the EPA carefully reviews our comments and those of thousands of other biodiesel supporters who have weighed in.”

RFS Comments Piled High at EPA Doors

Boxes upon boxes of comments relating to the Renewable Fuel Standard were delivered to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) doors yesterday as the comment period ended for the final 2014/2015 rule. Despite clear legislation on the amount of renewable volumetric obligations (RVOs) for all facets of renewable fuels, the EPA lowered the amount of corn-ethanol required to be blended in America’s fuel supply. During the timeframe allocated for comments, the biofuels industry came together not only in support of the industry but to call on the EPA to “get back on track” and put the RVOs at minimum at the levels set by legislation.

Leaders from the National Farmers Union and I Am Biotech delivered more than 200,000 comments on behalf of Fuels America to the EPA.

Leaders from the National Farmers Union and I Am Biotech delivered more than 200,000 comments on behalf of Fuels America to the EPA.

Fuels America collected more than 200,000 written comments while VoteVets.org turned in nearly 47,000 petition signatures calling on the EPA to strengthen the RFS.

“It is absolutely crucial, for the wellbeing of our military, and our national security, that we lessen our dependence on oil,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org.  “A strong RFS is a key part of that equation.  It is very simple – every drop of renewable fuel in our gasoline means one less drop of oil.  The EPA should listen to those who love and support our military, and care about our national security, and strengthen the RFS.”

Last week the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) held an RFS rally where hundreds of corn growers from across the country called the EPA to task and told them to “stay the course”. A letter submitted by NCGA states, “The RFS has spurred growth in agriculture, increased energy diversity and decreased GHG emissions from fossil fuels through the development of renewable energy resources. We urge the Agency to stay the course and support this important piece of transformational energy policy, and we request it reconsider its proposed reduction in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 renewable volume obligations.”

Also submitting a letter along with comments was the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The letter, authored by President and CEO Bob Dinneen, called the proposal “surprising” and imprudent” and he charged the EPA with buying into the oil industry’s false narrative regarding the so-called blend wall. By doing so, he wrote, “EPA has unnecessarily and illegally curtailed the unprecedented evolution occurring in the transportation fuels market that was delivering technology innovation, carbon reduction, and consumer savings.”

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE0 also submitted comments that included E15 sales data demonstrating that consumers are choosing ethanol at the pump. Executive Vice President Brian Jennings wrote, “The RFS is intended to reduce the GHG emissions of motor fuel and provide consumer access to E15 and flex fuels which are less expensive and cleaner than gasoline. These sweeping goals will not be realized if EPA continues to ride the brakes on the RFS. Issuance of the final RFS in November has consequences beyond trying to get the program back on track.  The decision will come at the same time the President prepares to negotiate an international agreement to reduce GHG emissions in Paris.  What an embarrassment it will be if EPA betrays the Administration’s commitment to curb climate change by restricting the use of low carbon biofuels in the U.S.” Continue reading

Fuels America Submits 200k+ Pro RFS Comments

More than 200,000 Americans took a stand for biofuels by submitting written comments in support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Today is the final day of the comment period following the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) releasing its final renewable fuel volumes for 2015 and 2015. Fuels America, during a press call this morning, said these comments only paint a partial picture – tens of thousands of additional pro-biofuels comments are expected by the close of business today.

During an interview with DomesticFuel.com, Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, noted that the only industry that is not benefited by the biofuels industry is the oil industry, and those most hurt when biofuels are not in the marketplace are the consumers when they pay more money at the pump.

rfs-works“The Renewable Fuel Standard represents a promise to rural America—a promise that, when kept, helped rural economies across America make a strong comeback,” said Johnson, whose organization is a Fuels America member and who himself dropped comments off at the EPA this morning. “Today’s tremendous show of support for a strong RFS shows that it is time for the EPA to stop choosing foreign oil over rural America, and start getting the RFS back on track.”

Fuels America said that the comments were just one element of the widespread activism and support from Americans, and they collectively, they tell a story of outrage toward EPA’s proposal to, “allow oil companies to take charge of our renewable fuel supply, and effectively permit them to block competition from cleaner, less expensive, homegrown fuel”. These actions, stressed Johnson, could potentially weaken a biofuels industry that has helped enhance our national security, strengthened rural economies, and improved America’s climate impact.

Erick Lutt, Director of Industrial and Environmental Policy at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, who was also on the call today added, “Today, Americans are sending a strong signal to the EPA that its proposal to lower RVOs under the RFS is unacceptable. The EPA’s misfires and delays have pulled the rug out from the American investors and innovators who have brought the next generation of biofuels online in the U.S. The EPA is already responsible for $13.7 billion in frozen investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels, and we’re risking sending jobs, innovation, and investment overseas. We can’t afford any more setbacks. The EPA must set RVOs consistent with Congress’ original intent in order to bring investment back to America and allow our country’s innovators to continue developing clean, secure American energy.”

Listen to my interview with Roger Johnson: NFU's Roger Johnson Discusses Importance of RFS

NFU to Obama Admin – Comply with RFS

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling on the Obama Administration to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard volume obligations as set forth by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) statutory levels.

President Roger Johnson sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) writing, “The volume standards issued in EPA’s proposed rule for RFS target levels are unacceptable and will further hurt investment in a renewable fuel sector that has already been damaged by significant delays in issuing the standards,” said Johnson. “NFU strongly urges the administration to comply with the RFS levels already provided in the popular, bipartisan EISA statute.”

National Farmers Union logoJohnson noted that the volume standards in the proposed rule do not match the goals EPA claims to pursue through its execution of the RFS, and that EPA needs to set volume standards to those provided in the EISA in order to alleviate this problem.

“The proposed, lower volume standards demonstrate to industry that taking steps to increase consumer choice and pursue worthwhile environmental goals can be avoided, even when mandated by Congress,” wrote Johnson. “Instead, holding industry to the proposed targets would demonstrate the Administration’s stable, reliable commitment to biofuels and allow the biofuels and transportation fuels industries the certainty required to attract capital investment and build out the infrastructure needed to offer consumers higher-level ethanol blends.”

Johnson said the proposed rule hurts the administration’s goals for climate resiliency – important steps that mitigate the threats climate change poses to family agriculture. He said that transportation fuels promoted by the RFS have immense potential to reduce climate-influencing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the transportation sector.

“EPA should pursue GHG emission reductions at every opportunity to try to mitigate climate change as much as possible,” Johnson’s letter continued. “The RFS offers tremendous capacity to reduce GHGs by encouraging the use of transportation fuels that emit fewer GHGs than petroleum-based transportation fuels.”

The letter concluded, “NFU respectfully asks EPA to issue a final rule implementing volume standards that match those Congress set in EISA. Those standards will drive investment in advanced biofuel production and rural communities and contribute to climate resiliency. NFU stands ready to offer any support and assistance EPA may find helpful regarding these matters.”

Senate Committee Advances Tax Credits Extension

The Senate Finance Committee Tuesday approved a two-year extension of various tax credits that expired at the end of 2014, including those for biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, and wind energy.

The bill contains a two-year extension of the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, and the Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit.

rfalogo1Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen commended the committee’s leadership for recognizing how important these tax credits are for the continued growth and innovation of the U.S. biofuels industry. “Stability in the marketplace is crucial to encouraging development in second-generation biofuels, like cellulosic ethanol,” said Dinneen. “By extending these incentives, the Committee has helped to provide that needed stability. We look forward to working with the Senate Finance Committee specifically and Congress generally on comprehensive tax reform.”

Dinneen says passage of the tax credit extensions, which will be retroactive, still has a long way to go. “Still needs to get through the floor of the Senate and be conferenced with a bill from the House side,” said Dinneen. “But it’s progress.”

Last year Congress passed retroactive tax credits for 2014 in December, two weeks before they expired again.

Listen to Dinneen’s comments here: RFA CEO Bob Dinneen comments on tax credits progress

Hope for Renewable Energy Tax Credits

The Senate Finance Committee is set to vote Tuesday on a two-year extension of tax benefits, including the production tax credit for wind power, and credits for biodiesel and cellulosic biofuels production.

wyden-hatch“This markup will give the Committee a timely opportunity to act on extending a number of expired provisions in the tax code that help families, individuals and small businesses,” Hatch said. “This is the first time in 20 years where a new Congress has started with extenders legislation having already expired, and given that these provisions are meant to be incentives, we need to advance a package as soon as possible.”

“The tax code should work for, not against, Americans,” Wyden said. “We need to extend these tax provisions now in order to provide greater certainty and predictability for middle class families and businesses alike. However as we look beyond next week, it’s critical we all recognize and take action to end this stop and go approach to tax policy through extenders.”

A group of biofuel trade organizations have sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) encouraging extension of the critical advanced biofuel tax incentives. The incentives include the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit, the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property, the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit. Groups supporting the extensions are the Advanced Ethanol Council, Advanced Biofuels Association, Algae Biomass Organization, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, and Renewable Fuels Association.

USDA Accepting Applications for Biobased Products

Following a webinar this morning, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced they are accepting applications for funding under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program. It was formerly known as the Biorefinery Assistance Program. The webinar discussed changes to the program as well as opportunities available to produce more biobased products.

USDA logo“This critical financing will enhance our efforts to build a robust, rural bioeconomy by helping to expand the availability of biobased products and to increase the number of commercial-scale biorefineries in the country,” Vilsack said. “In addition to the available funding, I am proud to announce that USDA has significantly improved the biorefinery program to help create lasting job opportunities in rural America.”

There will be two funding cycles. Applications for round one are due October 1, 2015. Applications for the second round are due April 1, 2016. For information on how to apply, see page 38432 of the July 6, 2015 Federal Register.

USDA has made significant improvements to the program. Biorefineries are now able to receive funding to produce more renewable chemicals and other biobased products in addition to advanced biofuels. In addition, biobased product manufacturing facilities are eligible to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs into “end-user” products. Further, USDA has streamlined the application process.

USDA released a report on June 17, 2015 that shows America’s biobased industry is generating substantial economic activity and creating American jobs. According to the report, the U.S. biobased industry contributed four million jobs and nearly $370 billion to the American economy in 2013 alone.

Time is Now for Non-Renewable Carbon Fee

Advanced Biofuels USA has gone public with a new idea for capturing externalities of non-renewable fuels for funding needed research – a Non-Renewable Carbon Fuel User Fee. The organization made the announcement during the Congressional Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency EXPO + Forum that took place in Washington D.C. on July 9, 2015.

“If we’re serious about reducing Climate Change caused by Green House Gases, then we need serious actions,” said Joanne Ivancic, executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA. Advanced Biofuels USA logoIn her presentation, Ivancic laid out the salient points of the plan. “The first steps are including the price of Green House Gas (GHG) effects in non-renewable carbon fuels and committing serious money to renewable fuel research and infrastructure development.”

The Advanced Biofuels USA proposal uses lower priced renewable fuels to drive the consumer market. When the true costs of fuel become apparent, they argue, consumers will demand higher renewable portions of fuels for transportation, power and heat. The fee, which they base on current scientific estimates of climate change effects and mitigation costs, applies to only the non-renewable portion of liquid and gas used for transportation and stationary source combustion.

The fee would be between $50 and $100/ton of non-renewable carbon and translates into only 3.5 percent to 7 percent increases in current transportation fuel prices; or, less than the volatility we commonly experience in gasoline prices. The fee, Ivancic explained, will disappear as lower priced renewable fuels take over the market. Revenues from the fee will be used for two purposes:

  • Renewable Fuel R&D: An immediate Apollo type program should be funded with between 50% and 60% of the fees. It should be administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and be focused on getting affordable non-food biomass fuels and gases into the pipeline in less than seven years.
  • Renewable Fuel Infrastructure: The upgraded fuel pumps, decentralized processing/distribution modules, and temporary rebates to people not able to afford the initial lack of renewable fuel would be funded with between 40% and 50% of the fees. These programs would be run by the states.

Ivancic said the proposal will spur investment, innovation, installation and use of renewable choices. “Not only will we see a rapid reduction in GHG emissions,” she said, “but more important, a sustainable renewable fuel industry will create good jobs for Americans in research labs, rural towns, and urban manufacturing plants.”

Collection of this user fee would not require new bureaucracies. Existing consumer point-of-sale fuel and utility tax collections systems (for natural gas) would be used.

Canadians Support Renewable Fuels

Canadians believe in renewable fuels. A recent survey finds 88 percent of Canadians believe more renewable fuels should be produced in Canada and that government should do more to promote the industry. The poll was was commissioned by the Canadian Canadians support renewable fuelsRenewable Fuels Association (CRFA) and shows that 85 percent of respondents feel pride in Canada’s biofuels industry.

“This poll reinforces what the CRFA and our members have known for years: renewable fuels are important to and valued by the public,” said Andrea Kent, president of CRFA. “Eight in 10 Canadians believe renewable fuel products are clean, innovative and needed across the country. The renewable fuels industry also provides Canadians with over 14,000 jobs and generate $3.5 billion in economic activity every year.”

One in three Canadians would like there to be more support for renewable fuels, found the survey. In addition, when respondents learned of the current federal biofuels mandates, 31 percent said their impression of government action on climate change improved while sixty-seven percent also support increasing the level of biodiesel from the current mandate of 2 percent to 5 percent.