Duke Energy to Capture Methane from Swine Waste

Duke Energy has finalized a deal to purchase captured methane gas derived from swine waste. The project will take place at farms located in Kenansville, North Carolina and its the second waste-to-energy project of its kind for Duke Energy. The captured methane will be treated, injected into a pipeline system and then used to produce renewable electricity at two power stations: H.F. Lee Station Combined Cycle Plant in Wayne County, N.C. and Sutton Combine Cycle Plant in New Hanover County, N.C. The project should be operational by summer of 2017.

5-24-16+SWINE+2nd+Pork+Release_mid“We see continued advancement in this technology in North Carolina,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “This project has environmental benefits and is cost-effective for our customers.”

The location is in the heart of Smithfield Foods’ pork operations. Duke Energy says the power produced will be carbon neutral as compared to the emissions that would result if the waste was left to decay using current methods.

Under North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), Duke Energy companies must meet specific compliance targets for swine and poultry waste. In March, the company announced a project with Carbon Cycle Energy to use swine waste-derived gas at four power plants in North Carolina. With this project, the Optima KV digesters will produce about 80,000 MMBtus captured methane a year that will create about 11,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy annually. The renewable energy credits (RECs) generated annually by the effort will help satisfy state mandates and Duke Energy has filed to have both power plants designated as new renewable energy facilities.

Movie Review – Thirsty Land Debuts at #Water4Food

As a hush came over the theater last night and the lights went down for the opening scene of the documentary Thirsty Land, the sound of rain pounding on the roof served as background noise. A bit ironic. Especially in light of meeting a community in California that has run out of water.

DSC_0077Thirsty Land, directed and produced by Conrad Weaver, focuses on the multi-year drought facing California, Washington and other southwestern states. The documentary debuted as part of the Water for Food Global Conference taking place April 24-26 in Lincoln Nebraska at the Nebraska Innovation Campus.

Maybe the biggest impact the drought has had is not to consumers, but to hundreds of farmers in California who were given no water allocation for the 2015 growing season. This has led to hundreds of thousands of acres of fallow agricultural land, much of which used to produce much of America’s produce, fruits and nuts. Yes, consumers, no water = no food. No water = no life. For anyone.

Why must I make this obvious statement? Because as water shortages become more common, there has been a call for agriculture to reduce its use of water. Approximately 70 percent of all water used globally is for agriculture. Farmers are feeling the pressure of lack of water while trying to grow safe, healthy food and more of it. A resonating message in the film from the farmers is “Stop vilifying us. Stop vilifying agriculture. We need to work together to solve water problems, not play the blame game”.

A truer statement was not uttered. Farmers intrinsically understand the value of water and have been some of the first in the country to begin integrating water sustainability and conservation programs. Thirsty Land follows the journey of growers who share their stories of how water shortages have affected operations from dairy farmers to fruit producers to sheep producers. The film follows the farmers as they try to find solutions to get through the drier years; yet still produce enough food to keep the farm in operation all while putting conversation programs in place for future drier years.

DSC_0085There are some very touching stories in the film – especially around the town in California with no water while the documentary was being filmed. Weaver said they did get access to water again earlier this year but it’s still spoty, at best. The cinematography is stunning in places and there is even a horrific beauty in the shots of deep cracked earth and the dying environment.

While the documentary is about the unbreakable connection of water and food, it is really a film not for the agriculture industry, says Weaver, but for consumers. Weaver stresses there is a need for consumers to better understand the dynamics of water and food and thus, become more supportive of water programs that put agriculture first.

Thirsty Land will be playing in cities across the country and on college campuses this fall. Please go see this film when it comes to your community or campus. If it is not scheduled, then consider hosting a screening. And consider donating funds to get this film in front of as many consumers across the country as possible.

To learn more about the film, the experiences of the filmmaker and why he feels Thirsty Land is so important, listen to my interview with Conrad Weaver here: Conrad Weaver, Thirsty Land Producer & Director

Growth Thanks Farmers on National Ag Day

National Ag Day logoToday is National Ag Day, a day to thanks farmers for what they do for America. Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy made a statement today in celebration of the food, feed and fuel that American farmers provide the world.

“American farmers are to be admired. They are stewards of the land who ensure sustainability for future generations. They are innovative, dedicated and produce an abundance of food and fuel for our nation and the world. American farmers are the backbone of our nation. Their hard work and efficiency help to bolster rural economies while growing our nation’s economy, providing economic security for all. It takes a lot to get food from the farm to the table and we all have America’s farmers and ranchers to thank for it.

Furthermore, American agriculture is at the forefront of biofuel development. Farmers are helping produce homegrown, sustainable biofuels that are cleaning the air we breathe, reducing harmful toxic emissions and providing a 21st century fuel for 21st century vehicles. These innovators are decreasing our dependence on dirty fossil fuels and foreign oil imports, reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs that cannot be outsourced. The fuels they produce also provide consumers with a choice and savings at the pump.

American consumers pay less per capita than any other country for food. Our grocery stores are well stocked and American agriculture is the envy of the world. Agriculture creates economic security for our rural communities and has allowed hardworking Americans to secure a place in the middle class. As we celebrate National Ag Day, Americans nationwide should be proud to acknowledge the many contributions agriculture has made to society and the leading role farming communities play in our country’s economy.”

PERC Promotes Farm Incentive Program

Several years ago, the Propane Research and Education Council (PERC) launched the Propane FEED Program for farmers. Today the program has evolved as is now called the Propane Farm Incentive Program and it’s taking off. To learn more about the program and how farmers can get involved, Chuck Zimmerman spoke with PERC’s Director of Agriculture Business Development Cinch Munson during Commodity Classic 2016 in New Orleans.

classic16-percThe results for 2015 are in, said Munson, and they follow the trends for the past five years. “Folks who switched to a propane irrigation engine from a diesel engine saw their energy costs go down 58 percent in 2015. So by making that switch they’re ending up with a lot of money in their pocket. Grain dryers a similar story. By upgrading their equipment from an old generation propane grain dryer to a new propane grain dryer people saved 42 percent on energy.”

Technology is changing; technology is getting better and equipment is so much more efficient, said Munson. He noted that when you combine that with the fact that propane supplies are up and propane prices are down, people who make the switch are seeing more money in their pockets.

To learn more about the Propane Farm Incentive Program, listen to Chuck’s interview with Cinch Munson: Interview with Cinch Munson, PERC

2016 Commodity Classic Photo Album

NCGA Identifies Ethanol as Driver for Demand

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) held a press conference this week during 2016 Commodity Classic to discuss several key issues facing the corn industry and highlight the efforts currently in place to create solutions to the challenges that have been facing growers.

NCGA president Chip BowlingNCGA Present Chip Bowling, a corn grower from Newburg, Maryland, said that the most important action the organization is taking on behalf of its members is creating more demand for corn products. Ethanol, said Bowling, is an important element to increasing demand.

“Ethanol is the most important driver for future growth of corn demand,” said Bowling during his remarks. “We’re investing in fuel pump infrastructure that will give customers more access to higher ethanol blends. USDA has provided $100 million in matching grants to help us with this effort. We’re also pushing for changes that would give every American year round access to E15. At the same time we’re protecting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which provides renewable, clean energy and increases our nation’s energy independence.”

Bowling noted that in January, NCGA banded with other organizations in court to challenge the EPA’s renewable volume obligations (RVS) under the RFS, which are under statutory levels. “We’re pushing for our case to be heard before EPA announces 2017 RVO numbers that are supposedly coming out at the end of March.”

Listen to the full press conference here:
NCGA Press Conference at Commodity Classic

2016 Commodity Classic Photo Album

#RFS is a Top Issue for Ag Equipment Makers

nfms16-aem-panelThe Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) hosted an Ag Executive Outlook panel during the opening day of the 2016 National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville this week and one of the top issues for the organization is maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

AEM’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Nick Yaksich says building demand is vital for the agriculture economy right now and that is why the RFS is important. “There’s great opportunities with corn ethanol and beyond,” he said. “There is a push from the oil industry to fight back and repeal that. So, top of our list is to maintain what the government has put into law.”

Industry executives on the panel with Yaksich included Todd Sutcke with Kubota, Leif Magnusson of CLAAS Global Sales Americas, Jim Walker with Case IH NAFTA, and Great Plains Manufacturing president Linda Salem who each gave their perspectives on industry issues including the RFS, government regulations and trade.

AEM stresses industry involvement in policy issues with the I Make America campaign, which is dedicated to advocating for policies that strengthen their industry and economic vitality. “The key is grassroots involvement by voting members,” said Yaksich. “We started the I Make America campaign to reach beyond the corporate CEOs.” The campaign is in its fourth year and is equipped with a mobile marketing tour featuring a video game component to reach different groups within companies.

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Nick Yaksich, AEM

Enogen Use Up as Syngenta Announces Sale

syngentaSyngenta made headlines this week with news that ChemChina, a Chinese state-owned company, has offered to acquire the company with the cash purchase of all Syngenta shares. The $43 billion deal must still be approved by two-thirds of Syngenta shareholders and receive regulatory approval.

During a call with reporters, Syngenta Chief Operating Officer Davor Piskof said the offer will allow Syngenta “to continue as a stand alone company,” and keep its commitment to research and innovation. “To ensure that Syngenta remains Syngenta (is) one of the most important elements of this transaction,” said Piskof, adding that it “helps preserve choice for growers at a time when we’re seeing a lot of consolidation.”

Enogen logoAt the same time, Syngenta announced its 2015 year end results, which includes significant growth in Enogen corn for ethanol production, despite an overall decline in sales of 11%.

“We continue to make very good progress with our Enogen trait offer for bio-ethanol plants, with now 18 plants contracted to receive Enogen corn and another 28 prospects that we are confident will be signing up during the course of this year,” said Piskof. The most recent plant to sign an agreement to use Enogen was Midwest Renewable Energy in December.

Learn more about Syngenta’s 2015 results and plans for ChemChina acquisition here: Syngenta COO Davor Piskof

USDA Scientists Develop Bio-Oil

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been working on creating better crude liquid from renewable resources to replace fossil-based fuel. Coined “bio-oil,” the renewable fuel is derived from agricultural waste such as non-food-grade plant matter procured from agricultural or household waste residue such as wood, switchgrass, and animal manures. The advanced biofuel is now a few steps closer to being able to be distilled at existing petroleum refineries.

TGRP mobile Unit

ARS scientists are testing this mobile pyrolysis system for on-farm production of bio-oil from agricultural waste.

The research team, headed by Agricultural Research Services (ARS) chemical engineer Akwasi Boateng with the Sustainable Biofuels and Coproducts Unit at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, is working on a modified pyrolysis technique called “tail-gas reactive pyrolysis” (TGRP). Traditionally, pyrolysis is process that chemically decomposes plant and other organic matter using very high heat. This process is not compatible with current distillation equipment at petroleum biofineries due to its highly acidic and high oxygen content, and requires the addition of an expensive catalyst.

Now, however, using waste materials, bio-oils are being produced at an accelerated rate using a new high-output mobile processing unit funded by a Biomass Research and Development Initiative Grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  Instead of shipping large amounts of agricultural waste to a refinery plant at high cost, the mobile reactor allows conversion of the biomass into energy-dense bio-oil right on the farm. In addition, this bio-oil is a higher quality bio-oil that is more marketable to biofuel producers than bio-oil made from traditional pyrolysis methods.

“Ideally, the biofuels added to gasoline would be identical to fuels produced at petroleum refineries,” Eklasabi told AgResearch Magazine. “The quality of TGRP deoxygenated liquids is equal to or better than the bio-oil produced by catalyst pyrolysis.” And, added Eklasabi, bringing the bio-oil one step closer to being able to be distilled at existing petroleum refineries.

Energy, Ag Scholarships Available from CHS

Current college students and soon to be college students who are interested in alternative energy and agriculture are eligible to apply for scholarships from the CHS Foundation. The major giving entity of CHS Inc., more than 300 scholarships will be awarded in 2016.

CHS_LOGOOne hundred $1,000 scholarships will be made to high school students who choose to pursue agricultural-related degrees or STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) fields of study with an interest in agriculture or energy industry careers. More than 200 additional scholarships will help fund expenses for existing agriculture college students currently pursuing agriculture-related degrees at two- and four-year colleges.

“CHS and the CHS Foundation are dedicated to developing future leaders,” said William Nelson, president, CHS Foundation and vice president, CHS Corporate Citizenship. “We are proud to invest in educating young people to ensure they gain experience and build the skills necessary for long-lasting careers in the agriculture and energy industries.”

High school scholarship applications must be submitted by April 1, 2016. An independent, external committee will select scholarship recipients based on essays, transcripts and reference letters. For additional eligibility information and to apply, click here. The college scholarships are directly administered by more than 30 partnering universities throughout the U.S. and application deadlines vary by by school. For more information and a list of partnering universities, click here.

Bill Howell Wins New Holland Boomer 47

Bill Howell was the winner of the 2015 Growth Energy Individual Member Sweepstakes and took home a Boomer 47, a 47 hp tractor customized with Growth Energy racing decals. The contest was sponsored by New Holland and Growth Energy and Howell was presented with his Boomer 47 in Carroll, Iowa this week.

Bill and Katherine Howell take a seat in their new New Holland Boomer 47 as part of the 2015 Growth Energy Individual Member Sweepstakes. Photo Credit: Carroll Broadcasting Company.

Bill and Katherine Howell take a seat in their new New Holland Boomer 47 as part of the 2015 Growth Energy Individual Member Sweepstakes. Photo Credit: Carroll Broadcasting Company.

“We are proud to support farmers and those who choose to work the land and who work so hard every day to grow crops to help feed the world and fuel our nation,” said Growth Energy Co-Chair, Tom Buis. “Our members are working hard to revitalize our rural economies, create new jobs and ensure our nation will have a sustainable and secure energy future. This sweepstakes was part of a larger effort to continue to build grassroots support for biofuels across the country. Our growing grassroots advocates, such as Mr. Howell, help promote our industry and ensure that lawmakers in Washington understand the important role biofuels play in America’s heartland.”

Howell was presented with the Boomer 47 by Clay Haley with Haley Equipment who sells New Holland equipment, along with Scott Wangsgard and George Rigdon representing New Holland Agriculture.

“New Holland is proud to support Growth Energy in their individual membership growth initiatives and we look forward to continuing the partnership in 2016,” said Ron Shaffer, Director of Commercial Sales Regions and Network Development for New Holland North America. “We are also pleased to have the opportunity to provide Mr. Howell with the Boomer 47 and we hope he will find it to be a valuable asset to his operation.”