Biofuel Industry: Need to Extend Current Tax Policies

A letter has been submitted to the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees and signed by more than 60 advanced biofuel companies and four trade associations encouraging Congress to extend tax provisions set to expire at the end of December 2013.

Ways and Means Committee MembersThe Advanced Ethanol Council, Advanced Biofuel Association, Algae Biomass Organization and Biotechnology Industry Organization delivered the letter to Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on behalf of 63 member companies, whose logos are included on the letter.

“The advanced biofuels industry is at a critical stage of development. The industry has made great strides in reducing the cost of production and developing first-of-kind technologies and bio-refining operations to deploy the most innovative fuel in the world. In a difficult financial market, we are now operating commercial plants all across the country and continue to make progress on dozens of additional projects in the final stages of development. As was the case with the conventional biofuels industry, these groundbreaking production processes can be replicated rather quickly once the technology is proven at commercial scale,” the organizations and companies wrote.

The industry says these credits are vital to the ongoing development of the domestic advanced biofuels industry and therefore further urged the members of Congress to extend current tax provisions for multiple years, to ensure stability in the marketplace.

The letter continued, “Accelerated depreciation allowances, technology specific deductions and production-related tax credits are currently offered to incumbent fossil energy industries on a permanent basis. As such, similar tax provisions made available to the advanced and cellulosic biofuels industry level the playing field with fossil fuels and are critical to our efforts to compete for project capital given that these types of incentives are available to our primary competitors.”

‘Operation Free’ on Renewable Energy

Lt. Gen. Norman SeipArizona State University’s Global Institute of Sustainability recently hosted guest speaker and Operation Free representative Lt. Gen Norman Seip (USAF, ret) on the topic of sustainability and national security. The event was part of the Sustainable Speaker lecture series at ASU’s Tempe Campus.

Lt. Gen. Seip retired after 35 years of military service with his last assignment as commander of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona. The three-star general continues his military support through his work with such non-profit military support organizations as Operation Free and the Truman National Security Project.

“Our nation’s dependence on unstable and unsustainable forms of fuel is a strategic vulnerability,” remarked Lt. Gen. Seip. “The military is moving out rapidly to combat this vulnerability. The Navy and Air Force are using advanced fuels to power its fleets and aircraft. At the 2012 RIMPAC exercise, which is the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, the Navy powered an entire Carrier Strike Group fueled by alternative sources of energy. Pilots flew the world’s most advanced combat aircraft up to twice the speed of sound, powered by an American-made biofuel blend made from algae and recycled cooking oil.”

Also in attendance at the lecture was 33-year veteran of the Army and Army National Guard, Lt. Col. Joseph Knott, who was one of 12 veterans recognized during a Nov. 5 ceremony at the White House for their work advancing clean energy and climate security. Lt. Col. Knott is a PhD student at ASU’s School of Sustainability, and a supporter of Operation Free.

operation free logo“I spent my career making our military more sustainable and more combat effective and Arizona’s military installations are leading the way,” shared Knott. “Davis Monthan and Luke Air Force bases installed a combined 30 MW of solar. The Army is moving forward to acquire up to 20 MW of solar power for Fort Huachuca, located in Cochise County. And the Arizona National Guard is also leading the way, already having installed over 800 KW of photovoltaic renewable energy generation operating at Guard facilities across Arizona. They have plans to increase their use of renewable energy to support the military readiness of the Arizona National Guard.”

Following today’s event, Operation Free representative and Afghanistan veteran, 1st Lt. Aaron Marquez shared his enthusiasm for the advancements in military sustainability. “I have seen it on the ground in Afghanistan and right here at home. A more sustainable military is a more effective fighting force. Our national security depends on our ability to adapt to the world’s evolving energy environment and innovate new solutions to our energy footprint. It is exciting to see this work taking place at the Pentagon, at Luke Air Force Base and right here at ASU where the School of Sustainability is actively engaging on military sustainability.”

Dutch Researchers ID Fittest of Fattest for Biodiesel

TUdelftalgae1Researchers in The Netherlands are finding the fattest, or best oil-producing, algae in hopes of developing the fittest strain for biodiesel production. This story from TU Delft says the school’s scientists have published their findings in the scientific journal Energy & Environmental Science.

‘The ultimate goal of our research is to make oil-producing algae as fat as possible, then press the oil out of them and finally produce biodiesel suitable for cars from this oil,’ explains PhD student Peter Mooij of TU Delft.

A major threat to the stable cultivation of oil-producing algae is infection by other, thinner algae. One option is to use a sealed cultivation system and keep unwanted algae out of the system by means of sterilisation. Although this is theoretically possible, it would be practically infeasible and extremely expensive to do this on a large scale.

‘Our method is more suitable for large-scale algae production. We try to select for a particular characteristic and not for a particular species of algae. We are unconcerned whether species A or species B is used in our system, as long as they have the characteristic ‘fat’. So all algae are welcome in our system,’ says Mooij.

The article goes on to explain how the researchers are using a technique that provides light and carbon dioxide to the algae during the day that promotes oil production but keeps them from dividing by holding back the nutrients needed for cell division. Those fattest algae are then separated from the others to find the fittest, fattest strain.

European Researchers Look to Turn Algae to Biofuel

swanseaUniversity researchers in Europe are looking at ways to turn algae into biofuels, including biodiesel. This article from the BBC says Swansea University is teaming up with scientists in seven other European countries to find the best way of turning it into fuel.

“The big driver behind the research for algae is the consideration about what we’re doing to our environment,” [EnAlgae project coordinator Dr Shaun Richardson] said.

“It’s the need to reduce CO2 levels and to find a more sustainable way of producing fuel, energy and products.

“We are growing it, we harvest it, take the water out of it and then you can convert it into a range of energy sources or products.

“Algae, especially micro algae, is ideally suited to turning into an oil which can then be turned into either aviation fuel for aeroplanes or a bio-diesel to power our cars.”

Swansea University opened its laboratories at the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Research (CSAR) to the public on Tuesday to see the latest work being carried out.

School officials point to a test flight four years ago of a plane flying on an algae-based biofuel.

Study: Algae-based Biofuels Cut CO2 by 50-70%

ABOA new study shows that biofuels made from algae can reduce life cycle carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 50 to 70 percent compared to petroleum fuels. And according to the Algae Biomass Organization, citing the study in the journal Bioresource Technology, algae biofuels are approaching the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) values that conventional petroleum has.

“This study affirms that algae-based fuels provide results without compromise,” said Mary Rosenthal, ABO’s executive director. “With significant emissions reductions, a positive energy balance, nutrient recycling and CO2 reuse, algae-based fuels will be a long-term, sustainable source of fuels for our nation.”

The study, “Pilot-scale data provide enhanced estimates of the life cycle energy and emissions profile of algae biofuels produced via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL),” is a life cycle analysis of an algae cultivation and fuel production process currently employed at pre-commercial scales. The authors examined field data from two facilities operated by Sapphire Energy in Las Cruces and Columbus, New Mexico that grow and process algae into Green Crude oil. Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude can be refined into drop-in fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

The study found that when produced at commercial scales, algae technologies can be expected to be better than first generation biofuels when considering greenhouse emissions and on par with the return on energy investment when compared to those first generation biofuels. This is the first study to analyze real-world data from an existing algae-to-energy demonstration scale farm.

“These real-world data from demonstration scale facilities gave us new insight and allowed us to understand how scale will impact the benefits and costs of algae-to-energy deployment.” said lead author Andres F. Clarens, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “These results suggest that algae-based fuels made using HTL have an environmental profile that is comparable to conventional biofuels.”

Propel, Solazyme Seen as Future of Algae Biodiesel

SZ_Propel_1_webA couple of companies familiar to Domestic Fuel readers are being mentioned as the future of algae-based biodiesel. This article from the Voice of America (VOA) talks about how the partnership between renewable fuel marketer Propel Fuels and algae-biodiesel maker Solazyme, both based in Northern California, is advancing the role algae-based biodiesel is having.

“It all starts in the lab where what we do is we grow a proprietary strain of algae that are actually optimized to produce an oil that is a perfect oil, an algae oil, to make into fuel,” [Bob Ames, Solazyme’s vice president in charge of fuels] said.

To test its marketability, Propel installed algae-based fuel pumps at four of its seven stations in the San Francisco Bay area. It was the first time Solazyne’s new biodiesel was offered to the public. The companies were pleased to see a 35 percent increase in biodiesel sales over the month-long test-run.

“Basically, it was offered at exactly the same price as the competing fuel, and what consumers told us by buying more of it is that they were willing to buy it because of the better environmental benefits,” Ames said.

The article goes on to talk about the economies of scale algae-based biodiesel must reach to be profitable. The companies seem to be on the right track, as Solazyme has a plant in Illinois and another smaller one in California (plus a third even larger plant to be opened in Brazil) that are producing large quantities of algae oil, while Propel seems to have the best means of marketing this particular niche of the green fuel.

Students Raise the Green Flag for Algae

5217a9d137b67.preview-300Students and professors at Utah State University are raising the green flag for algae with a record breaking small engine dragster. Earlier this month at the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Aggie A-Salt Streamliner clocked in at 73.977 miles per hour – beating the current record in their division of 72.102. The team hopes to set additional records with their algal-biofueled dragster during the World of Speed taking place in Utah’s west desert this week.

“The big benefit, once the price is brought down to where it’s competitive with regular diesel fuel, is that it would be a totally renewable fuel,” said USU Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor Lance Seefeldt in an article in the Cache Valley Daily. “It would come from CO2 and sunlight. Then when you burn it, it turns back into CO2 again.”

The team of students is racing with algae biodiesel fuel that they are researching, producing and testing themselves. Graduate student Rhesa Ledbetter said that a benefit of using algae is that other resources are not being burned up.

“Producing fuel from things like corn and soybeans, things that we actually use as food products, that’s a major concern. We are taking something that’s food and using it as another resource. It can also start driving up costs,” said Ledbetter. “So if we can use something like algae that’s naturally present, I think people are much more open-minded.”

5217a979e8f83.preview-300A year ago, the dragster set a land speed record while running on yeast biodiesel fuel. Seefeldt says the big difference is that yeast biodiesel fuel comes from cheese waste while algae captures carbon dioxide out of the air and uses energy from sunlight to turn it into usable fuel.

The multi-department project began six years ago and has been featured in such places as the National Biodiesel Board’s annual conference where attendees were fascinated to learn about both the research and the racing.

“This is super exciting because many of the other schools working on this don’t have what we have in our hands,” said Research Assistant Mike Morgan who is also the driver of the dragster. “It’s the opportunity to raise the flag for everybody else and show that it’s doable.”

ABO Forms Joint Partnership with Japan

Cawthron Institute Alage ResearchThe Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) and the Algae Industry Incubation Consortium, Japan (AIIC), a group working to commercialize algae biofuels in Japan, announced a cooperative effort to share algae industry best practices and expertise during the International Symposium on Algal Biomass held in Tokyo, Japan. The AIIC contacted ABO for assistance in bringing together global algae expertise as part of the government of Japan’s efforts to diversify the country’s energy base.

“ABO and its members are honored to help the AIIC assemble an international community of experts to share knowledge about algae’s potential as a renewable source of energy,” said Mary Rosenthal, ABO’s executive director. “The high yields of algae and the ability to grow in saltwater with minimal impacts on agricultural land make algae-derived biofuels and other products attractive for any nation interested in sustainable sources of energy.”

ABO assisted the AIIC by facilitating contacts with global algae industry leaders, federal agencies and the research community.

“The AIIC is grateful for the cooperation of the Algae Biomass Organization and the international algae community,” said Isao Inouye of the University of Tsukuba and Board Chairman of AIIC. “Japan¹s energy goals and technical expertise can play a positive role in accelerating the commercialization of algae cultivation technologies that can provide sustainable fuels, chemicals and other products. We are looking forward to a productive partnership.”

Algae Int’l, Gulf Hydrocarbon Ink Biodiesel Deal

algaegulfhydroA commercial scale algae producer and a biodiesel maker ink a deal that will end up turning algae oil into biodiesel. Biodiesel Magazine reports Gulf Hydrocarbon will represent Algae International Group in sales and distribution of its algal oils and products created with the algal oils, including biodiesel, and precedes Algae International Group’s commercial production at its pilot facility located in Tulare, Calif.

Algae International Group advises that it will start the relationship with Gulf Hydrocarbon by shipping samples of proprietary and nonproprietary algal oils for testing as feedstocks for biodiesel. Jess Hewitt, chairman of Gulf Hydrocarbon, said, “Algae oils were approved by the U.S. EPA for use as a biodiesel feedstock in 2010 but we have yet to see the feedstock available. By shipping samples to the biodiesel producers, we can begin the process of registering the numerous production plants with the EPA.”

As a part of the agreement, Gulf Hydrocarbon will offer standard biodiesel reference fuels made using Algae International Group’s output from its pilot facility. “In order to satisfy the OEM’s requirements for engine and material compatibility, we must be able to supply a standard reference fuel before the engine manufacturers can certify use of the algal-based biodiesel in vehicle and nonroad engines,” Hewitt said. “Gulf Hydrocarbon will be responsible for quality control and packaging of these fuels for distribution to fuel laboratories and OEM testing facilities.”

Gulf Hydrocarbon will also represent Algae International Group’s excess biogas market.

New Mexico State University Awarded $5M Grant

New Mexico State University (NMSU) has been awarded a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to improve algae-based fuel that is compatible with existing refineries. The principal investigator of the project, entitled REAP: Realization of Algae Potential, will be Peter Lammers, director of the NMSU Algal Bioenergy team.

NMSU Algae Photo BioreactorLammers will coordinate efforts at partner institutions that include Los Alamos, Argonne and Pacific Northwest national laboratories; Washington State and Michigan State universities and four companies, Phycal, Algenol Biofuels, Pan Pacific Technologies and UOP-Honeywell.

Key goals of the 2.5-year project are to improve the yields and stability of algal biomass and cultivation systems while also improving oil content at harvest. Each of the necessary process elements, or unit operations, required to produce drop-in fuels from algal biomass are targets for improvements by various team members.

NMSU’s key role will be to integrate all of the unit operations at a single location to demonstrate start-to-finish process compatibility. For example:

  • strain improvement work will be conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Michigan State University and Phycal;
  • cultivation simulation and validation work will be conducted at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and NMSU respectively;
  • bio-crude extraction methods will continue to be developed at Washington State University;
  • quantitative modeling of the unit operations and integrated processes will occur at Pan Pacific Technologies, Algenol Biofuels and Argonne National Laboratory; and
  • Algenol Biofuels also will provide closed cultivation systems that dramatically reduce water losses to evaporation and enhance the stability of algae cultures.

The REAP award follows two other federal awards for the NMSU Algal Bioenergy team – Department of Energy funding through the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts consortium amounting to $700,000 over two years for NMSU to support the algal cultivation testbed located at the Fabian Garcia Science Center, and a National Science Foundation EPSCoR award for which NMSU will get $1.5 million over five years for the algal effort.