Report: Clean Energy Techs Cut Road CO2 Emissions

A new report from Lux Research has found that using low-carbon fuels and vehicle efficiency will cut road transport CO2 emissions 29 percent by 2030. Biofuels and natural gas combined will account for 45 percent of petroleum displacement. Today, global road transportation accounts for a sixth of all global CO2 emissions.

Lux CO2 reportThe sharp cut – exceeding the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) target of 24 percent set by 188 nations at the Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21) in 2015 – can be achieved from a combination of low-carbon fuels, alternative fuel vehicles, and improved fuel efficiencies.

“Global warming remains at center stage, and significant strides need to be made in road transportation technologies to achieve the goal set for 2030,” said Yuan-Sheng Yu, Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report titled, “Driving Down Emissions: Achieving CO2 Emissions Reduction Goals through Biofuels and Alternative Fuel Vehicles“. Low-carbon biofuels like cellulosic ethanol, renewable diesel, and biomethane have lower well-to-wheel carbon intensities compared to their first-generation counterparts and play a pivotal role in cutting emissions, as does renewable electricity.”

The report evaluated measures needed to meet emission targets set at COP21. Some key findings included:

  • Biofuels are key. First-generation biofuels, low-carbon fuels, and natural gas vehicles will together account for at least 45.4% of the potential fossil fuel displacement in road transportation in 2030, when global road transportation demand is projected to reach 911 billion gallons.
  • Carbon intensity matters. First-generation biofuels have made incremental reductions in road transportation emissions over the years. But low-carbon biofuels will be the key driver in achieving 2030 emissions reduction goals with an average three to four times lower well-to-wheel carbon intensity profile.
  • Fuel efficiency counts. Without improved fuel efficiencies, emissions reduction falls short of the INDC target in 2030 by nearly 5%. Automobile makers will have a range of lightweight materials available as multinationals and start-ups develop the next-generations of steel, aluminum and composite technologies.

Iowa Legislature Votes for Blender Pumps

Iowa will see another year of funding for retailers to add blender pumps. The Iowa Legislature voted unanimously to allocate funding for the biodiesel and ethanol blender pump program known as the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP). The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) recently reported that interest in blender pumps is at an all time high and the last round of funding, totaling $3.2 million funded 68 projects. This marks the last year of funding for the program that kicks off the FY2017 fiscal year.

Biodiesel and ethanol pump in Des Moines, Iowa on April 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Biodiesel and ethanol pump in Des Moines, Iowa on April 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

“While we were hopeful for a long-term funding solution for the state’s renewable fuels infrastructure program, we’re very pleased today that the Iowa legislature was able to keep this vital initiative going for another year,” said IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “The USDA’s Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership re-energized many Iowa retailers, leading to record participation in the blender pump program over the past year. This one-year funding extension allows us to build upon this momentum and ensure Iowans have greater access to cleaner-burning, lower-cost renewable fuels.”

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP) offers cost-share grants to Iowa retailers wishing to upgrade fueling infrastructure to offer E15, E85 and/or biodiesel blends. Reimbursement can be up to 70 percent of the installation costs, up to a maximum of $50,000 per project, with a five-year commitment to sell E15, E85 or biodiesel blends.

“This legislation does permanently end the current source of RFIP funding, so finding a long-term funding solution will be a high priority for the biofuels and renewable retailers community next legislative session. Bottom line, this program provides immense benefits to Iowans in the form of cleaner air, competition at the pump, lower fuel prices, and a stronger Iowa economy,” added Menke.

REG Holds Ribbon Cutting for Wisconsin Plant

REG leaders along with state and local leaders broke ground on upgrades at REG Madison. Pictured from Left to Right: Brian Coker, Plant Manager, REG Madison; Guy Gryphan, Executive Director, DeForest Windsor Area Chamber of Commerce; Raymond Richie, Director, Strategic Planning & Analysis, REG; Jeff Lyon, Wisconsin Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; Daniel Oh, President & CEO, REG; Brad Albin, Vice President, Manufacturing, REG; Wisconsin State Representative Keith Ripp; Bruce Lutes, General Manager, REG Madison; Natalie Merrill, Chief of Staff & Vice President, REG. (Photo: Renewable Energy Group, Inc.)

REG leaders along with state and local leaders broke ground on upgrades at REG Madison. Pictured from Left to Right: Brian Coker, Plant Manager, REG Madison; Guy Gryphan, Executive Director, DeForest Windsor Area Chamber of Commerce; Raymond Richie, Director, Strategic Planning & Analysis, REG; Jeff Lyon, Wisconsin Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; Daniel Oh, President & CEO, REG; Brad Albin, Vice President, Manufacturing, REG; Wisconsin State Representative Keith Ripp; Bruce Lutes, General Manager, REG Madison; Natalie Merrill, Chief of Staff & Vice President, REG. (Photo: Renewable Energy Group, Inc.)

The Renewable Energy Group (REG) recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the formal opening of its biodiesel plant in Madison Wisconsin. The facility, REG Madison, received upgrades prior to its reopening. The facility was formerly owned by Sanimax Energy.

“We are dedicated to producing cleaner, lower carbon intensity products and this celebration is another example of our commitment to environmental stewardship and energy security,” said REG President & CEO Daniel Oh. “We are proud to be in the DeForest community and look forward to growing here.”

The event also served as a groundbreaking for approximately $7 million of additional investment into the biorefinery. The upgrades include process improvements, a dedicated entrance for the plant, additional biodiesel storage and locker rooms for the team.

“These upgrades will allow the plant to run more efficiently and optimize our production and logistics capabilities,” added Brad Albin, Vice President, Manufacturing.

DeForest business leaders expressed thanks for the Company’s commitment to the area. “We are happy to welcome REG to the community and are excited that REG is investing in the plant and in the community,” said Jeff Miller, Village of DeForest Trustee. “We look forward to a positive and growing partnership with REG.”

Pacific Biodiesel Receives Sustainable Biodiesel Cert

Pacific Biodiesel has received a sustainable biodiesel production and distribution certification from the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance (SBA). The Hawaii-based biodiesel producer is the first in the state to receive the designation for its Big Island Biodiesel Plant as well as the first plant in the U.S. to earn the certification.

Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance Certifies Pacific Biodiesel Plant - First Certification of Its Kind in the U_S_ LogoThe certification process evaluates a variety of production and distribution practices including: control of air emissions; reduced water consumption; continuous improvement toward zero-waste production; lower energy consumption; development of sustainable purchasing policies; and creation of diverse community benefits.

The certification is two fold:

  • Big Island Biodiesel earned “Gold Certified” status as a Biodiesel Producer with a score of 78 of 100.
  • Pacific Biodiesel/Big Island Biodiesel earned “Platinum Certified” status as a Biodiesel Distributor with a score of 92 of 100.

“The SBA is very pleased with the results of the certification audit, and applauds Pacific Biodiesel for being a leader in sustainably produced biodiesel,” said Jeff Plowman, Vice-Chair of the SBA.

“We are thrilled to hear today’s announcement from SBA’s Certification Committee,” said Jenna Long, director of operations, Pacific Biodiesel. “This gives our entire team a great sense of pride and reinforces our company’s mission to make clean, renewable fuels in the most sustainable and community-focused manner possible. We also received valuable input during the certification process so that we can continue to improve the sustainability practices of our facility.”

Make Biofuels Part of Paris Agreement Implementation

History was made this week with the signing of the Paris Agreement climate accord by 130 countries at the UN Headquarters in New York. The governments now have one year to ratify the accord. The Paris Agreement will enter into force on the 30th day after the Paris-Agreement_Logo_EN_sizedate on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions have finalized their adoption of the accord. In response, the global biofuels community is calling on these countries to include biofuels as part of their greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Nearly a third of global GHGs come from the transportation sector making it a key area of focus in efforts to reduce emissions. Studies have shown that biofuels, like ethanol, are proven to reduce harmful GHGs from 40 percent to 90 percent compared to fossil fuels according to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).

GRFA logo“It is clear that the biofuels industry generally, and ethanol specifically, will continue to have a significant role to play in international efforts to transition away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels in the transport sector,” said Bliss Baker, GRFA spokesperson. “As countries look to take policy steps to reduce GHG emissions in their transport sectors, the GRFA will continue to provide technical support for the adoption of ethanol-supportive policies that will maximize the advantages of biofuel technologies.”

At the end of March, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to historic reductions in GHG emissions. President Obama pledged that the U.S. would cut its emissions by 26 percent by 2025 compared with 2005 levels. In turn, President Jinping promised that China’s emissions would peak by 2030 and fall after that, the first time China has agreed to any emission reduction targets.

However, as the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) points out, the U.S. did not include the roll biofuels would play in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs), a plan submitted by each country outlining how it would meet emission reductions. So far 37 countries have included biofuels in these plans. Continue reading

Iowa Extends State Biodiesel Incentives

BiodieselpumpKumGo1_0EFFDCA366A05Iowa lawmakers have spent some time this week voting on renewable energy programs in the state. Earlier this week a resolution was passed in support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) staying on track and now the Iowa House passed legislation that extends tax credits to biodiesel producers. One enables biodiesel facilities to remain competitive on a national scale and the other credit assists retailers who choose to offer consumers biodiesel blends at the pump.

The legislation, SF 2309:

  • Extends the Biodiesel Production Credit through 2024, originally set to expire at the end of next year. The credit is 2 cents per gallon on the first 25 million gallons of production per biodiesel plant, and helps keep biodiesel production and economic activity in Iowa.
  • Extends and expands the Biodiesel Promotion Retail Tax Credit. The incentive will continue to provide petroleum retailers 4.5 cents a gallon on blends of at least 5 percent biodiesel (B5) through 2017. From 2018 – 2024, the B5 incentive will drop to 3.5 cents per gallon, but an additional incentive of 5.5 cents per gallon will take effect for gallons of B11 and higher.

“These policies help keep biodiesel production in Iowa, reinforcing our state’s leadership position in the drive for renewable energy,” said Grant Kimberley, Iowa Biodiesel Board executive director. “With the addition of the retail incentive for blends of B11 and higher, we should see biodiesel begin to make up a more substantial portion of our state’s motor fuel supply, too. We can and should use our own fuel product to displace foreign oil.”

Renewable Energy Group (REG) President and CEO Daniel J. Oh responded to the passage by noting, “We at REG are very pleased and even more grateful for the overwhelming support from Iowa lawmakers to extend and improve these worthwhile incentives. The proven benefits of higher biodiesel blends are becoming more well-known and this legislation is further recognition that expanded biodiesel production and consumption works for Iowa’s economy.”

The legislation now goes to Governor Terry Branstad for consideration.

Iowa Senate Passes RFS Resolution

The Iowa Senate has passed a bipartisan resolution in support of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) through 2022. The resolution calls on Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), President Obama, and the next president to support the policy as passed by Congress in 2005.

dontmesswithRFS_logoSenate Resolution 118 names the RFS as one of the single most successful energy policies in our nation’s history and goes on to say, “Under the RFS, renewable fuels have access to a retail market in the face of a vertically integrated petroleum market; and whereas, the RFS represents a congressional promise to American biofuels producers, farmers, communities, and investors that the blend levels of the RFS will increase each year; and whereas, this congressional policy support the RFS will continue to build on the long-term capacity of the renewable fuels industry and will encourage the development of new types of clean fuels…”

The resolution serves as a reminder of the benefits of the RFS to the state of Iowa in terms of economic output and the preservation of Iowa’s agricultural way of life. “The RFS has been a tremendously successful bipartisan policy that’s worked to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by producing our own clean American fuel and in leading the innovation of 21st century solutions to our energy needs. We need to keep this momentum going and I commend the Iowa Senate for passing this resolution,” said Tom Buis, co-chair of Growth Energy.

Producing Biodiesel Using Cooking Oil & Microwave

Researchers have discovered a way to produce biodiesel using used cooking oil and a microwave. Scientists have developed a process of using a microwave and catalyst-coasted beads to produce the renewable fuel. The research, with funding from the Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space, was recently published in ACS’ journal Energy & Fuels.

french fries to biodiesel

Converting leftover cooking oil into biodiesel could become less expensive with a new processing technique. Photo Credit: Rena-Marie/iStock/Thinkstock

One of the challenges of biodiesel production is the cost per gallon. With this in mind, the researchers, led by Aharon Gedanken, set out to discover a less expensive method.

The research team developed silica beads coated with a catalyst and added them to waste cooking oil. Then, they zapped the mixture with a modified microwave oven to spur the reaction of the beads with cooking oil. In just 10 seconds, nearly 100 percent of the oil was converted to fuel. The researchers could also easily recover the beads and reuse them at least 10 times with similar results.

With conversion values as high as 99 percent, the research team believes economical production of biodiesel from cooking oil is feasible and on the horizon.

EIA Reports Biodiesel Production on the Rise

According to a recent Today in Energy, published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), biodiesel production is back on the growth track. In 2014 amid concerns over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the expiration of the biodiesel blender’s tax credit, biodiesel production dropped after reaching record production levels in 2013. However, as biodiesel blends were increased for 2015 under the RFS, U.S. imports of biodiesel and renewable diesel increased by 61 percent in 2015 reaching 538 million gallons of production.

US biodiesel chartThe most influential drivers of the increase has been increasing RFS targets and the biodiesel tax credit, although it has lapsed and been reinstated several times. Another driver is California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).  In addition, biomass-based diesel fuels have additional advantages over other renewable fuels due to their relatively high energy content and low carbon intensity, which allow them to qualify for higher credit values in both renewable fuel programs.

Today U.S. biodiesel and renewable diesel are primarily made from soybean oil, waste vegetable oils or animal fats. The blends range from B5, or five percent biodiesel, 95 percent diesel, to B20. The difference between biodiesel and renewable diesel is that renewable diesel meets specifications for use in existing infrastructure and diesel engines and not subject to blending limitations. However, it should be noted that all diesel engines can use biodiesel blends.

In terms of biodiesel imports, more than half the gallons came from Argentina (183 million gallons of 334 million gallons). In January of 2015, the EPA approved the RFS pathway for Argentinean biodiesel allowing the fuel purchased to quality for Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits. The remaining gallons came from Indonesia and Canada. EIA reports that all U.S. renewable diesel imports in 2015 were sourced from Singapore and entered the country primarily through West Coast ports, likely destined for California LCFS compliance.

Biodiesel in MN Has Big Effect on Lowering Emissions

According to a new analysis from the American Lung Association of Minnesota, using biodiesel has had a dramatic effect on lowering harmful tailpipe emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cites mobile transportation accounts for more than half of all air pollution in the U.S. However, in Minnesota, they represent the largest single source. To help combat air pollution, Minnesota requires a 10 percent biodiesel blend (B10) in diesel fuel during warm weather months and B5 during cold months. According to the American Lung Association, one way to lower emissions are achieved is through the production of feedstocks, such as soybeans, that absorb and capture carbon that is later converted into a renewable fuel such as biodiesel.

Studies have found that biodiesel, when compared to traditional diesel fuel, reduces CO2 emissions by 78 percent. While cars with better emission controls help to reduce emissions, they do not prevent CO2 emissions.

infographic-biofuel1Taking into account the transition to new, clean diesel engines, the analysis conducted used the National Biodiesel Board’s (NBB) biodiesel emissions calculator that is based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s reported diesel use in Minnesota for the years 2005 to 2015. The analysis showed the state has prevented a sizable amount of air pollutants from being emitted, including 2.5 million pounds of hydrocarbon, 1.9 million pounds of particulate matter and 3.7 million tons of lifecycle CO2 emissions.

The American Lung Association of Minnesota reports that utilizing biodiesel blends while transitioning to newer cars on the road is playing an important role in keeping the state’s air clean.