Top 100 People in Advanced Bioeconomy Announced

The Top 100 People in Advanced Bioeconomy for 2016 has been released by Biofuels Digest. The top spot went to Tom Vilsack, USDA Ag Secretary. Other notables on the list included #3 Daniel Oh with REG; #10 Brent Erickson with BIO; #12 Terry Branstad, Iowa Governor; #21 Bob Dinneen with RFA; #22 Brooke Coleman with ABBC; #26 Joe Jobe with NBB; and #37 Ernest Moniz with the EPA.

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 8.48.32 PMComing in at #93 was Joanne Ivancic, executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA who recently commented on her inclusion. “Recognition by the readers and editors of Biofuels Digest, “the world’s most-widely read biofuels daily” motivates all of us who volunteer at Advanced Biofuels USA to continue our efforts to transition the world to a sustainable, renewable future,” she said. “It acknowledges the work done by all the volunteers who comprise the organization and without whom nothing would be achieved. My thanks to all who work so hard to make this possible and to those who voted to give the organization this honor.”

Advanced Biofuels USA is a technology neutral and feedstock agnostic nonprofit educational organization that advocates for the adoption of advanced biofuels as an energy security, economic development, military flexibility and climate change mitigation solution.

Read the full list here.

Minnesota Biodiesel Looks to Make it in Big Apple

mnbioheatA group of Minnesota soybean farmers recently made the trip to New York City to see how one of their products, biodiesel, is making a big splash in the Big Apple. This article from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council says the group was able to see several success stories of the green fuel being used in the big city, such as the New York Department of Sanitation that runs about 3,000 vehicles on a minimum of B5, or 5 percent biodiesel, and how bioheat, a mix of biodiesel with heating oil, is keeping New Yorkers warm at home.

The New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is no stranger to using biodiesel in its fleet. City vehicles are required to run a blend of 5 percent biodiesel, or B5. But DSNY Deputy Commissioner Rocky DiRico said his department has run blends of B20 for years. “We’ve had our obstacles along the way while pursing green,” he said. “We started using biodiesel eight or 10 years ago, and we’ve been pushing the move to B20 for a long time.” DSNY has nearly 6,000 vehicles in its fleet, and while not all of them are diesel engines, roughly 3,000 run on biodiesel. “I don’t know if there is a more simpler, more economically feasible way to cut our fossil fuels down,” he said.

Spiro Kattan, DSNY Supervisor of Mechanics of Clean Fuels & Technologies Division agrees. “We went citywide with B5 In 2007, and today, from April to November, we are a B20 fleet and from December to March we are a B5 fleet,” he said. “We’ve displaced over 4 million gallons of fossil-based petro fuels, something we are very proud of, just by using biodiesel the past several years.”

Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) Vice Chairman Craig Bangasser attended the National Biodiesel Board Bioheat Tour to New York City to learn about NRDC and DSNY, as well as other agencies using biodiesel and Bioheat. He came away impressed. Bangasser says it’s up to the Council to figure out how Minnesota can play a role in the growing biodiesel market in NYC.

Students Discuss Biodiesel Research Projects at #NBB16

Students who are part of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel had the opportunity to share their research during the recent National Biodiesel Conference and Expo. The students all have one thing in common – their passion for the biodiesel industry.

nbb-16-thomas-kwanI spoke with several of these budding biodiesel leaders during the poster session. Thomas Kwan is a PhD candidate at Yale and is part of the Center for Green Chemistry & Green Engineering. While doing his undergraduate he looked at emissions from diesel fuel, particularly locomotives. He then leveraged this interest into looking not at the tailpipe, but the fuels themselves for emission reductions.

Thomas’s research is framed around an integrated biorefinery with algae as the foundation. In other words, the “plant” accepts some biomass and then produces biodiesel and other biobased products. Enabling technologies for the idea of an integrated biorefinery. Used micro algae that has high content for biodiesel lipids as well as other compounds, in particular, astaxanthin, a powerful antioxident. IN the case of algae, the bioproduct is not yet approved for human consumption but Thomas hopes this research will help change that. Ultimately, they looked at how to tweak the biorefinery to get more lipids for biodiesel, or to get more astaxanthin. To learn more, listen to my interview with Thomas Kwan here: Interview with Thomas Kwan

nbb16-eric-william

Clemson University Biosystems Engineering students Eric Monroe and William O’Connell, present their biodiesel research during the poster session.

William O’Connell is a senior at Clemson University in Biosystems Engineering. He became interested in biodiesel while doing his undergraduate research, and then attended the conference last year. He’s back and this year presented his research during the poster session.

The focus on the project is to reanalyze the school’s current process of collecting used cooking oil and converting it to biodiesel. William said they are looking to see if there is a more efficient way to produce the biofuel. What they have discovered is using interesterification is more efficient. To learn more, listen to my interview with William O’Connell here: Interview with William O'Connell

nbb-16-james-davisJames Davis is in his fourth year of his PhD at the University of Nevada, Reno. He has a keen interest in fatty acids of seed crops such as canola or camelina sativa. He explained that his research is focused on altering the lipid profile of camelina sativa.

The idea is to apply a cutting edge gene editing technology to knock out certain genes. Essentially, his goal is two-fold. One, to alter the fingerprint of the lipid profile and they are also trying to eradicate erucic acid, a semi-negative toxic lipid that is bad for livestock making camelina seed meal restricted for use in feeding livestock. James notes that if they can get rid of some of the negative profile, they can create a more high-value byproduct. To learn more, listen to my interview with James Davis here: Interview with William O'Connell

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Pfizer Grant Boosts Biodiesel at NJ College

pfizer1Biodiesel is getting a boost at a college in New Jersey, thanks to a grant from Pfizer. This article from the Morris (NJ) NewsBee says the College of Saint Elizabeth has received the grant through Pfizer Undergraduate Research Endeavor (PURE).

PURE’s goal is to support and encourage undergraduate students, especially underserved students, to participate in research opportunities. The student projects that were outlined which require the advanced technology and equipment are enzyme kinetics, properties of aspirin derivatives, synthesis and analysis of biodiesel, and Great Swamp Watershed monitoring.

The grant allows the college to purchase such equipment as high performance liquid chromatography column to analyze aspirin purity, gas chromatography column to analyze fatty acid methyl ester components of biodiesel, a rotational viscometer, a spectrophotometer and other highly specialized equipment as well as software for data collection and analysis.

“Our recent grant from the Pfizer PURE Initiative will allow us to pursue several research opportunities with our students,” said Kimberly Grant, professor of chemistry. “These projects encompass a number of pertinent questions in the fields of organic, bioorganic, biochemistry and environmental science.”

Grace Bailey, a junior chemistry major from Vernon, said, “The viscometer has made my research so much easier and faster. Before, I would have to spend many more hours on my research, and this equipment has cut my time by more than half.” Bailey is conducting the research on synthesis and analysis of biodiesel fuels and will be presenting her research to the Independent College Fund of New Jersey in March 2016.

REG Buys Sanimax Biodiesel Plant

REGBiodiesel giant Renewable Energy Group got a little bit bigger. This company news release says REG bought Sanimax Energy, LLC’s 20 million gallon nameplate capacity biodiesel refinery located in DeForest, Wisconsin.

Under the asset purchase agreement, REG will pay Sanimax approximately $11 million in cash and will issue 500,000 shares of REG common stock in exchange for the biorefinery and related assets. REG will also pay Sanimax up to an additional $5 million in cash over a period of up to seven years after closing based on the volume of biodiesel produced at the plant, which will be re-named REG Madison, LLC. Sanimax operates a grease processing facility at the same location, although that facility is not part of the acquisition. Closing of the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions.

“With growing biomass-based diesel volumes in the U.S., REG is continuing its growth as well,” said Daniel J. Oh, REG President and CEO. “This plant will add to our network of lower-cost, lower-carbon intensity, multi-feedstock biorefineries. Having a dependable feedstock supplier co-located next door should provide an opportunity for additional cost savings and logistical advantages. We have done business with Sanimax and the Couture family for many years and look forward to a continuing prosperous relationship.”

“This agreement is in line with our business plan to improve focus on our core businesses,” said Martin Couture, Sanimax’s President and CEO. “We are pleased that our biodiesel employees will have an opportunity to pursue their career with an industry leader. This is a reflection of the excellent work they have achieved over the past several years. Sanimax looks forward to continuing its excellent business relationship with REG as a shareholder and a reliable feedstock supplier.”

REG says this latest acquisition brings its capacity at its 11 biodiesel refineries to 452 million gallons per year.

Two Women Share Their Biodiesel Research

There is a growing number of women who are forging paths and leading the way in innovative biodiesel research. Two such women are Megan Hums, a student at Drexel University, and Jennifer Greenstein, a student at North Carolina State University. They are both members of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program and they both presented posters during this year’s National Biodiesel Conference & Expo. I spent some time with both young women to learn about how they became interested in biodiesel/bioenergy. These are some amazing young ladies!

nbb16-greensteinJennifer Greenstein used to work in bioethanol and she says biofuels is something she can really get behind. As such, she headed to North Carolina State University to pursue her PhD and while there began working for Piedmont Biofuels, a biodiesel producer. (She will be graduating soon. Contact her here.)

For her research, Jennifer is working on developing lipases, which are a catalyst to make biodiesel. She is looking at an improved production system for making the lipases and immobilizing them. So in other words, she is looking for a way to express the lipases on the surface of the bacteria rather than intracellularly. The cool thing is that the process she is looking at will use an enzyme to replace chemicals in the production process. To learn more about her research, listen to my interview with Jennifer Greenstein here: Interview with Jennifer Greenstein

nbb16-megan-humsAfter Megan graduated with her undergrad degree she said she felt she still had more to learn. With her interest in sustainability and biofuels she found a project at Drexel University (She’s in her fifth year of her PhD program and graduating soon. Contact her here.) that interested her using waste greases for biodiesel production. She has been involved with this project and it was the focus on her poster.

Megan is looking at the environmental impact of using low quality greases, or kitchen waste greases, which have gone down the sink, to produce biodiesel using nonconventional biodiesel conversion. She then takes the whole process and applies environmental impacts to it through a lifecycle assessment and tries to figure out the footprint of production. To learn more, listen to my interview with Megan Hums here: Interview with Megan Hums

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Oil Prices, Incentives Making Biodiesel Free

biodiesel pumpA combination of low oil prices and incentives are making biodiesel sell for free… and in some cases even less! This article from Bloomberg.com says in some places are being paid to use the green fuel.

Midwest refiners are paying as little as 64.5 cents a gallon for the fuel after factoring in a $1-a-gallon tax subsidy and other credits. Add further incentives offered by California into the mix and some customers are effectively getting biodiesel for free in the Golden State.

The cause is twofold. Crude oil’s 71 percent slump since 2014 has dragged down the price of everything from diesel to gasoline. At the same time, the U.S. has shown a renewed commitment to renewable fuels in the battle against climate change, with the Obama administration mandating their increased use.

“They got the tax credit and the higher mandate,” Wallace Tyner, an agricultural economist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, said. “They’re coming out looking like roses.”

The article goes on to point to how the raise in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for biodiesel, along with the renewal of the federal $1-per-gallon tax credit in recent months have contributed to the boon for blenders and consumers. Add in state incentives, such as California’s, and suddenly the price can drop to below free.

When refiners buy a gallon of biodiesel, they’re essentially getting the fuel as well as the credits and subsidies, said Jennifer Case, chief executive officer of New Leaf Biofuel, a San Diego-based company.

In some instances, biodiesel producers and blenders share the value of the tax credit. Some contracts are negotiated taking into account the incentives, while others may be agreed upon without factoring them in.

“Those are really strange,” Case said. “Those are the ones that actually could result in reversing the invoice. The customer has to charge me to take the fuel.”

#ClimateChange in Focus at #NBB16

nbb-16-inglisFormer Republic Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina brought his message of conservative climate realism to the 2016 National Biodiesel Conference opening general session last week in Tampa.

“Free enterprise can solve the problem of climate change,” said Inglis, who talked about the Energy and Enterprise Initiative he founded in 2012. RepublicEn, as it is called, is a nationwide public engagement campaign promoting conservative and free-enterprise solutions to energy and climate challenges. “I’m very happy with what I’m doing now because it gives me the opportunity to be about something that’s big enough to be about,” he said.

Learn more about RepublicEn and how conservatives can be part of the climate change solution in Inglis’ speech: Bob Inglis Speech

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

New Zealand to Get First Major Biodiesel Plant

z energyNew Zealand will soon get its first industrial-scale biodiesel plant. This article from Radio New Zealand says the Z Energy plant will produce the green fuel from animal fat and is expected to make about 5 million gallons of biodiesel per year when it opens in June.

While the planned 20 million litre production will be just a fraction of the company’s total diesel sales of 860 million litres, Z Energy views it as a start in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

Even getting this far was a problem, according to Z Energy chief executive Mike Bennetts.

He said the globally low prices for crude oil make it harder for biofuels to compete.

The cost imposed under the Emissions Trading Scheme for burning fossil fuels was also low, which discouraged the use of clean alternatives such as biofuel and this affected the economics of the plant.

“They are marginal, and (as a listed company) we’ve always been very honest about that,” Mr Bennetts said.

But Z was pressing on, aiming to add 5 percent biofuel to its conventional diesel by June, and signing up companies such as Fonterra to commit to its product.

“We’ve been well supported by Fonterra, Fulton Hogan, Downers and New Zealand Post, to pay us a small premium to actually take the product.

“And then we are looking for the rest of New Zealand to follow through on some of the statements they make to use around ‘why don’t you guys do something about a less carbon intensive future?'”

Company officials say they made the project a reality by cutting start-up costs to a minimum.

Students Benefit From Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel

James Anderson discusses his research with an attendee during #NBB16.

James Anderson discusses his research with an attendee during #NBB16.

It’s never too early to encourage the next generation of biodiesel and bioproduct scientists and this is just what NBB is doing through its Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program. Several members of the group attended this year’s conference and presented posters, attended educational sessions and networked, networked, networked.

James Anderson, from University of Illinois, serves as co-chair for the group and he presented his research looking at fatty acid profiles and studying divergent plants. His goal was to identify not the fastest growing soybean plant or the plant with the best resistance, but the plant with the best profile. The idea is that they would identify soybeans that would be even better suited to biodiesel production. He and his team checked their results against some USDA studies and found positive results.

James is finishing up his project soon and will be awarded his PhD and will soon be looking for a job…hint, hint. He can be reached via email to discuss both his research and future opportunities.

Listen to my interview with James Anderson here: Interview with Co-Chair James Anderson

Jesse Mayer and James Anderson, Co-Chairs of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel.

Jesse Mayer and James Anderson, Co-Chairs of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel.

Jesse Mayer, from the University of Nevada, Reno, is also a co-chair of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel. Originally planning on going to medical, he switched gears when the only lab he could find work in was a plant lab. Well, he got hooked. He said he loves the field and the sustainability aspect of it.

He became involved in the group two years ago through his professor. He encourages everyone to join. “It’s really great opportunity to understand all the different aspects of biofuels. Like the students here you’ve got a lot of different fields…. So finding a student organization like NBB, joining them, and getting an idea of what those other aspects are, talking to people in the industry, really helps diversify you as a student and really helps going on to grad school or into the workforce.”

Jesse is also graduating soon and if the networking I saw him doing at the conference is any indication, he won’t be on the market long. You can reach him here.

Listen to my interview with Jesse Mayer here: Interview with Co-Chair Jesse Mayer

2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album