Genscape Adds to Biofuels Info with Landviewer Buy

Genscape LogoProvider of energy information for commodity and financial markets Genscape has bought LandViewer to expand its technology footprint in the biofuels industry. Genscape says, using NASA satellite data to get daily updates of corn vegetation progress, the LandViewer platform gives corn traders and buyers land use and crop progress information on a sub-regional level so they know where to source grain and how to set the best prices.

“The LandViewer platform opens a lot of doors for Genscape customers to make informed grain management decisions ahead of market movements. When you know the supply of corn you can set better prices, hedge investment risk and stay ahead of the competition,” says Robert Barton, Managing Director of Agriculture and Biofuels at Genscape.

To complement the LandViewer acquisition and to provide additional value to ethanol customers Genscape has also launched a unique QAP specifically for the ethanol industry. The new program offers a way for ethanol plants to create QAP-B RINs desired by Obligated Parties with a minimal impact on plant operations. Using their proven technology, the company can offer a cost-effective method to directly manage RIN generation compliance while eliminating the hassle of onsite auditing.

Also designed for traders, LandViewer uses a combination of historical data, national yield regressions and fundamental crop data to deliver highly accurate projections of crop yields on a national level to inform trading and investment strategies.

The LandViewer technology was developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center.

By the way, Genscape is at this week’s Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in St. Louis, Mo., as is our own Joanna. Genscape will be talking about LandViewer and the QAP program for ethanol plants.

Check out the FEW Photo Album.

USDA: $98.6 Mil Available for Advanced Biofuels

usda-logoThe USDA is making available up to $98.6 million to support the production of advanced biofuels. This news release from the agency says it will be an opportunity for eligible producers to submit applications and strengthen the rural economy:

“The United States is on the path to a cleaner, more secure energy future,” [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack said. “By helping producers to support and expand the production of advanced biofuels, USDA is ensuring that Rural America is a key component of President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to reduce the Nation’s reliance on foreign oil.”

The payments are provided through USDA Rural Development’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, commonly referred to as the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program. It was established in the 2008 Farm Bill to support the expansion of advanced biofuel production. Payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of biofuel produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Examples of eligible feedstocks include crop residue; animal, food and yard waste; vegetable oils; and animal fat.

Producers use the payments to offset production costs and in some instances expand their operations. For example, in 2012, Sequential-Pacific Biodiesel, a biodiesel facility based in Salem, Ore., increased its annual production by approximately 1 million gallons, or about 20 percent. Sequential-Pacific primarily uses locally sourced waste vegetable oils in its production of biodiesel. The support USDA Rural Development provided through its Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels helped the company buy equipment that increased the speed of production and pre-treatment of feedstock.

If producers didn’t apply for payments during the October 2012 application window, they may now apply for these payments for third and fourth quarter fiscal year 2013 production as well as for any applicable incremental production. Applications must be in by July 11, 2013. More information is available here on the Federal Register.

Since 2009, more than 275 eligible producers in 44 states have received payments.

Ethanol Fuels Promotion in Minnesota

E85 PumpFriday, June 14, 2013, drivers of flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) can fill up for less at the Short Stop Quick Mart at 4725 Quail Road NE, Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. FFVs drivers can use any blend of ethanol from E10 to E85, 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline. The promotion will take place from 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm and there is a 25 gallon limit per vehicle.

The Short Stop Quick Mart is one of a growing number of fuel retailers in Minnesota with a flex pump that offers both E85 and mid-level blends of ethanol fuels. During the promotion, prices will be discounted by the following amounts:

  • 85¢ off per gallon E85
  • 50¢ off per gallon E50
  • 30¢ off per gallon E30
  • 20¢ off per gallon E20

Kelly Marczak, director of environmental programs for the American Lung Association in Minnesota, said flex fuel vehicle owners who use E85 instead of gasoline are helping to reduce air pollution. “Vehicle emissions are the single largest source of air pollution in Minnesota, and an FFV fueled by E85 emits less than the same vehicle fueled with gasoline. These fuels are cleaner-burning, made in Minnesota and almost always cost less than regular unleaded.”

Supporters of the promotion include Short Stop Quick Mart (Bauerly Oil), Benton/Sherburne County Corn Growers Association, Minnesota Corn Growers Association, American Lung Association in Minnesota and the Minnesota Clean Air Choice Team. To see if you drive an FFV, click here.

Global Renewable Fuels Calls Food Lobby Letter Misleading

grfa_logo1Officials with the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) say a letter criticizing biofuels sent to British Prime Minister David Cameron by a group led by two of the world’s largest multinational food companies is “biased and misleading.”

“Nestlé Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe who co-authored this misguided attack on biofuels has no credibility on this issue,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. “I find it somewhat convenient that a person who sits on the Board of ExxonMobil would criticize biofuels.”

The letter issued to Prime Minister David Cameron ahead of his hosting of the upcoming G8 meetings has failed to highlight the tremendous impact that high oil prices have had on global food prices. The letter has ignored the recent World Bank publication, Long-Term Drivers of Food Prices, which examined the relative contribution of various sector and macroeconomic drivers on food price increases from 1997–2004 to 2005–12.

The World Bank report “concludes that most of the price increases are accounted for by crude oil prices (more than 50 percent)…oil prices mattered most during the recent boom period because they experienced the largest increase.“ The report goes on to say “most of the contribution to food price changes from 1997-2004 to 2005-12 comes from the price of crude oil, which for maize and wheat is 52 percent and 64 percent, respectively.”

“There is little doubt that during the recent period of volatile food price spikes and record oil industry profits, oil prices were the most important driver of food prices,” said Baker.

Read more here.

RFA Offers Communications Training Webinar

RFA-logo-13The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) will host a free Communications Training webinar on Wednesday, June 19 at 1 p.m. CT. The training session is open to all RFA member companies and anyone interested in helping local ethanol plants promote the value of ethanol is encouraged to participate. The webinar will focus on different methods of community engagement:

  • Website and Newsletter Content
  • Social Media
  • Reporter Outreach
  • Community Events & RFA Materials
  • Congressional Visits
  • Local Advertising Ideas
  • Idea Exchange

Click here to register.

API Files E15 Brief with Supreme Court

The American Petroleum Institute (API) filed a brief with the Supreme Court this week regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval of a blend of E15, 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline.  API claims that the ethanol fuel blend has been shown to damage millions of cars on the road.

“E15 could leave millions of consumers with broken down cars and high repair bills,” said Bob Greco, API group downstream director. “It could also put motorists in harm’s way when vehicles break down in the middle of a busy highway. We are asking the Supreme Court to step in and protect consumers by striking down EPA’s dangerous E15 mandate before it’s too late. ”

ks-e15Greco went on to say that ethanol and other renewable fuels play an important role in our transportation fuel mix, but we cannot allow a mandate for ethanol that exceeds what is safe for consumers. He is asking for the EPA to immediately finalize the 2013 ethanol mandate and lower the 2014 mandate.

The ethanol industry has been fighting claims that ethanol damages engines for many years even though E15 is the most tested fuel in the history of the U.S. Ron Lamberty, senior vice president for the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) said of API’s latest attempt: “API is basically presenting evidence to prove they will do whatever they can to keep from having to compete with any other fuels.”

“Big Oil will take any approach available to delay E15 implementation while continuing its public smear campaign against it,” continued Lamberty. “API’s press statement – ostensibly about their court petition – is instead a replay of anti-ethanol misinformation campaign “greatest hits” which have nothing to do with the legal issues continued in their appeal.”

Lamberty pointed out that EPA did its due diligence before approving E15. He concluded, “The DC Circuit Court was right to throw out Big Oil’s legal challenge, and the Supreme Court should reject this appeal as well.”

RFS Hearing – Study in Hyprocrisy

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements held a hearing to discuss the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS),”Up Against the Blend Wall: Examining EPA’s Role in the Renewable Fuel Standard.” While many were on the witness list, none actually worked in the biofuels industry. The ethanol industry was quick to respond and Chad Willis, ethanol committee chair for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) noted, “It was a disappointment to hear the outcome of today’s hearing on the RFS and blend wall.”

JamesLankfordCapital“During the summer months, when gas prices are typically the highest, consumers could have benefited from a balanced discussion on the future and positive impacts of the renewable fuel industry,” continued Willis. “Unfortunately all we saw today were mistruths and a one-sided agenda.”

Many cite a problem with the RFS is lack of availability of advanced biofuels. However, first generation biofuels, such as ethanol made from corn, are a stepping stone to future fuels and the RFS is designed to foster the development of these fuels. “A number of stakeholder groups are attempting to create a view that the RFS is broken and should be wholesale repealed rather than allowing the EPA to utilize their authority to make any required adjustments,” said Michael McAdams, president of the Advanced Biofuels Association.

McAdams notes this would be a step backward in America’s energy future especially as many advanced and cellulosic companies are seeking to break ground or attempting to raise funds to build their first plants, and the discussions have a negative impact on the momentum.

One of the key experts was Jeremy I. Martin, Ph.D. senior scientist, Clean Vehicles Program, with the Union of Concerned Scientists. In response to his remarks, American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive Vice President Brian Jennings pointed out, “While the oil industry will simply repeat their same worn-out attacks against the RFS during today’s hearing, I want to thank the Union of Concerned Scientists for reiterating our position that Congress should not make any legislative changes to the RFS.

Jennings continued, “ACE and UCS don’t agree on everything, but we proudly stand with them in support of the RFS. I also encourage Members of the Committee to ask oil industry representatives at the hearing the hard questions that they’d rather dodge.”

One question that was dodged: Why are gas prices are consistently near record levels? Continue reading

Corn Growers React to Rice Climate & Corn Study

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is questioning the results of a recent study from Rice University and University of California that looked 40 years ahead at farming and climate change. The study finds corn ethanol has water issues that outweigh potential reductions in tailpipe emissions. In response, NCGA is saying they need to go back to the ncga-logo-new“research table”.

“At a time when meteorologists struggle to tell you what the weekend will be like, it’s odd to see a report that tries to so specifically pinpoint the weather 40 years from now,” said NCGA President Pam Johnson. “But that’s only one of the problems we have with this very problematic study.”

The report, forecasts that the yield of corn grown for ethanol in the U.S. would be reduced by an average of seven percent over the next four decades, and the amount of irrigation needed for the corn would increase by nine percent.

Among its other flaws, Johnson noted:

  • The report news release clearly states the bias of the authors, who “have long questioned the United States’ support of biofuels as a means to cut vehicle emissions,” the release said. It’s no wonder, then, that the report looks ahead a full four decades to criticize an ethanol policy, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which only cover renewable fuels for the next nine years.
  • The report ignores any possible advances in technology to improve corn growing, such as new agronomic practices or technology. “Looking back 40 years, corn farming was so different in 1973 than it is today, and it’s a difference that could not have been predicted back then,” noted Johnson. Continue reading

ICM & NCAT Sign Software Deal

ICM has signed a software development and marketing agreement with Houston, Texas -based NCAT, Inc. to co-develop and market the Inseo Suite line of software services. ICM has been granted exclusive rights to market the first release to Inseo Suite, the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Module, to the biofuels and alcohol manufacturing industry worldwide The Inseo Suite application utilizes NCAT’s Plant Intelligent Life Cycle Platform data repository.

The KPI Module was the first Inseo Suite application developed with ICM for the biofuels industry, and integrates ethanol plant operational data and produces dashboard-driven information that provides both critical overview and detailed views ICM Inseo Suiteof plant performance. The KPI Module gathers, analyzes and stores over 30 key process metrics including: cook, fermentation, distillation and evaporation, key enzyme ratio, dried distillers grain (DDGs) and modified distillers grains.

Tom Ranallo, ICM vice president of operations said, “ICM is pleased to collaborate with NCAT to market the Inseo Suite and introduce its first KIP module product release. This proprietary suite of products has the capability to convert data into actionable information and deliver sustained profitability for our customers. We look foward to working with NCAT in the rollout of the Inseo Suite product line in our industry,” added Ranallo.

According to ICM, the Inseo Suite design greatly reduces the need for paper records, graphically illustrates all KPI metrics on one display and allows deep analysis into the data to better understand and proactively correct issues with out-of range processes as they arise. In addition, the software enables plant operational and management personnel to manage optimal plant ethanol yield based on current market conditions.

“We feel very proud to have been chosen by ICM as their software development partner for the Inseo Suite,” added Bobby Anderson, chief operating officer and chief marketing officer of NCAT. “Our professionals have spent their careers in developing leading edge software for process plant industries and our team will bring the latest thinking in integrating the operations, maintenance and financial information for ethanol plants. It’s ultimately about driving shareholder value and that only happens with elegantly managed data collection, analysis and decision making.”

Climate Change Raises Stakes on US Biofuels Policy

According to a new study by Rice University and the University of California at Davis, if the climate continues to evolve as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. stands little to no chance of satisfying its current Rice Corn Ethanol and Waterbiofuels goals. The study, published in journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests that in 40 years, a hotter planet would cut the yield of corn grown for ethanol by an average of seven percent while simultaneously increasing the amount of irrigation necessary by nine percent.

Principal investigator Pedro Alvarez, the George R. Brown Professor and Chair of Rice’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, said that this could sharply hinder a mandate as being executed by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that mandates 15 billion gallons of ethanol (corn) per year by 2022. The policy, Alvarez explained, is based on the idea that blending ethanol reduces harmful tailpipe emissions, but the cost in water may outweigh these concerns.

“Whereas biofuels offer a means to use more renewable energy while decreasing reliance on imported oil, it is important to recognize the tradeoffs,” Alvarez said. “One important unintended consequence may be the aggravation of water scarcity by increased irrigation in some regions.”

The authors of the new paper have long questioned the United States’ support of biofuels as a means to cut vehicle emissions. In a 2010 white paper on U.S. biofuels, the authors found “no scientific consensus on the climate-friendly nature of U.S.-produced corn-based ethanol” and detailed what they saw as economic, environmental and logistical shortcomings in the renewable fuels policy and suggested a need for further study of water impacts.

In the most recent study, the team built computer simulations based on crop data from the nation’s top 10 corn-producing states – Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Missouri and Kansas. Continue reading