Corn Ethanol Yields Improve

corn-ethanol-3A new brief from the U.S. Energy Information (EIA) illustrates just how dramatically corn ethanol efficiency has increased in a very short time.

Today in Energy notes that last year fuel ethanol production in the United States reached an all-time high of 14.3 billion gallons of ethanol fuel. “The growth in U.S. fuel ethanol production has outpaced growth in corn consumed as feedstock—as the industry has grown, it has become more efficient, using fewer bushels of corn to produce a gallon of ethanol.”

If ethanol plant yields per bushel of corn in 2014 had remained at 1997 levels (when ethanol made up just 1% of the total U.S. motor gasoline supply), the ethanol industry would have needed to grind an additional 343 million bushels, or 7% more corn, to produce the same volume of fuel. To supply this incremental quantity of corn without withdrawing bushels from other uses would have required 2.2 million additional acres of corn to be cultivated, an area roughly equivalent to half the land area of New Jersey.

The article credits the yield increases to several factors including increased plant scale which has allowed producers to incorporate better process technology, such as finer grinding of corn to increase starch conversion and improved temperature control of fermentation to optimize yeast productivity. Additionally, the development of better enzymes and yeast strains has led to improved output per bushel of corn.

Bipartisan Bill Expands RVP Ethanol Waiver for 10%+

donnellyA bipartisan bill that increases the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) wavier for ethanol blends above 10 percent has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) was joined by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE). The legislation would allow for more retailers to sell E15 gasoline/ethanol blended fuel year-round.

Donnelly said, “Biofuels like ethanol are renewable domestic energy sources, create more economic opportunities, and give consumers more options at the gas pump. This legislation would expand the RVP waiver for ethanol blends, increasing the market for ethanol producers in Indiana and around the country and making more clean fuels available to consumers year-round. We should be pursuing an all-in approach toward American energy production that includes ethanol and other biofuels because it helps our economy and increases our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil. I am proud my colleagues Senator Grassley and Senator Fischer are joining me in this bipartisan effort to reduce the burden of regulations on ethanol producers and consumers.”

Grassley said, “Consumers appreciate having choices, whether it’s at the grocery store or the fuel pump. Those of us who live in biofuels-producing states understand the appeal of cleaner, domestic, renewable fuels. The EPA should be consistent in the way it treats different fuel blends as a matter of fairness and to give consumers more options for fueling their vehicles. The EPA has never acted on its authority to grant a Reid vapor pressure waiver for E15. This bill proposes a legislative fix to fill the void.”

Tom Buis, Growth Energy CEO, said, “We applaud this strong bipartisan effort to remove the largest regulatory hurdle standing between consumers and access to a cleaner, less expensive and higher performing fuel. Senators Donnelly, Grassley and Fischer recognize that higher ethanol blends such as E15 benefit our environment, our economy and our rural communities, and are working together to bring those benefits to every American and move our nation forward. We commend them for taking the lead on this important issue in Congress.”

ncga-logo-newThe National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) also welcomed the news:

“We applaud Senators Donnelly, Grassley, and Fischer for their bipartisan efforts to increase the market for ethanol producers and give consumers more choices at the pump,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling. “June 1 is rapidly approaching, and we should ensure consumers will continue to have access to energy that is clean, renewable, and American-grown. We urge Congress to pass this legislation.”

Pacific Ethanol Produces Corn Oil at Madera Plant

Pacific Ethanol logoA West Coast ethanol producer is cashing in on a co-product of the green fuel’s prodcution. Pacific Ethanol has begun commercial production of corn oil using Valicor’s proprietary VFRAC™ corn oil recovery system at its Madera, California plant.

Neil Koehler, the company’s president and CEO, stated: “We are pleased to be producing corn oil at our Madera plant, which further diversifies our plant revenue streams and significantly improves operating income. In addition, plans are underway for corn oil production to begin at our Boardman, Oregon plant in the second quarter, at which time all four of Pacific Ethanol’s ethanol production facilities will be producing and benefitting from this high-value co-product.”

Biofuels Leaders Ask President for Meeting

A dozen organizations and companies representing biofuels interests this week sent a letter to President Obama asking for a meeting on proposed rules under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) due to come out next month.

fuels-americaThe letter comes on the heels of an analysis from the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) showing how EPA delays in setting volume requirements (RVOs) under the RFS have resulted in the loss of some $13.7 billion in investment in advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol. The letter was signed by BIO, the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, Advanced Ethanol Coalition, National Corn Growers Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, POET, DSM, Novozymes, and Abengoa.

“The EPA’s proposal in 2013 was an enormous disservice to you and your legacy, Mr. President,” the letter states. “Prior to the release of that proposal, we had asked to meet with the EPA, but were rebuffed. We would like to work with you to ensure that the mistake is not repeated.”

In addition to the letter and the analysis from BIO, the Fuels America coalition is running digital ads this week on Politico’s Environment & Energy section that say, “Will the next generation of biofuels be created in the United States or China? It’s up to you, Mr. President. Support the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

American Ethanol Finishes 5 Years with NASCAR

am-ethanol-carOver the weekend at Richmond International Raceway, American Ethanol and NASCAR officially celebrated five years and seven million miles of running on 15% ethanol blended Sunoco Green E15, unveiling a new paint scheme with E15 prominently located on the hood of Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet SS.

Dillon, who has been advocating the benefits of ethanol for three years now, drove his first American Ethanol paint of the 2015 racing season in the Saturday Toyota Owners 400 race, which was delayed by rain until Sunday. While he finished 27th in the race, ethanol still came in first.

“This has been a tremendous partnership,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy. “Since NASCAR switched to Sunoco Green E15 five years ago, we have seen a very a substantial change in the national dialogue regarding ethanol – when people see NASCAR rely on ethanol week after week in all three of its national racing series, they understand that it is a fuel that they can rely on as well.”

American Ethanol driver Austin Dillon, National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, RCR Racing owner Richard Childress

American Ethanol driver Austin Dillon, National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, RCR Racing owner Richard Childress

During a press conference on Saturday, National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling talked about what the American Ethanol partnership has meant for American farmers. “E15 American Ethanol turns our unrivaled ability to produce corn into a national asset. Consumer demand for ethanol is good for family farmers and fans appreciate that,” said Bowling. “We have grown the 12 largest corn crops in history in the last 12 years so ethanol demand is critical. It means farmers can pay their bills, reinvest in the broader economy and keep family operations like mine viable for future generations.”

Bowling added that according to a 2014 study, NASCAR fans are over 75 percent more likely than non-fans to support the use of ethanol blended with gasoline to fuel their own car.

E15 Bill Introduced in the House

A bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House yesterday as a companion to the Fuel Choice and Deregulation Act of 2015 in the Senate.

rod-blumCongressman Rod Blum (R-IA), along with Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO), Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), and Congressman David Young (R-IA) are co-sponsoring the House legislation, which removes the burdensome restrictions placed on the ethanol marketplace by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), further encourages manufacturers and producers to develop new technologies, and equalizes the tax between liquid natural gas (LNG) and diesel fuel.

“It is time for the EPA to stop denying American consumers access to new fuels in the marketplace,” said Rep. Blum. “This bill from Senators Paul and Grassley reduces unnecessary red tape while promoting competition, innovation, and fairness in the energy marketplace, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to move this measure forward.”

The bill requires EPA to correct the disparity regarding Reid Vapor Pressure, which measures the evaporation rate of gasoline, in ethanol blends. E10 blends have a waiver allowing year-round sales throughout the country, but EPA has refused to grant E15 the same waiver meaning E15 can only be sold from June 1 to September 15 in the majority of the country. If the bill passes, more retailers would be expected to offer E15.

“Consumers should have year-round access to higher ethanol blends,” said National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling. “This is the single largest regulatory hurdle standing in the way. We urge both the House and the Senate to step up, remove this hurdle, and expand consumer choice.”

Corn Growers Urge EPA to Keep RFS Timeline

ncga-logo-newCorn growers are urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep its agreement on a court-enforced timeline for establishing the Renewable Volume Obligation numbers for 2014 and 2015 for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and to provide cleaner domestic fuel choices for consumers and the EPA has finally provided additional clarity about their timeline for announcing the 2014 through 2016 renewable fuel requirements,” said National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Chip Bowling. “We have expressed our concerns about the continued delays to the EPA, and we will be taking them at their word that they will adhere to this new deadline.”

Under the consent decree and other commitments, the EPA will propose volume requirements by June 1 for 2015 and 2016 and will re-propose volume requirements for 2014 that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014. By November 30, EPA will finalize volume requirements for 2014, 2015 and 2016, and resolve a pending waiver petition for 2014.

According to NCGA, if the RVO reduction took place as proposed by the EPA in November 2013, the price of corn was estimated to fall by as much as an additional $1.10. “With corn stocks high and prices low well into 2015’s planting season, NCGA and its growers will continue to track progress on these deadlines and hold EPA accountable,” said Bowling.

Va Tech Scientists Turning Corn Husks into Hydrogen

vatechzhang1Scientists at Virginia Tech have found a way to get hydrogen from corn husks. This article from Yahoo says the husks and stalks are not only a plentiful feedstock for the potential car fuel, but they’re cheap, too.

“We have demonstrated the most important step toward a hydrogen economy — producing distributed and affordable green hydrogen from local biomass resources,” said study co-author Percival Zhang, a professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech.

The study was led by Joe Rollin, a former doctoral student of Zhang’s at Virginia Tech. Together they co-founded a start-up company called Cell-free Bioinnovations.

The process builds on previous research using xylose, “the most abundant simple plant pentose sugar, to produce hydrogen yields that previously were attainable only in theory,” said the PNAS report.

Other hydrogen fuel production methods rely on highly processed sugars, but the Virginia Tech team used corn husks and stalks, which are known as dirty biomass, to cut costs and make the fuel easier to produce locally.

The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ethanol-Gas Price Difference Back to Normal

Ethanol and gas have settled back into a more normal price differential after three months of being nearly the same once gas prices started to plummet late last year.

RBOB - Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygen Blending

RBOB – Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygen Blending

Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen notes that “wholesale ethanol prices traded near parity with—or even above—gasoline prices intermittently in November, December, and January,” but since the end of January, ethanol prices “have been below gasoline prices every day.”

Dinneen refuted a statement by the Petroleum Marketers Association of America that ethanol was “taking a hit” because of the price parity noting that “since January 1, 2011, daily ethanol prices have been below gasoline prices 91% of the time” averaging about 50 cents per gallon. Since January 30, 2015, ethanol has averaged 26 cents less than gasoline.

Market analyst Randy Martinson with Progressive Ag says there was definitely a concern when ethanol prices were higher than gasoline in December. “But the price of corn has dropped and we’ve gotten ethanol back in line and the profitability is improving for ethanol plants,” said Martinson, who adds that the bigger concern for ethanol declining gasoline use.

Methes Biodiesel Maker to Refine Corn OIl

Methes1A Canadian company has bought a Methes Energies International Ltd. biodiesel processor and will make the gaining plant the first facility in the world to use Methes’ pre-treatment system to process corn oil from a local ethanol plant. This Methes news release says the Denami 600 biodiesel processor and a PP-MEC pre-treatment system will be installed in Havelock, Ontario, Canada, for Drain Bros and will come from Methes’ Mississauga facility.

John Loewen, COO of Methes said, “We are glad to have finalized this transaction and to be able to use the Denami 600 in Mississauga. The Denami 600 has recently been used for research, testing and marketing but has not been used in commercial biodiesel production in over two years so it made sense for Drain Bros and Methes to move it to their location. More importantly, we will be installing a pre-treatment system that will be running on corn oil and we’ll have the ability to showcase the technology in action to other potential clients. This is a major milestone and we are looking forward to help Drain Bros with their new biodiesel facility.”

Furthermore, Methes announced on January 20th 2015 that it had entered into an agreement to license its technology to a US client in exchange for an upfront payment of $4 Million which, as per the agreement, was due February 20th, 2015. Methes provided an extension to the payment date to allow its US client to finalize a pending transaction. At this time, though they express continuing interest in the transaction with Methes, they still have not finalized their other pending transaction.

The refiner will take about 3 weeks to dismantle the equipment at the Mississauga facility.