Energy Beets for Ethanol Project in North Dakota

North Dakota State University has partnered up with a couple of private sector companies to develop energy beets for advanced ethanol production.

The partnership includes Green Vision Group (GVG) of Fargo and Heartland Renewable Energy of Iowa in the project that is fueled by a $1 million, two-year North Dakota Renewable Energy Council grant that includes matching funds from industry partners Betaseed and Syngenta.

In 2010, GVG and HRE formally came together to form BeetsAll Biofuel, a partnership that envisions developing at least 12 sustainable ethanol facilities across North Dakota, according to Maynard Helgaas, president of GVG. “Each plant will use energy beets grown within a 20-mile radius and support job creation in rural communities,” said Helgas. “This grant will help us make significant progress toward that vision and help develop North Dakota’s energy beet biofuel industry.” GVG is in the process of selecting the location for its first processing facility, which is expected to produce 20 million gallons of ethanol per year once complete.

Cole Gustafson, NDSU Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics chair, says they believe ethanol produced from sugar beets can be sold at a premium, which will benefit both farmers and producers. “We expect that energy beet ethanol will produce 50 to 60 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based fuels, which will designate it as an advanced biofuel. We are working to finalize the life-cycle analysis of energy beets through a formal Environmental Protection Agency application. Securing EPA approval of energy beets as an advanced biofuel will mean a significant premium for producers and processors in the sugar-based ethanol market.”

The project seeks to establish a U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency multiperil crop insurance program for energy beets; engineer and evaluate new front-end energy beet processing methods; expand regional energy beet research trials; scale up whole-energy beet and juice storage technology to enable year-round processing; and inform producers, community developers and the biofuel industry of the emerging opportunity.

DOE Official Visits Novozymes Nebraska Plant

A visit to a Nebraska enzyme plant last week by a top-ranking Department of Energy helped showcase the development of enzyme technology for advanced biofuels.

Department of Energy (DOE) Senior Advisor Peter Gage visited with Novozymes North American President Adam Monroe at the company’s new enzyme plant in Blair, Nebraska to emphasize the need for energy programs touted in the President’s State of the Union address.

Novozymes“As part of his blueprint for an American economy built to last, President Obama called for an all-out, all-of-the-above energy strategy that’s cleaner, safer, full of new jobs and develops every available source of American energy,” said Gage. “Extending the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit will encourage further investment in clean energy manufacturing here in Nebraska and across the nation, ensuring new windmills, solar panels and biofuel products are produced and assembled by American workers.”

“Renewable energy is real. Novozymes is proud of our successful investment in manufacturing here in Nebraska, helping to diversify our nation’s energy portfolio. We are creating jobs here in Blair and more economic opportunity for farmers and rural communities,” said Monroe.

App for National Ethanol Conference

The 17th annual National Ethanol Conference is just around the corner, February 22-24 in Orlando, but those who are registered can start networking with fellow attendees now through the NEC mobile app.

NEC Connect provides access to the online social networking community designed specifically for the NEC, allowing attendees to design their own profile, link other social networking sites to their profile, communicate with other attendees via conversations and private messages, as well as see which attendees they have the most in common through categories and tags. NEC Connect also lets each attendee design their own session schedule and invite other attendees to private meetings.

NEC Connect provides a dashboard with updated information, organizes schedules with one click, allows attendees to receive instant communications if there are any changes in scheduling or updates, has a built-in Twitter feed and ways to share photos, and even has RSS feeds with industry news.

NEC Connect is available as a native app for iPhone and Android, and as a hybrid web-based app for Blackberry, and there’s also a web-based version of the application for all other web browser-enabled phones. Registered attendees should have received an email about the app, or it can be downloaded for free on the conference website.

Pioneer Studies Residue Removal for Cellulosic Ethanol

DuPont businesses Pioneer Hi-Bred and DuPont Industrial Biosciences are collaborating with Iowa State University in performing studies on residue to establish best practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, with an eye toward its use in cellulosic ethanol production in the near future.

Agronomic benefits of residue removal include preventing stand establishment concerns in the following crop and avoiding nitrogen tie-up to reduce additional applications. Good residue management practices are crucial to overcoming some of the challenges associated with reduced-tillage systems.

While these best management practices can help growers today, DuPont Industrial Biosciences is developing solutions for tomorrow that address the residue itself, planning to build one of the world’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol biorefineries in Nevada, Iowa, which will require thousands of tons of stover from Iowa fields.

“Currently, the most plentiful agricultural source of ligno-cellulosic biomass for ethanol production in the U.S. is corn stover,” says Steve Mirshak, business director for DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol program. “We’re currently working with an exclusive group of growers in a pilot program to collect stover in support of the biorefinery. When completed, the plant will be fueled almost exclusively by cornstalks.”

University research suggests that at a high yield level of 200 bushels per acre or more, growers can remove up to 40 percent of stover without negatively impacting soil organic matter. DuPont officials believe that cellulosic ethanol production could become a common form of residue management in the future while providing additional value to growers for their crops.

Aventine Resumes Work on Illinois Ethanol Plant

Aventine Renewable Energy plans to resume work next month on its ethanol plant located in Canton, Illinois.

AventineIn September 2011, Aventine announced it was delaying work on the plant due to uncertainty surrounding its ability to secure critical third-party technical and engineering support. Since that time, the company has secured the support necessary to move the project forward and now anticipates resuming work in early March 2012 with production expected to start this summer.

“Now is the time to move forward with this project. We have secured the critical third-party support necessary for the commissioning process. Additionally, we currently have approximately $50 million of combined cash and availability under our revolver,” said John Castle, Chief Executive Officer.

The Pekin, Illinois-based ethanol producer emerged from Chapter 11 restructuring in March 2010 after filing in February of the previous year.

Australia Ethanol Firm Gets Sustainable Certification

An Australian ethanol producer has received the first completed commercial certification from the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB).

The Manildra Group, through its subsidiary Shoalhaven Starches Pty Ltd, produces bioethanol from starchy wastewater generated by their wheat processing facility in New South Wales, Australia. The RSB certification means that “Manildra offers tangible evidence that sustainable biofuels may be efficiently and economically produced at a large scale while adhering to ambitious social and environmental standards.”

The RSB Certification System allows farmers, feedstock processors and biofuel producers to demonstrate that their operations comply with ambitious yet practical safeguards, including, but not limited to, the protection of natural or rare ecosystems, food security, and the respect of human rights
to land, water and decent work conditions, and the management of water resources.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels is a multi‐stakeholder initiative launched and hosted by the Energy Center of Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.

Corn Grower Ethanol Committee Explores Future

The Ethanol Committee of the National Corn Growers Association met in Kansas City this past week week to consider the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.

“The market for ethanol has grown exponentially over the past decade, thus utilizing an abundance of corn to meet the already-present need for a renewable, domestic biofuel,” said Chad Willis, a Minnesota corn grower who serves as chairman of the committee. “Now, we face a myriad of challenges and opportunities as those in the industry continue to innovate while some outside of it continue attempts to deny ethanol’s incredible value to our nation.”

Participants got a first-hand look at the LifeLine Foods business model in St. Joseph, Mo., exploring the possibilities for creating even more food and fuel from every kernel of corn. The company, which produces products for both domestic and international markets, is unique in creating both ethanol and corn-based food products by using the separate components of corn to their fullest capacity.

“After years of hearing rehashed iterations of the food-and-fuel debate, we found the tour of LifeLIne to be both interesting and inspiring,” Willis said. “Companies such as this demonstrate that, through a mixture of creative thought and hard work, we can find new ways to use corn even more productively and solve an array of societal needs.”

The committee of farmer leaders from around the Corn Belt also had the opportunity to meet the NCGA’s new Director of Biofuel Programs and Business Development Pam Keck, who is a scientist and educator with more than 20 years of experience in the agricultural and biofuels industry, academia and not-for-profit research.

Keck most recently contracted with Monsanto, coordinating an outreach program that brought together schools and scientists. She has previously taught chemistry at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville and at Lewis and Clark Community College. She has also served as assistant director of workforce development and scientific projects at the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center.

RFA Calls E15 Bill Another Stall Tactic

The president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling a bill approved by a House subcommittee Tuesday yet another stall tactic to the use of higher ethanol blends in fuel.

RFARFA’s Bob Dinneen says the legislation sponsored by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) injects “parochial politics into the scientifically established process of approving new fuels.”

“In approving E15, the Department of Energy tested vehicles over millions of driving miles – the equivalent of some 4,700 round trips from Washington to Milwaukee,” said Dinneen in a statement. “To suggest more testing is needed is nothing more than a stall tactic that has but one outcome – our continued addiction to oil.”

Dinneen adds that the concerns raised in the bill are “largely superficial and do not require the intervention of Congress to resolve. America’s ethanol industry has been working with auto companies and fuel suppliers for over a year to address any concerns and misconceptions that persist. This bill would reverse the progress private industry has already achieved and threaten the job creation that would stem from an increased use of domestic renewable fuels.”

Low-Fat Distillers Grains for Dairy

POET is targeting dairy producers with the introduction of a new low-fat distillers grains product.

The South Dakota-based ethanol producer notes that research indicates its new Dakota Gold Low Fat dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) can be fed to dairy cattle at a higher inclusion rate than traditional DDGS.

According to Kip Karges, PhD, Technical Services and Research Director at POET Nutrition, the product has just a 5 percent fat content, which offers a new opportunity for dairy operations that have had to limit DDGS use in the past because DDGS fat content can cause milk fat depression issues. “Dairy operations can feed more low fat DDGS to their livestock by using Dakota Gold Low Fat,” Karges said. “That will allow for optimum milk production while lowering ration cost.”

General research into the subject has shown that increasing concentrations of low-fat distillers grains have correlated to increasing efficiency of milk production. “When feeding regular DDGS you really have to limit feeds with high levels of unsaturated fatty acids and may cause limitations in formulation procedures,” said Paul Kononoff, Associate Professor of Dairy Nutrition/Dairy Nutrition Specialist at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. “The reduction in fat in low fat DDGS allows for higher inclusion of the co-product without the worries of milk fat depression.” Kononoff and others as the University of Nebraska have performed trials for POET and will be releasing their data to the public this summer.

A deliberate research and development process was followed in bringing Dakota Gold Low Fat DDGS to market. The new Dakota Gold LF DDGS option is possible because of POET’s Voila™ Corn Oil production, which removes oil from DDGS. The resulting low fat DDGS have been researched and will continued to be researched to find new ways in which distillers grains, the second-largest traded feed ingredient on the market, can be used to produce protein for human consumption. Nutritionists at POET are providing animal research data to nutritionists and the feed industry in general regarding Dakota Gold LF DDGS. Research and nutrition details are available at the Dakota Gold website.

Legislation Would Delay E15

Legislation sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) could delay getting 15% ethanol blended fuel in the marketplace by requiring even more testing by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The bill out of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee has the backing of numerous anti-ethanol organizations, including the including petroleum, livestock, environmental and food industry groups. It would require EPA to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of E15 on vehicles and engines. “The EPA’s decision to rush introduction of E15 into the marketplace raised a red flag, and stakeholders are speaking out before it’s too late,” Sensenbrenner said.

Growth EnergyGrowth Energy CEO Tom Buis notes that E15 has been tested more than any other fuel in history. “This is a waste of time and a waste of taxpayer dollars,” Buis said. “No fuel blend has undergone the level of scrutiny E15 has – and passed the tests like E15 did. They’ve been looking at E15 for more than three years.”

The Green Jobs Waiver for E15 was accompanied with more independently-gathered data, science and research in its support than any of the other 11 Clean Air Act waivers previously approved by the U.S. EPA. The agency approved the use of E15 in vehicles newer than 2001 more than a year ago, but it has yet to reach the consumer marketplace.