Speaking to members of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) meeting in Washington DC this week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy defended her agency’s proposed volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) while at the same time thanking farmers for their strong voice on the issue.
“I know RFS matters deeply to corn growers,” said McCarthy. “You know we held a hearing in Kansas and I know you knew it because you showed up. Last month you were there in force. And I want to thank you for being out there.”
McCarthy told the farmers that “EPA is deeply committed to the RFS” and to the industry. “You might have heard that we are trying to shrink or kill this program, but the truth is we are committed to growing it,” she said. “The volumes we’ve proposed for 2015 and 2016 are designed to bust through any blend wall – even if you don’t believe it exists!”
McCarthy was invited to address the summer Corn Congress session by NCGA President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Newburg, Maryland. “I invited her to Corn Congress because I wanted farmers to hear from her directly,” said Bowling. “To her credit, she had the courage to show up and talk to farmers face to face.”
In her address, McCarthy also talked about the EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which is also a major issue of concern for corn farmers. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at NCGA Corn Congress
DuPont and Chinese company New Tianlong Industry Co. (NTL) have signed an historic deal that will bring cellulosic ethanol to China. This DuPont news release says the agreement allows NTL to license DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol technology and use DuPont Accellerase enzymes to produce renewable biofuel from the leftover biomass on Jilin Province’s highly productive corn farms.
Combining NTL’s ethanol production expertise with processing technology, technical support and world-class enzymes supplied by DuPont, NTL will be able to produce cellulosic renewable fuel for the rapidly growing Chinese liquid biofuel market, which is projected to exceed 1.7 billion gallons per year by 2020.
“As we bring online the largest and most sophisticated cellulosic facility in the world in the State of Iowa in the United States, we are simultaneously working with leaders who share the same vision of producing the next generation of clean renewable fuels in their region,” said Jan Koninckx, global biofuels leader for DuPont Industrial Biosciences. “We are honored to have found such a strong partner in NTL. The company’s reputation for producing world-class grain ethanol makes it a superior candidate to put DuPont’s advanced technology to work to realize the additional economic and environmental benefits of cellulosic biofuel in China.”
“With its history of scientific innovation, collaboration and commitment to the ethanol industry, DuPont is an ideal partner for New Tianlong in our quest to bring the cleanest renewable fuel on the planet to China,” said SUN Guojing, general manager of NTL. “We look forward to working with DuPont over the coming years as we develop the biomass supply chain, construct a world-class facility, and produce fuel that delivers on the promise of reduced pollution and greenhouse gases. This project will augment our current excellent grade ethanol offerings and business and will make NTL the preeminent biofuel product supplier in China.”
This deal is expected to fill China’s aggressive goals for renewable energy, cutting its reliance on foreign oil and increasing employment opportunities for its large rural population.
Ethanol has cut carbon dioxide emissions by more than 300 million over the last 12 years. Brazil’s sugarcane ethanol industry group UNICA says to get the same results from growing trees, it would be necessary to plant and maintain over 20 years more than 2.1 billion native plants.
Hosted on the site ‘ Verde Ethanol ‘, the Carbonômetro indicates the high potential of sugarcane biofuel helped the country to mitigate CO2 more than the sum of the annual emissions of Argentina (190 million tonnes), Peru (53.1 million tons ), Ecuador (35.7 million tons), Uruguay (7.8 million tonnes) and Paraguay (5.3 million tons).
For the consultant on emissions and Technology of UNICA, Alfred Szwarc, the result shows that sugarcane ethanol produced in Brazil is one of the cleanest energy alternatives commercially available worldwide.
“The reduction is quite significant. The data are of the same order of magnitude as the annual emission of CO2 from Poland (317 million tons), country considered one of the major global emitters of greenhouse gases, “says Szwarc.
The consultant notes that, despite its benefits, the global promotion of ethanol is still limited and needs more incentives, especially in Europe.
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) with its president Elizabeth Farin has become the newest member of the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA).
“Brazil is truly a trailblazer in the global biofuels industry, not only as one of the world’s largest producers of biofuels, but one of the first,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA. “As the largest ethanol producer in Brazil, we are honoured to have UNICA join our ranks to represent the industry on the world stage.”
UNICA is the largest organization in Brazil representing sugar, ethanol and bioelectricity producers. UNICA members represent more than 50% of all ethanol produced in Brazil and 60% of overall sugar production.
“As a global leader in ethanol production, UNICA is proud to be a member of the GRFA,” said Ms. Farina. “We look forward to working with the other members of over 44 biofuel producing countries to collectively promote the expanded use of renewable fuels throughout the world and advocate for sound public policy and responsible research.”
The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting biofuel friendly policies internationally. Alliance members now represent over 90% of the global biofuels production from 45 countries.
Microbes play an important role in ethanol production, and researchers in the Midwest are finding a way to get more out of the little bugs to get the most green fuel out of feedstocks, especially waste materials. This news release from the University of Wisconsin-Madison says scientists there teamed up with Michigan State University researchers to create a process for making the work environment less toxic — literally — for the organisms that do the heavy lifting in turning biomass into cellulosic ethanol.
When industrious bacteria like Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Zymomonas mobilis and Escherichia coli go to work converting the sugar in corn stover and other plant-derived materials into ethanol, they also run into aromatic compounds, which, for these particular organisms, are toxic. This slows down the conversion process, a big problem in a field that needs to economize as much as possible to compete with fossil fuels.
“There’s about a billion tons of that biomass material that the U.S. could produce in a year, separate from food production,” says Daniel Noguera, Wisconsin Distinguished Professor of civil and environmental engineering at UW-Madison. “If that material could be converted to just glucose, that would be perfect. But there are other materials that are part of the plants.”
Noguera — along with a team of chemists, microbiologists and engineers associated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the Wisconsin Energy Institute at UW-Madison — proposes sending in a sort of microbial cleanup crew to make things safer for the glucose-eaters.
The plan relies on Rhodopseudomonas palustris, a versatile bacterium that feeds on the aromatics but isn’t interested in the sugars. This offers an advantage over currently available chemical processes for removing the aromatics, which also remove some of the valuable glucose.
Ethanol producers might get more production out of the yeast they use, thanks to researchers at MIT. This news release from the school says scientists have added potassium and an acidity-reducing compound to the yeast that helps it tolerate higher concentrations of the ethanol it’s making without dying.
Aided by those “supplements,” traditionally underperforming laboratory yeast made more ethanol than did industrial strains genetically evolved for ethanol tolerance. The supplements also enabled lab yeast to tolerate higher doses of high-energy alcohols such as butanol, a direct gasoline substitute. In other “firsts,” the researchers described the mechanism by which alcohols poison yeast; they defined two genes that control ethanol tolerance; and they modified those genes in lab yeast to make them out-produce the industrial strains — even without the supplements.
Manufacturers worldwide rely on yeast to convert sugars from corn or sugar cane into ethanol, a biofuel now blended with gasoline in cars and trucks. But there’s a problem: At certain concentrations, the ethanol kills the yeast that make it. As a result, a given batch of yeast can produce only so much ethanol.
“The biggest limitation on cost-effective biofuels production is the toxic effect of alcohols such as ethanol on yeast,” says Gregory Stephanopoulos, the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. “Ethanol is a byproduct of their natural metabolic process, as carbon dioxide is a byproduct of ours. In both cases, high doses of those byproducts are lethal.”
Efforts to grow genetically modified yeast weren’t successful, but it did give the researchers the idea for adding the common chemicals.
LanzaTech is partnering with two companies in the metals businesses to build a nearly $97 million ethanol plant. This company news release says LanzaTech, ArcelorMittal a steel and mining company, and Primetals Technologies, in the iron and steel industry, will construct Europe’s first-ever commercial scale production facility to create bioethanol from waste gases produced during the steelmaking process. The resulting bioethanol can cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 80 per cent compared with conventional fossil fuels.
The 47,000 ton ethanol/annum project, sufficient to fuel half a million cars with ethanol blended gasoline, will demonstrate the added value of recycling waste streams, not only by reducing emissions at source, hence reducing ArcelorMittal’s direct carbon footprint, but by keeping fossil fuels in the ground through the production of commodity chemicals and fuels that would otherwise be made from oil.
Approximately 50 per cent of the carbon used in the chemistry of steelmaking leaves the process as carbon monoxide. Today, this waste gas stream is either flared or used to heat and power the steel mill. In either case, the carbon monoxide is combusted and the resulting CO2 is emitted. LanzaTech’s technology, however, recycles the waste gases and ferments them with a proprietary microbe to produce bioethanol. Every ton of bioethanol produced, displaces 5.2 barrels of gasoline as well as reducing ArcelorMittal’s CO2 emissions by 2.3 tons.
The project will be located at ArcelorMittal’s steel plant in Ghent, Belgium, is anticipated to commence later this year, with bioethanol production expected to start mid-2017.
A senior National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyst will discuss E15 infrastructure at the upcoming American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) Conference. This ACE news release says Kristi Moriarty, the principle author of a recent government report examining the compatibility of existing fuel station infrastructure for E15, will speak during the conference August 20 in Omaha, Nebraska.
“One reason the ethanol industry petitioned EPA to approve the use of E15 is because existing standards indicated the blend was compatible with most existing equipment,” said ACE Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty. “Unfortunately, gas station owners have been misled by ethanol detractors into believing that adding E15 would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in new equipment. We’re looking forward to hearing from Kristi Moriarty, the lead author of the NREL report which destroys the E15 compatibility and cost myths,” said Lamberty.
The theme of the August 19-21 ACE Conference is “Quiet Ingenuity, Bold Advance.” The event will also feature a talk on technology and advanced biofuel innovations involving Ray Defenbaugh, President and CEO of Big River Resources LLC, Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors, and Jeff Oestmann, President and CEO of East Kansas Agri-Energy, LLC, a retailer panel discussion on E15 and flex fuel sales, a progress report on ethanol and DDGs exports, ethanol plant board member training, and much more.
This link has more information on the ACE Conference.
A group representing ethanol and air quality interests says the government’s emissions model regarding ethanol is flawed. The Urban Air Initiative filed documents with the U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., that show the model used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to measure tailpipe emissions inaccurately blames ethanol for increased air pollution, jeopardizing any hope for ethanol expansion.
The written arguments were filed as part of an ongoing legal challenge by the Urban Air Initiative, Energy Future Coalition, the State of Kansas and the State of Nebraska. These groups are asking that the EPA suspend its use of the Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES) model based on faulty and incomplete data. States are required to use this model to demonstrate compliance with federal air quality standards and would effectively be prohibited from using more ethanol under this model.
The Urban Air Initiative hired a certified fuels modeling consulting firm to run the MOVES model by adding various levels of ethanol to gasoline. But due to faulty fuel blending in the model, ethanol blends are shown to increase most of the pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act, when in fact the opposite is true when using fuels currently marketed to consumers.
“The consultant confirmed our fears, which was that this model is biased against ethanol and blocks the goal of Urban Air Initiative to reduce toxic emissions and promote a cleaner fuel for today and future generations,” said UAI President Dave VanderGriend. “We have clear data to support that when simply adding ethanol to gasoline, a better fuel is created with fewer toxic emissions. However, the calculations in the MOVES model were primarily directed by oil interests and do not reflect what happens in the real world.”
The new data submitted to the court follows a series of steps the plaintiffs have taken during the past year, including a direct appeal to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to suspend the model.
Ethanol exports dropped again during May to hit their lowest level of 2015. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) reports exports dropped 14 percent from April to 64.6 million gallons (mg), with the largest cutbacks in Tunisia, India, the Netherlands and the Philippines. Year-to-date exports of 377.1 mg implied an annualized total of 905 mg for 2015, which would surpass all years but 2011.
The United States reduced its exports of undenatured ethanol for fuel use by 34%, dropping from 42.8 mg in April to 28.4 mg in May. Top customer Brazil once again cut U.S. ethanol imports (13.8 mg, or 49%), while the Philippines (4.0 mg), Mexico (3.8 mg) and Nigeria (3.4 mg) received significant volumes. May exports of denatured ethanol fuel increased 13% to 33.5 mg, surpassing shipments of undenatured product for the first time since October 2014. Canada (17.2 mg), Oman (12.6 mg) and Peru (3.5 mg) accounted for virtually all of the volume exported. The United States exported 545,652 gallons of undenatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage use and 2.2mg of denatured ethanol for non-fuel, non-beverage use in May, in line with recent norms.
Ethanol imports were dramatically lower in May, with the U.S. taking delivery of 3.2 mg of denatured product from the Netherlands and 33 gallons from Germany. Total year-to-date imports of 16.4 mg are less than a third of imports at this time last year.
Meanwhile, May exports of U.S. distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product manufactured by dry mill ethanol plants—surged 23 percent over April levels and marked the second biggest monthly jump on record. May shipments were 1,171,916 metric tons (mt), topping the 1.1 million mt mark for only the third time. Monthly exports to China were at an historic high of 864,777 mt in May, nearly three-quarters of total U.S. DDGS exports.