MIT Finds Way to Help Ethanol Yeast Thrive

MIT1Ethanol 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 Teams with Others to Build Ethanol Plant

LanzaTechghent1LanzaTech 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.

NREL Expert on E15 Infrastructure at ACE

aceA 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.

Corn Growers Rally for the RFS Again

rfs-worksCorn growers will be rallying for rural America on Capital Hill Wednesday, July 15 at Upper Senate Park to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  More than 250 corn growers will be on hand and have invited all others who support the RFS) to join them.

The main goal of the rally is to call on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to raise the RFS volumes for corn-based ethanol that were cut in the final rules for 2016. According to the National Corn Growers Association, biofuels such as ethanol strengthen and support American farmers and rural economies.

Featured speakers will include U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth, and NCGA President Chip Bowling.

UAI: EPA Emissions Model on Ethanol Flawed

UAIEPA1A 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.

US Ethanol Exports Drop Again

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.

ethanolimportsexports1
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.

Ethanol Group Becomes ‘Renew Kansas’

renewkansasA group representing ethanol producers in Kansas has changed its name. The Kansas Association of Ethanol Processors (KAEP) has changed its name to Renew Kansas to better reflect an evolution of the association’s mission to promote ethanol as a renewable fuel that is good for the Kansas consumer, environment and economy.

The transition comes after months of strategic planning and analysis by the KAEP Board of Directors and staff. The Greteman Group, an advertising agency in the Wichita area, directed the rebranding efforts with a new logo, website and industry messaging.

“Changing our name to Renew Kansas better reflects our focus in promotion and education of ethanol fuels as good for consumers and the state,” said Tom Willis, CEO of Conestoga Energy Partners in Liberal and Chairman of the KAEP Board of Directors. “We look forward to expanding our reach with our new identity and growing our organization to help meet future energy needs.”

Chek out the Renew Kansas website, www.renewkansas.com.

Letter to Congress: No Changes to RFS

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 9.36.35 AMA broad group of companies supporting the renewable fuels industry sent a letter urging members of Congress to reject proposals that ‘amend, repeal, defund or otherwise modify or interfere with the Renewable Fuel Standard‘(RFS). This included the amendment from Rep. Barry Loudermilk that would defund the RFS.

The letter compares renewable fuel favorably to gasoline on environmental measures and argues that renewable fuel breaks the oil monopoly on gasoline. The letter also cites that in 2013, 33 percent of the petroleum consumed in the United States came from foreign sources, the lowest level since 1985.

Read the letter. Continue reading

Nebraska Ethanol Board to Talk Ag Careers

NEethanolboardThe ethanol industry holds lots of job opportunities in agriculture-related businesses. That’s why the Nebraska Ethanol Board staff will be at the Nebraska Agriculture Youth Institute Career Fair this Thursday, July 9, at 3:30 p.m.

The Nebraska Agriculture Youth Institute (NAYI) is a weeklong experience – July 6-10 – for high school juniors and seniors from across Nebraska to learn about career opportunities within agriculture. This conference features speakers, workshops, agricultural education, networking with peers and industry leaders, professional development and leadership experience.

“NAYI is an opportunity for high school students to get a taste of the variety of opportunities in agriculture,” said Trent Mastny, Nebraska Agriculture Youth Council head counselor. “Youth from across the state can make connections and share their passion for agriculture and feeding the world.”

A recent impact study by University of Nebraska-Lincoln economists reveals Nebraska’s ethanol production growth was tenfold in the past two decades, which means high-quality jobs in the state. Nebraska’s 24 ethanol plants staff 1,300 full-time employees earning $71 million in annual wages and benefits.

“The ethanol industry has opportunities in agriculture fields, as well as careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which are in high demand,” said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “Ethanol plants provide jobs for educated youth in rural communities.”

American Ethanol Driver Safe After Daytona Crash

american-ethanol-dillonAmerican Ethanol driver Austin Dillon had a wild July 4th weekend, earning his first career win at Daytona in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race and then ending a rain-delayed Coke Zero 400 race with a car upside down and in pieces just moments before Dale Earnhardt, Jr. crossed the finish line after 2:40 am.

Dillon, who was not driving the American Ethanol car in the race, had only minor injuries in the horrific crash that tore down fencing and threw debris on fans. The grandson of racing legend Richard Childress, Dillon afterward thanked “the good Lord for taking care of me and for what NASCAR has done to make the sport this much safer.”

American Ethanol is a partnership with NASCAR and all races are run on 15% ethanol-blended fuel. Dillon is an official spokesperson for American Ethanol and drives the No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS in select races.