Nebraska Governor Visits Novozymes

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts wrapped up his first agricultural trade mission this week with a visit to Novozymes world headquarters in Denmark, where a company tour showcased the production of unique enzymes and microbial products used in the animal nutrition, agriculture, and biofuels industries.

Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen welcomes Nebraska Gov. Ricketts

Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen welcomes Nebraska Gov. Ricketts

While at Novozymes, Gov. Ricketts and the United States Ambassador to Denmark hosted a roundtable on renewable fuels and bio-products where Nebraska delegates “showcased the dynamic interaction between the corn, cattle, and ethanol sectors and their important roles in Nebraska’s success in agriculture.”

Industry representatives presented U.S. market trends and regulations to the group, with a focus on co-products, revenue opportunities, and biorefinery developments. In addition to the governor, Nebraska roundtable participants included Department of Economic Development Director Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, KAAPA President and Nebraska Ethanol Board representative Paul Kenny, Green Plains Energy COO Jeff Briggs and Bret Wyant with American Laboratories. European company executives included representatives from Novozymes, Dong Energy, Leifmark, Renew Energy, DuPont, and the U.S. Embassy.

The Governor and mission members also met with Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen and Executive Vice Presidents of Business Development and Supply Operations Thomas Videbaek and Thomas Nagy to discuss business development and international expansion. Ricketts says the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was a concern as they discussed expansion plans in the United States. “With the EPA changing the rule, pulling the rug out from under our ethanol producers, by changing the RFS they’ve created uncertainty,” said Ricketts. “That uncertainty is impacting Novozymes as it’s impacting the rest of the industry.”

Novozymes opened its newest advanced manufacturing plant in Blair, Nebraska to make enzymes for biofuels production in 2012 in part because of strong policies like the RFS.

Listen to the governor’s summary of the trade trip here:Neb. Gov Pete Ricketts on trade trip wrap up

Nebraska Governor Talks Biofuels in Europe

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and ag delegation meet with officials in Brussels

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and ag delegation meet with officials in Brussels

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is on an agricultural trade mission trip to the European Union with stops in Italy, Belgium, and Denmark. The trade mission, being coordinated jointly by the Nebraska Departments of Agriculture and Economic Development, includes a number of representatives from the state’s agriculture and biofuels industry.

“As the number two ethanol producer in the country, we have a big interest in seeing what we can do with ethanol and one of the concerns in the industry is being able to export,” said Ricketts during a conference call with reporters on Friday from Brussels. “We’re just starting the conversion with regard to how we can expand that and export our ethanol into the European Union.”

In Brussels, the trade team met with executives from Ghent Port Company, TOTCO, Sygenta Brussels, and a consultant for Belgian Biodiesel Board to promote Nebraska’s biofuels industry and build relations between firms in Europe and the U.S.

Neb. Gov Pete Ricketts discusses biofuels in Europe

Corn Growers Urge Comments on RFS

PrintThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened the public comment period on its proposal to cut corn ethanol in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by nearly 4 billion gallons. That’s prompting the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) to urge farmers and their family and friends to email their opposition to this proposal as soon as possible, before the July 27 deadline.

“Last time, we were very clear to EPA about what we wanted,” said NCGA President Chip Bowling. “It is simple: EPA should follow the statute. For farmers and others in rural America, this new EPA proposal means low corn prices and ethanol plant and industry cutbacks. And for everyone, it means higher gas prices and dirtier air.”

This link while allow you to send a quick email: www.ncga.com/rfs. Various draft comments are available to enable both farmers and their non-farmer friends to easily send personalized notes to the EPA.

What Food Safety Act Means for Ethanol Plants

few15-fsma-kellyThe Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 and this summer the rulemaking for the new act might finally be complete. Because it includes safety of animal food as well as human food, ethanol plants that produce the co-product distillers grains for livestock feed are impacted.

Renewable Fuels Association Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis talked about what plants will need to do when FSMA becomes final during the 2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop. “One of the first things in the rule is Current Good Manufacturing Practices,” said Davis, who says that most plants are already ahead of the game in that area. “We have really nice manufacturing facilities, good housekeeping, good quality assurance … a lot of us were gifted what we would call a good manufacturing practice plant.”

The main impact that FSMA will have on ethanol plants is another layer of bureaucracy. “It’s going to be a written plan with constant updating, supervision of the plan, verification of the plan,” said Davis. “It’s going to be similar to other programs like air quality and process safety management – you’re going to write down what you’re going to do, you’re going to do what you wrote down, and you’re going to verify you did it.”

Davis says there were some changes already made in the rule as it has been developed and assuming it is finalized in its current form she thinks ethanol plants will be able to comply within the two year time frame given by the law. “This is an important program and we’re going to provide some guidance to help people comply,” said Davis.

Find out more about FSMA and ethanol plants in this interview. Interview with Kelly Davis, RFA

2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by
Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by Novozymes

Iowa RFA Praises State Legislature

irfaAs the Iowa Legislature wrapped up the 2015 legislative session last week, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) praised several key pieces of legislation that were passed to expand use of higher ethanol and biodiesel blends.

Before the gavel went down on the 86th General Assembly, Iowa lawmakers passed key legislation that allows E15 infrastructure investments to become eligible for Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure grants. Previously, the funds were only available for blender pumps and dispensers offering E85. Additionally, the Iowa legislature passed a bill that will establish a new grant program for fuel retailers to replace old underground storage tank (UST) equipment with new components that are UL listed to be fully compatible with E85.

“After a long, spirited session, we sincerely thank the Iowa Legislature for remaining committed to increasing the use and availability of higher ethanol and biodiesel blends,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “With an uphill climb for renewable fuels ahead in terms of federal policy, forward-thinking state initiatives are a must to continue to build upon the successes of Iowa’s nation-leading renewable fuels industry.”

Earlier in the session, the Iowa Legislature included a 3-cent per gallon differential tax rate for B11 and higher biodiesel blends in its road infrastructure legislation. Iowa RFA says this provision, which takes effect for five years on July 1, will help encourage the increased use and availability of higher biodiesel blends.

E15 Goes on Summer Vacation – Again

Ankeny-MagRd1On the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) cutting of the amount of ethanol required to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, the agency’s inaction on another front means 15% ethanol blended fuel is going on summer vacation again as the government forces retailers in many areas to needlessly restrict E15 sales to flex-fuel vehicles (FFV) only from June 1 through September 15.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw calls June 1 Petroleum Monopoly Day. “Iowans want to buy E15 and retailers want to sell it, but the EPA has yet again put the power in the hands of Big Oil to restrict the option of E15,” said Shaw. “This blatant market manipulation is proof positive that we need a strong RFS to crack the petroleum monopoly.”

“EPA continues to refuse to treat E10 and E15 the same during the summer. As a result, EPA prevents consumers from purchasing a cleaner-burning, lower-cost fuel and thereby actually helps buttress the artificial ‘blend wall’ that Congress has directed them to tear down,” Shaw added. “It’s almost comical that for three and a half months a year, EPA hands the fuel market over to Big Oil resulting in higher prices, more smog forming emissions, and more carbon emissions. How does that make sense?”

EPA has refused to equalize the vapor pressure regulations for E10 and E15 during the summer driving season, running from June 1 through September 15. This allows the petroleum industry to provide Iowa wholesale suppliers and retailers with only the E10 blendstock, cutting E15 out of the market. Ironically, according to Iowa RFA, adding the extra five percent ethanol to summertime E10 actually lowers the vapor pressure and reduces evaporative and tailpipe emissions.

Renewables Hit Highest Levels Since 1930s

Consumption of renewable energy sources hit the highest levels in 80 years. This report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says renewables accounted for 9.8 percent of total domestic energy consumption in 2014, the highest renewable energy share since the 1930s, when wood was a much larger contributor to the domestic energy supply.

EIA 28may

Renewable energy use grew an average of 5% per year over 2001-2014 from its most recent low in 2001. The increase over the past 14 years was in part because of growing use of wind, solar, and biofuels. Wind energy grew from 70 trillion Btu in 2001 to more than 1,700 trillion Btu in 2014. During the same period, solar energy (solar thermal and photovoltaic) grew from 64 trillion Btu to 427 trillion Btu, and the use of biomass for the production of biofuels grew from 253 trillion Btu to 2,068 trillion Btu. Hydroelectricity was the largest source of renewable energy in 2014, but hydro consumption has decreased from higher levels in the mid-to-late 1990s. Wood remained the second-largest renewable energy source, with recent growth driven in part by demand for wood pellets.

In 2014, slightly more than half of all renewable energy was used to generate electricity. Within the electric power sector, renewable energy accounted for 13% of energy consumed, higher than its consumption share in any other sector.

The industrial sector used 24% of the nation’s renewable energy in 2014. Nearly all of that renewable energy was biomass, which included wood, waste, and biofuels used in manufacturing processes as well as in the production of heat and power. The production of biofuels results in energy losses and co-products, which are also included in industrial consumption of renewables.

EIA says more wood for home heating and more solar panel systems are the main contributors to increasing renewable energy consumption in residential buildings and, to a lesser extent, in commercial buildings.

Ethanol Industry Pleased with NREL Study

The ethanol industry is pleased with a new study released this week by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) showing existing service station equipment is compatible with E15, a 15 percent blend of the green fuel. The study also looked at vapor control equipment and found “an extensive list of E15 and E15+ compatible equipment available.”

lamberty“Rumors of E15’s impossibility and high equipment cost have been greatly exaggerated,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty. “NREL’s analysis confirms what we have been telling station owners since E15 was approved – most underground storage tanks (USTs), piping, and other fueling equipment are already compatible with E15.”

Lamberty said the ethanol industry has been criticized and called “dangerous” and “dishonest’ for suggesting marketers could simply put E15 in tanks they previously used for premium or midgrade gasoline. “Even after highlighting real-world fuel marketers selling E15 from existing equipment, the myth of high priced E15 infrastructure remains,” said Lamberty. “This study effectively busts that myth.”

Lamberty went on to say that “in stations where Big Oil couldn’t contractually ban E15, they had to scare the owners out of offering the less-expensive, higher-octane fuel.”

dinneen-capitolBob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, also commented on the study:

“This comprehensive analysis is both timely and relevant to the current debate about the so-called ‘blend wall’ that some would like to use to limit the growth opportunities for ethanol under the RFS. Clearly, the constraints to the increased use of E15 have more to do with the recalcitrance of refiners and marketers than they do any real infrastructure barriers. Today’s comprehensive study should once and for all belie the misplaced conclusion that infrastructure and ethanol demand limitations should justify a reduction in the RFS as it found most equipment at a retail fuel station today, including underground storage tanks, are compatible with E15. This study demonstrates that most retailers will not be required to break concrete and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to offer E15.”

The study was funded by the Blend Your Own Ethanol campaign, a joint effort of ACE and RFA to provide information for fuel retailers considering ethanol blends beyond E10. A full copy of the report can be found at BYOethanol.com, and interested parties can also register on the BYO website for an NREL webinar on the report which will be offered June 11, 2015 at 1:00 PM CDT.

Ethanol Gears Up for Friday’s RVOs Announcement

epa-150Ethanol advocates are gearing up for Friday’s announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the levels of renewable fuel to be mixed into the nation’s conventional fuel supplies. The Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) are mandated in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), but the EPA has been tinkering with the amounts, which could put the biofuels industry in jeopardy.

Fuels America continued its campaign leading up to the proposed rules with a full page ad in the New York Times today and a week-long sponsorship of Politico’s Morning Energy. The ads both present the choice before the EPA: rural economies and American innovation, or oil industry profits.

America’s Renewable Future (ARF) also announced that Iowa’s entire federal delegation – including Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Reps. Dave Loebsack, Steve King, David Young, and Rod Blum – is joining ARF in urging the EPA to set strong Renewable Fuel Standard volume requirements consistent with Congress’s intent when the law was passed.

“Farmers and biofuels producers have done their part. The EPA needs to do its part,” Grassley said. “The levels ought to reflect the reality of what can be accomplished in an unbiased way. That’s what the law requires, and that’s what consumers who want fuel choices deserve.”

Brent Erickson, the executive vice president of BIO, published this blog on Medium about the EPA’s choice and how the agency should follow the law:

Back when Congress was considering the RFS, oil companies fought tooth and nail against a part of the bill that I call the “Consumer Choice Provision” (CCP). This provision directs the EPA to set annual [RVO] levels based on the renewable fuel industry’s ability to produce and supply biofuels. The oil lobby instead wanted a law that would have allowed the EPA to set RVO levels below those in the statute if the oil industry simply refused to invest in renewable fuel infrastructure…

Instead, Congress designed the RFS to increase America’s energy security, lessen our dependence on foreign oil (which often comes from hostile regions), extend its commitment to America’s rural communities and green energy investors and innovators, and encourage infrastructure development. The RFS now supports more than 852,000 jobs across America. And thanks to the promise of the RFS, green energy investors have brought three commercial scale cellulosic ethanol facilities online, producing the world’s cleanest motor fuels from agricultural residue.

USDA Turning Wildfire Fuel into Biofuels

usda-logoThe fuel for wildfires is being converted to biofuels. This posting on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) blog says the agency is tackling the issue of what to do with the trees killed by bark beetles, a source of fuel for forest fires. While the huge bioenergy resource (projected to be 46 million acres) has potential, it faces some real challenges, including access to industrial centers able to process it into biofuel. Several USDA programs look to overcome that issue.

One such program, the Sustainable Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR), is led by Colorado State University. BANR brings together scientists, educators, and extension specialists from universities and government agencies to work with industry partners to address the major challenges that impact economical and sustainable utilization of insect-killed trees for the production of biofuels and biochar.

Because collecting beetle-killed trees is more of a salvage operation than a harvest, BANR has created teams to address the various challenges. The first order of business is locating the feedstock, which BANR does through various sensing approaches. They will also develop models to predict future beetle infestations. Another team is tackling the logistical problems of harvesting, collecting, transporting, and storing the raw biomass without negatively impacting natural forest regeneration and water resources. Specifically, goals for this aspect of the operation include benchmarking the performance of equipment used to harvest, process, and deliver beetle-killed trees, and then optimize the logistics for site conditions, specific end uses, and facility locations.

USDA also wants to educate youth by developing middle and high school science units that focus on bioenergy; professional development for K-12 teachers; research opportunities for K-12 teachers and undergraduate students; and online coursework for undergrads, graduate students, and K-12 teachers.