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, 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.

Biofuels, Nat Gas Boost Nonpetroleum Usage Levels

Petroleum is still tops in transportation fuels, but biodiesel, ethanol and natural gas have taken the biggest bite out of its share since 1954. This report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says the numbers harken back to when coal-fired steam locomotives were declining and automobile use was growing rapidly.
After nearly 50 years of relative stability at about 4%, the nonpetroleum share started increasing steadily in the mid-2000s, reaching 8.5% in 2014. Of the nonpetroleum fuels used for transportation, fuel ethanol has grown most rapidly in recent years, increasing by nearly one quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) between 2000 and 2014. Nearly all of the ethanol consumed was blended into gasoline in blends of 10% or less, but a small amount was used in vehicles capable of running on higher blends as the availability of those flexible-fuel vehicles grew. Consumption of biodiesel, most of it blended into diesel fuel for use in trucks and buses, grew to more than 180 trillion Btu by 2014.

In 2014, transportation use of natural gas reached a historic high of 946 trillion Btu, 3.5% of all natural gas used in the United States. Transportation natural gas is mostly used in the operation of pipelines, primarily to run compressor stations and to deliver natural gas to consumers. Natural gas used to fuel vehicles, although a much smaller amount, has more than doubled since 2000.

Military Adds Biodiesel Quality to Fuel Contracts

nBBThe U.S. military has added a quality requirement to its biodiesel buys. This news release from the National Biodiesel Board says the Defense Logistics Agency is letting suppliers know that biodiesel must be certified as coming from either BQ-9000 producers or BQ-9000 marketers.

“As the US military continues to move towards more sustainable, American-made fuels, it’s extremely important that they purchase the highest quality fuel possible,” said National Biodiesel Board Technical Director Scott Fenwick. “The inclusion of the BQ-9000 requirement ensures our military bases and others DLA supplies will be able to use biodiesel seamlessly in their operations.”

As America’s combat logistics support agency, DLA provides the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, other federal agencies and partner nation armed forces with a full spectrum of logistics, acquisition and technical services. DLA sources and provides nearly all of the consumable items America’s military forces need to operate – from food, fuel and energy to uniforms, medical supplies and construction material. In 2014, they supplied 100 million barrels of fuel.

The BQ-9000 program is a unique combination of the ASTM standard for biodiesel, ASTM D6751, and a quality systems program that includes storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution, and fuel management practices.

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.”

New Ad from ACE Uses ‘Power by People’ for RFS

Marietta1Looking to capitalize on President Obama’s visit to Watertown, South Dakota, the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) placed a full page advertisement in the May 8 Watertown Public Opinion. The ad uses the Power by People campaign which highlights the personal stories and persuasiveness of ACE’s grassroots members.

The ad features Marietta Lakness, a farmer, rancher, and investor in Glacial Lakes Energy, an ACE-member ethanol company that owns and operates facilities in Watertown and Mina, South Dakota. It focuses on how the RFS has supported Watertown’s economic growth and success. The text of the ad reads:

“Sometimes policy makers in DC get it right. Watertown, South Dakota is proof. So is Marietta Lakness. She raised a family in Hamlin County and has seen up close the challenges rural communities face. That’s why Marietta joined with her neighbors to build Glacial Lakes Energy, their very own home town biorefinery. Thanks to a policy called the Renewable Fuel Standard, today Watertown and places like it across the country produce clean renewable fuel for all Americans. The RFS also helped Marietta and 4,000 people like her who invested in Glacial Lakes Energy unleash a new chapter of hope and prosperity for the region. Today there’s a new market for her crops, new feed for her livestock, new fuel for her neighbors, and new dollars circulating throughout the region. It’s a jolt that’s plain to see all over town. Even though they live well outside the Beltway, the people of Watertown – folks like Marietta – are proof that good things come when Washington gets it right. And that’s worth keeping. Mr. President, help keep the RFS on track.”

You can read Marietta’s ethanol story here.

Senators Show Support for Biodiesel Industry

durbin-heidiSenator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) led a number of her Democratic colleagues in calling on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop the continued delays of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule and highlighted the impact that the uncertainty of the past two years has had on biodiesel industry.

“We stand together as Democratic Senators who care about this industry, care about energy independence, care about farm country, and care about the diversity of our energy sources to plead with the President of the United States to participate in this discussion,” said Sen. Heitkamp. “If you really are serious about a diverse energy mix, why do what we’re doing to the biodiesel industry?”

Joining Sen. Heitkamp were Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Al Franken (D-MN), as well as biodiesel producers, who also stressed how the uncertainty caused by EPA’s misguided 2013 rule and delays on farmers and biodiesel workers.

adm-biodieselKent Engelbrecht, the manager of the biodiesel division at ADM, which has a biodiesel plant in Velva, North Dakota and is headquartered in Illinois, as well as Todd Ellis, vice president at Imperium Renewables near Seattle, Washington, discussed how the delays have impacted their own operations and others.

“2014 was poised to be a breakout year for biodiesel, until the 2014 RVO proposal intervened,” said Engelbrecht. “With the subsequent expiration of the biodiesel tax credit, we were forced to cease or slow production at all of our facilities.”

Listen to or download audio here: Comments from Senators and Biodiesel Industry on RFS Delays

The senators’ press conference was held as word came out Thursday that EPA has sent its new RFS volume obligation proposal, which is due to be released on June 1, on to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

National Biodiesel Board Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel thanked the senators for their support and was optimistic about news that EPA may be getting the RFS back on track. “What’s most important, however, is that we see volume growth in this pending proposal,” said Steckel. “The Obama Administration says regularly that it supports renewable fuels and wants America to lead, particularly in the development of Advanced Biofuels like biodiesel. This proposal will show if that’s true. The proof will be in the numbers.”

NBB Talks Biodiesel Issues with NAFB

ww15-nbbThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) took part in the annual National Association of Farm Broadcasting Washington Watch this week to talk with reporters from around the country about issues important to the industry, number one being get the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) back on track.

“We hope that they not only get it back on track but get those volumes out there, they need to be higher,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel, speaking about EPA’s plan to release overdue volume obligations under the law by June. “EPA has said they want 2014 volumes to be actual production, so for our industry that would be about 1.75 billion gallons.”

Steckel says they hope EPA will add several hundred million gallons to that each year going forward to support industry growth.

In this interview with Agri-Pulse reporter Spencer Chase, Steckel also talks about the status of the biodiesel tax incentive. Interview with Anne Steckel, NBB

EIA: Ethanol Production, Stocks Down

Weekly ethanol production numbers, as well as stocks are down. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports ethanol production averaged 921,000 barrels per day (b/d), about 38.68 million gallons daily. That is down 9,000 b/d from the week before. The four-week average for ethanol production stood at 928,000 b/d for an annualized rate of 14.23 billion gallons. Stocks of ethanol were down 2.6 percent from a week earlier at 20.8 million barrels.

The Renewable Fuels Association added that ethanol production is accounting for a good amount of corn usage in the country.

Ethanol producers were using 13.965 million bushels of corn to produce ethanol and 102,786 metric tons of livestock feed, 91,635 metric tons of which were distillers grains. The rest is comprised of corn gluten feed and corn gluten meal. Additionally, ethanol producers were providing 5.42 million pounds of corn distillers oil daily.