Express Lube Offers Gevo’s Isobutanol

Gevo has announced that Express Lube of Fredericksburg, Texas, is the first U.S. service station to sell gasoline blended with Gevo’s renewable isobutanol at the pump. Gevo said this is anticipated to be the first of many retail locations to offer Gevo’s product as the company rolls out its isobutanol to the marina, outdoor equipment and off-road gasoline markets.

Gevo logoAccording to Express Lube owner Adam Sheffield, he decided to sell isobutanol-blended gasoline because its moisture resistance and capacity to reduce engine corrosion are ideal for equipment and vehicles that are used intermittently. Sheffield learned about Gevo’s renewable isobutanol from Kino Oil, a local distributor that sells the product in drums. Kino began to offer the fuel made with isobutanol after finding that it is ethanol-free and is excellent for use with marine and off-road engines. Today the station is selling its fuel at over a 50 percent premium in comparison to local E10 gasoline blends that contain 10 percent ethanol.

“Isobutanol is great for weed eaters, mowers and farm or ranch equipment that sits unused for long periods of time – because it does not cause carburetors to gum up the way ethanol does,” said Sheffield. “I tried it myself after discovering that the ethanol-blended gasoline sitting in my riding mower over the winter had ruined the carburetor. It cost me $700 to replace. That’s when I switched to isobutanol.”

According to Gevo, its isobutanol is blended with gasoline to help meet renewable fuel
and clean air standards, and after several years of work and testing, has successfully obtained registration with the U.S. EPA as a fuel additive. Recently, the National Marine Manufacturers Association officially endorsed isobutanol as a drop-in fuel for marine and recreational boat engines. Gevo believes that retail sales of isobutanol-blended gasoline by Express Lube will help establish the value proposition for other fuel retailers.

Dr. Patrick Gruber, Chief Executive Officer of Gevo, added, “We welcome Express Lube as the very first retail service station to sell gasoline made with our isobutanol. It’s only a matter of time before other distributors and gas stations across the U.S. and in other parts of the world discover the benefits of isobutanol, and begin to offer our product commercially as well.”

New Ethanol Production, Corn Oil Comes to Market

Pacific Ethanol has begun commercial production of corn oil utilizing Valicor’s corn oil recovery system at its Columbia ethanol plant located in Boardman, Oregon. With the completion of this 2-year initiative, all four of the western Pacific Ethanol plants are now producing corn oil.

Neil Koehler, the company’s president and CEO, said of the milestone, “With the production of distillers corn oil at our Columbia plant, all eight of our ethanol facilities separate corn oil for sale into high-value markets. Corn oil production has been a major milestone for the company, and one that we expect to provide significant benefits as it broadens our co-product mix, further diversifies our revenue streams and enhances operating income.”

Cellulosic sugars, following extraction from bagasse at Iogen's Raizen Costa Pinto Plant (Brazil) where cellulosic ethanol is not being produced. Photo Credit:  novocana.com

Cellulosic sugars, following extraction from bagasse at Iogen’s Raizen Costa Pinto Plant (Brazil) where cellulosic ethanol is now being produced. Photo Credit: novocana.com.

Moving to the Midwest, the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol plant was fully commissioned. The 65 MMGy facility, located in Spiritwood, North Dakota, is the first corn-ethanol plant to be built in the U.S. in more than five years. The plant is unique in that the process steam is purchased from Great River Energy’s nearby Spiritwood Station and is used to help produce electricity.

Across the pond (and an ocean) in Brazil, Iogen Energy’s cellulosic ethanol plant is now up and running at the Raízen`s newly expanded Costa Pinto sugar cane mill in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was on hand for a celebration and noted, “the production of second generation ethanol from sugarcane bagasse is the realization of a dream for the country. The collaboration between the State and Raízen is part of the government’s commitment to ethanol production as a strategic measure for economic development.”

Climate Deniers Uncovered

A paper published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), “The Climate Deception Dossiers,” reveals decades of corporate misinformation campaigns by the fossil fuel industry. The paper focuses on seven deception dossiers, or collections containing nearly 85 internal company and trade association documents that have either been leaked to the public, come to light through lawsuits, or been disclosed through Freedom of Information Act requests.

gw-cover-climate-deception-dossiersThe authors say that many call climate change a hoax, including U.S. Senator James Inhofe who is now chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. However, write the authors, the biggest climate hoax is continuing today and that is, “…the decades long campaign by a handful of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies – such as Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy – to deceive the American public by distorting the realities and risks of climate change, something acting directly and sometimes acting indirectly through trade associations and front groups.”

The authors continue that that deception dossiers tell an undeniable truth, “…that for nearly three decades, major fossil fuel companies have knowingly worked to distort climate science findings, deceive the public, and block policies designed to hasten our needed transition to a clean energy economy.

So what do we learn?

  • Fossil Fuel companies have intentionally spread climate disinformation for decades.
  • Fossil fuel company leaders knew that their products were harmful to people and the planet but still chose to actively deceive the public and deny this harm.
  • The campaign of deception continues today.

The authors write that while many fossil fuel companies acknowledge the main findings of climate science, some still continue to support groups that spread misinformation about climate science and policy. Some of these front groups include: Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. The authors say these groups, along with industry trade associations such as American Petroleum Institute (API), American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). The fossil fuel industry also uses a host of fake grassroots organizations such as Fed Up at the Pump and Oregonians for Sound Fuel Policy to fight against legislation such as the Clean Power Plan and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Continue reading

Block Island Wind Farm Has Steel in Water

The American wind energy industry along with Rhode Island state legislators and others celebrated what Deepwater Wind is calling a “historic moment” for the offshore wind industry as the first “steel in the water” milestone was met this week for the Block Island Wind Farm. This marks the installation of the first offshore wind farm foundation component – a 400-ton steel jacket on the sea floor – by Weeks Marine and Mason Construction. The site is located roughly three miles off the Block Island coast.

On hand for the ceremony were Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abigail Ross Hopper, the state’s Congressional delegation, and more than a hundred other elected officials, leaders of national environmental advocacy organizations, federal and state regulators, Block Islanders and project supporters to celebrate the milestone where guests took a ferry tour of the offshore construction site.

Block-Island-RI-Google-300x190

Block Island – Photo Credit: Coastal News Today

“Rhode Island is proud to be home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm – a great opportunity for our state to stake out real leadership in this growing industry,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “Not only are we going to create over 300 good-paying jobs, but we’re going to rebrand ourselves as being more innovative and, over time, make Rhode Island a place that has a more diversified energy supply and greener energy. I’m committed to supporting this progress with a comprehensive jobs plan focused on making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making sure we are training the workforce today to support the innovations of tomorrow.”

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski noted, “We know the world is watching closely what we do here, and we’re incredibly proud to be at the forefront of a new American clean-tech industry launching right here in the Ocean State. This moment has been years in the making – and it’s just the start of something very big.” When complete, the offshore wind farm will generate 30 MW.

Construction is set for an eight-week period this summer and more than a dozen construction and transport barges, tugboats, crew ships and monitoring vessels will be active at the offshore construction site. In addition, vessel and crane operators, engineers, welders, scientists, protected species observers and dozens of others are all involved with this momentous operation.

“Weeks Marine and Manson Construction are enthused to assist with this challenging project and excited for the future opportunity it promises,” said Rick Palmer, Project Director for Weeks/Manson, a joint venture leading the installation work. “We commend Deepwater Wind for their diligent efforts that have led to this milestone achievement.” Continue reading

NBB Cites Biodiesel Benefits of RFS

The comment period has officially ended for the final 2014 and 2015 final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule as set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The National Biodiesel Board submitted comments but has a different take on how to keep the legislation moving forward and successful.

Biodiesel at the pumpBiodiesel falls under the Biomass-based Diesel category of the RFS, which is a subset of the overall Advanced Biofuels category. The EPA proposal, which is slated to be finalized in November, would gradually raise biodiesel volumes by about 100 million gallons per year to a standard of 1.9 billion gallons in 2017. The overall Advanced Biofuel standard would rise to 3.4 billion gallons in 2016.

NBB wrote in their comments, “The growth and expansion of the U.S. biodiesel industry in recent years represents a tremendous success story under the RFS. Today, nearly 2 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel displace an equivalent amount of petroleum diesel. This has resulted in significant reductions in pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while creating thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact across the nation.”

“The industry now has production plants in nearly every state in the country making fuel from an increasingly diverse mix of feedstocks, including recycled cooking oil, plant oils such as soybean oil, and animal fats,” the comments state. “In short, the biomass‐based diesel program has exceeded expectations and is achieving the goals that Congress outlined in creating the RFS. As a result, it warrants additional volume growth to meet the objectives of Congress in expanding renewable fuel use in the diesel market and in promoting advanced biofuels under the program.

NBB’s comments follow a letter from 36 U.S. senators last week calling for increased biodiesel volumes, and add to thousands of comments submitted by biodiesel supporters to the EPA in recent weeks. The comment period on the EPA’s pending proposal closed at midnight Monday.

“The EPA’s proposal is an improvement over its initial draft, but the agency can and should do much better,” said Anne Steckel, NBB vice president of federal affairs. “We have presented credible, compelling reasons for increasing biodiesel use under the RFS, and we hope the EPA carefully reviews our comments and those of thousands of other biodiesel supporters who have weighed in.”

Media Communication Tips for BioEnergy

I had the opportunity to facilitate a lively discussion on effective stakeholder messaging during the BioEnergy 2105 conference. “Reaching Your Stakeholders: Effectively Engaging and Educating Key Audiences,” discussed success stories, best practices and lessons learned that have helped to improve public perception of bioenergy at all levels. The panel featured: Melissa Savage, Senior Program Director with the National Association of State Energy Officials; Aaron Wells, Communications Consultant for Fuels America; Wendy Rosen, Leader, Global Public Affairs for DuPont Industrial Biosciences; and Emily York, Vice President of Communications for Abengoa.

BioEnergy 2015 communication panaelists. From left to right: Melissa Savage, Senior Program Director with the National Association of State Energy Officials; Joanna Schroeder, Editor, DomesticFuel.com;Wendy Rosen, Leader, Global Public Affairs for DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Aaron Wells, Communications Consultant for Fuels America; and Emily York, Vice President of Communications for Abengoa.

BioEnergy 2015 communication panaelists. From left to right: Melissa Savage, Senior Program Director with the National Association of State Energy Officials; Joanna Schroeder, Editor, DomesticFuel.com;Wendy Rosen, Leader, Global Public Affairs for DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Aaron Wells, Communications Consultant for Fuels America; and Emily York, Vice President of Communications for Abengoa.

The discussion kicked off with acknowledging that perception is reality and the industry needs to change its perception a bit. One way to do this is to tell the story the right way. Oftentimes, however, public relations professionals don’t provide enough information for journalists to make a valid assessment of the story. Rather, a company needs to package all they want to say. The hook is critical because this will entice a reporter to want to tell the story or a person seeking information what to hear the story. Once you have a journalist hooked, tell the story through the lens of one person, an engineer or farmer, for example. Include visuals – photography, videos and infographics. Also, be mindful of using too much jargon – this is a story killer.

As a journalist, I appreciate the advice of the panelists in telling the story. I receive dozens of press releases each day and some are so horribly written that I delete them even though I know there is probably a good story hidden somewhere in the jargon. On days there is too much news, the stories I focus on have not only a good story but also visuals to accompany that story (and no, a logo is not the visual us reporters are looking for). Another good piece of advice, pitching a few strategic stories is better than flooding the market. If you send me an email or release every day, I’m going to start ignoring you and ultimately miss a great story.

Some other helpful advice from the panelists: Continue reading

IRENA Launches INSPIRE Energy Platform

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has launched a new online platform called INSPIRE, or the International Standards and Patents in Renewable Energy platform. The project is the first of its kind, and provides information on nearly 400 international standards and more than 2 million patents for renewable energy technology.

INSPIRE platform2“The INSPIRE platform provides a strategic window into the innovation and growth taking place in the renewable energy sector,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “It consolidates vast collections of renewable energy patents and standards, which can foster collaboration between innovators, spur improvement through product comparison and benchmarking and help identify partners, matching domestic energy needs to innovative energy solutions.”

The project came to fruition with a partnership between IRENA, the European Patent Office (EPO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The platform features several features including a standards section that allows users to search through a database of more than 400 internationally used standards and generate reports as needed. It also explains what standards are, how they can be used and why they are important for quality assurance, investor confidence and technology trading. The patents section houses the world’s most comprehensive global patent database for carbon mitigation technologies, the EPO’s PATSTAT, which contains nearly two million patent documents.

“The INSPIRE platform demonstrates the role of the global patent systemINSPIRE platform1 as a support for innovation in renewable energy, encouraging research and development in technologies to serve modern energy needs while addressing climate change,” added EPO President Benôit Battistelli. “INSPIRE also showcases the role of patent information, which provides valuable high-level information to advise policy makers on the renewable energy sector.”

IRENA said the combination of resources on INSPIRE will help users analyse various aspects of renewable energy policy and innovation, and the platform can help indicate the effectiveness of policies to promote renewable energy innovation through the analysis of trends in patent activity.

Biofuel Perennial Crops Could Use Less Water

A new research report from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) finds that perennial crops grown on marginal land for biofuel use could use comparable water to that of corn. The report looked at how these crops could affect the balance of water between rainfall inputs, evaporation losses, and movement of soil water to the groundwater. The report cites that in humid climates such as the U.S. Midwest, evaporation returns more than half of the annual precipitation to the atmosphere, with the remainder available to recharge groundwater and maintain stream flow and lake levels.

The study, led by GLBRC scientist and Michigan State University professor of ecosystem ecology Stephen Hamilton, is a multi-year effort to compare the water use of conventional corn crops to the perennial cropping systems of switchgrass, miscanthus, native grasses, restored prairies, and hybrid poplar trees, feedstocks currently under review for use as biofuel crops.

Michigan State University; (R) Stephen Hamilton, professor of ecosystem ecology at Michigan State University and GLBRC researcher. Photo by John W. Poole, NPR.

Michigan State University; (R) Stephen Hamilton, professor of ecosystem ecology at Michigan State University and GLBRC researcher. Photo by John W. Poole, NPR.

“When we established the different cropping systems in 2008,” said Hamilton, “we installed soil-water sensors at various depths through the root zone. We’ve been continuously monitoring the soil water content ever since.”

To measure the rate of evapotranspiration occurring within each cropping system, soil-water sensors are used. Evapotranspiration refers to the sum total of water lost while the plant is growing, either from evaporation through the plant stem itself (a process called “transpiration”), or from water evaporated off of the plant’s leaves or the ground. By measuring the amount of precipitation that has fallen against actual soil water content, Hamilton said it’s possible to quantify the water lost to evapotranspiration while each crop is growing.

In a finding that contrasts sharply with earlier modeling studies that found particularly high perennial water use in areas with high water tables, the report finds that the perennial system’s evapotranspiration did not differ greatly from corn. Hamilton’s study, however, took place in Michigan’s temperate humid climate and on the kind of well-drained soil characteristic of marginal farming land.

Hamilton and his team also measured the water use efficiency (WUE) of each crop, calculating which plants grew the most biomass with the least amount of evapotranspiration. Miscanthus had the highest WUE, then corn, followed by poplar, native grasses, and prairie.

Ocean Energy to Play Global Role

The Commission for the Environment, Climate Change and Energy of the Committee of Regions has endorsed a recent report that focuses on the development of ocean energy to meet growing demand for renewable energy. The report states the ocean energy sector will make an “important contribution….to meeting the future energy needs of the European Union.”

ocean-energy-europeIn response to the news, Rémi Gruet, CEO Ocean Energy Europe, noted, “The ocean energy industry welcomes this report from the Committee of the Regions, and recognises the strong leadership Europe’s regions have played in driving the sector forward. With the resource anchored at regional level, ocean energy developments will mean fresh economic activity for existing port infrastructures and maritime supply chains.”

The report looks at Europe’s global leadership in the ocean energy sector and the benefits in terms of industrial growth, jobs and exports. The report also underlines both the pivotal role of the EU in pushing the development of the sector and the significant potential that could be unlocked through exploiting synergies between regions, Member States and the EU itself.

“With 100GW of installed capacity by 2050, the ocean energy industry can make a major contribution to Europe’s energy security and decarbonisation goals. This report is particularly timely and correctly identifies the key actions for Europe to maintain its global dominance and benefit from the growth of ocean energy around the world,” added Gruet.

The report supports the European Commission’s Ocean Energy Forum initiative, assigned to draft an industry roadmap by September this year. The final roadmap will be presented to European Ministers during a summit on ocean energy taking place in Dublin, on October 20, 2015.

Golf Course Repurposed to Solar Farm

Abandoned golf course in Japan that will be repurposed into a 23 MW solar farm.

Abandoned golf course in Japan that will be repurposed into a 23 MW solar farm.

The joint venture between Kyocera TCL Solar and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation has birthed a solar farm on an abandoned golf course in Koyto Prefecture, Japan. Once complete, the 23 MW solar power plant will generated an estimated 26,312 megawatt hours per year.

In addition to this project, Kyocera and Century Tokyo Leasing, along with two other companies, are developing a 92MW solar power plant at another abandoned golf course in the region. Not limited to Japan, several states in the U.S. including Florida, Utah and Kansas are also considering re-purposing abandoned golf courses for solar development among other uses.

Rendering of the Kanoya Osaki Solar Hills Solar Power Plant in Japan.

Rendering of the Kanoya Osaki Solar Hills Solar Power Plant in Japan.

Solar, said Kyocera, can provide a particularly productive and environmentally friendly use for defunct golf courses, which are characterized by expansive land mass, high sun exposure, and a low concentration of shade trees.

When completed, the new plant will become the largest solar power installation in Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture. The site is located in Fushimi Ward, where Kyocera established its first major solar energy research center in the mid-1970s. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Kyocera’s entry into the solar energy business.