No More Oxygenate Rule After May

Cindy Zimmerman

EPA The Environmental Protection Agency has changed the rules requiring certain states to add oxegenates – like ethanol or MTBE – to gasoline to fight air pollution. Here’s the actual announcement from EPA made late yesterday:
In a move to provide greater flexibility in producing clean-burning gasoline to protect and improve air quality, EPA is revoking the two percent oxygen content requirement for reformulated gasoline (RFG) nationwide. The Energy Policy Act authorized the action, which reduces production burdens while continuing to protect the environment with clean fuel blends as the use of ethanol increases. Currently, about 30 percent of gasoline is RFG. The revocation takes effect nationwide on May 6 and in California 60 days after the regulation’s publication in the Federal Register.
In other words, the government is no longer going to tell refiners exactly how they have to make cleaner-burning gasoline. The new regulation implements a provision in last year’s comprehensive energy bill that did away with the oxygenate requirement – and that was in response to complaints by states that have banned MTBE because it pollutes groundwater, leaving them with ethanol as their only option.
Now, the smoggiest areas of the country in 14 states – California, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin – and the District of Columbia are still going to have to meet clean air standards by using cleaner burning gasoline. They may still choose to use oxygenates, like ethanol, or go some other route.
What will this mean for the ethanol industry, since much of the increased demand lately has come from states replacing MTBE with ethanol? Likely not much, because while the energy bill eliminated the oxygenate requirement, at the same time it created a new renewable fuels requirement that calls for refiners to use four billion gallons of renewables this year, and 7.5 billion by 2012. So, as an article in USA Today states, the outlook is still bright for ethanol.

Ethanol, Government

Biodiesel from the Heartland

Cindy Zimmerman

Another sweetheart of a story for the day after St. Valentine’s.
Heartland Biodiesel is the name of a group of Missouri farmer-investors planning to build a biodiesel plant in Rock Port, MO. According to an AP report, the northwest Missouri plant will cost $40 million to $45 million to build and will employ about 28 people, producing roughly 30 million gallons of biodiesel per year.
“Renewable energy – that’s what everybody’s talking about,” said Kent Fisher, of Fairfax, vice president of the group’s board of directors.

The group’s website is under construction at www.hartlandbiodiesel.com and they have no logo available as yet.

Biodiesel

Business is Sweet for Xethanol

Cindy Zimmerman

Xethanol According to a Valentine’s Day press release, Xethanol Corporation, a biotechnology driven ethanol production company, announced today that despite downtime over the holiday season, ethanol production at its Iowa BioFuels plant during January 2006 reached a record 502,000 gallons. That’s basically the story in a nutshell, not much to add, except that the company is working with Harris Group engineering firm to accelerate deployment of our proprietary technologies for producing ethanol from low cost biomass feedstocks.

Ethanol

Lots of News from US BioEnergy

Cindy Zimmerman

US Bioenergy US BioEnergy Corp. is moving from South Dakota to Minnesota. The company has also named a new president, according to a press release issued Tuesday. Brian Thome, a Director on the Corporate Board since the company’s inception, has been named President of the Corporation. As President, Thome will primarily be responsible for building the infrastructure necessary to support the rapid growth of the ethanol company. US BioEnergy – which recently partnered with CHS, Inc. (see previous post) – decided to move from Brookings, SD to St. Paul, MN to be closer to its business partners and a larger labor pool.
In another release issued today, US BioEnergy also announced that it will be acquiring Platte Valley Fuel Ethanol located near Central City, NE. Currently US BioEnergy has two plants under construction: US Bio Albert City, a 110 million gallon per year (mgy) plant in Iowa scheduled to be on-line in November 2006 and US Bio Woodbury, a 45 mgy plant in Michigan, scheduled to begin production in October of 2006. US Bio Janesville, a 110 mgy plant located in Minnesota is in the permitting phase and will begin construction sometime this summer. With Platte Valley, this would bring US BioEnergy production to approximately 250 million gallons per year by the end of 2006.

Ethanol

MO Corn Growers Tickled Pink on Valentine’s Day

Cindy Zimmerman

MCGA Members of the Missouri Corn Growers Association were tickled pink on Valentine’s Day when the Missouri House Agriculture Policy Committee unanimously approved legislation to establish a statewide renewable fuel standard. The bill requires nearly all gasoline sold in the state contain 10 percent ethanol starting Jan. 1, 2008. The “nearly all” means that the legislation includes exemptions for motorboats, antique vehicles and aviation fuel have been included, as well as compromise language to address supply concerns of small and independent petroleum marketers. MCGA is pleased with the House Ag Committee action, but note this is just the very first step in passage of the bill. It will now be referred to the Rules Committee for review and placement on the House calendar.

Ethanol

Latest Ethanol Plant News

Cindy Zimmerman

Here’s a summary of three recent stories about domestic plants in the news.

Clymers, IN The Andersons, Inc. has gotten its air permit approval for a 110-million gallon facility in north-central Indiana due to be completed in early 2007. The plant would be the largest east of the Mississippi. (full story)

Bismark, ND – According to an Associated Press article in the Grand Forks Herald, there is some question as to whether plans for an ethanol plant in northwestern North Dakota are still on or not. State and local officials say no, Vancouver, Wash.-based Makad Corp. says yes they are. (full story) By the way, I provided a link to Makad, but the website appears to not have been updated for a couple of years.

St. Joseph, MOICM and LifeLine Foods have announced plans to build a 40 million gallon ethanol plant with a research and development lab in northwest Missouri. (full story) The story link is to an article from the Wichita Eagle – neither of the company websites have information about this project on them.

Ethanol

Ethanol Conference Blog

Cindy Zimmerman

RFA The Renewable Fuels Association has launched its version of a blog to cover next week’s National Ethanol Conference in Las Vegas, according to a news release. With response to this year’s National Ethanol Conference so overwhelming, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) today launched the National Ethanol Conference blog to keep those unable to attend up-to-date with conference happenings. The blog, available at www.ethanolrfa.org/industry/conference/blog, will feature news updates from RFA staff, commentary from conference attendees, photos from the event, audio, and more.
Now, blog connoisseurs tend to be a bit snobbish when it comes to the medium they are essentially creating out of web air. I am neither a connoisseur, nor a blog snob, so I won’t be critical about RFA’s first forray into the blogosphere. Let’s just say it’s hard to know the rules when the book is still being written.
I will simply applaud this effort and you can be certain that since I am unable to attend the conference next week due to other commitments I will indeed be checking out the site and referring to it. I think RFA’s communications man Matt Hartwig has been doing a great job sending out regular news releases, as well as providing links to audio on the website. As a radio broadcaster, I think that’s great (although, as I have told Matt, he needs to work on getting Mr. Dineen to be a bit more conversational in his sound bites.)
The blog effort is very admirable and I look forward to keeping an eye on it next week.
Incidentally, if you are planning to attend this conference, you better be registered already because, according to the conference website – in bold, red letters – Due to the overwhelming response to this year’s conference, registration is now officially CLOSED. WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO ACCOMMODATE ON-SITE REGISTRATION.

Ethanol

Lone Star State on the Road to Renewables

Cindy Zimmerman

TX Tea Texas Tea may one day be Texas-E. The Texas State Energy Conservation Office is holding a two-day workshop and expo in Austin this week called “The Road to Renewables.” According to the agenda, the event will introduce perspectives from ethanol and biodiesel producers, production technology providers, and government researchers. Attendees will explore the challenges and opportunities presented from various different perspectives such analytical methods, production technology, applications for use and sharing information related to barriers to increased use of biodiesel and ethanol. The event is being held Wednesday and Thursday this week at the Hilton Austin Airport and registration is $35.
One of the “Road to Renewables” sponsors is the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council – our friends at EPIC.

Biodiesel, EPIC, Ethanol

Ethanol vs. Methanol

Cindy Zimmerman

AmEnt Here is a link to an article from The American Enterprise by Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the aerospace engineering and research firm Pioneer Astronautics, who wrote The Case for Mars and other books. Basically, he’s a rocket scientist. “An Energy Revolution” discusses in detail the “alcohol solution” to America’s dependence on foreign oil, including a relatively balanced comparison of ethanol and methanol, detailing their pros and cons. Here is a portion of that comparison:
Methanol is cheaper than ethanol. It can also be made from a broader variety of biomass materal, as well as from coal and natural gas. And methanol is the safest motor fuel, because it is much less flammable than gasoline (a fact that has led to its adoption by car racing leagues). ***please note that major car racing leagues, like Indy, are now switching to ethanol – cz***
On the other hand, ethanol is less chemically toxic than methanol, and it carries more energy per gallon. Ethanol contains about 75 percent of the energy of gasoline per gallon, compared to 67 percent for methanol. Both thus achieve fewer miles per gallon than gasoline, but about as many miles per dollar at current prices, and probably many more miles per dollar at future prices.
Methanol is more corrosive than ethanol. This can be dealt with by using appropriate materials in the automobile fuel system. A fuel system made acceptable for methanol use will also be fine for ethanol or pure gasoline.
Both ethanol and methanol are water soluble and biodegradable in the environment. The consequences of a spill of either would be much less than that of petroleum products. If the Exxon Valdez had been carrying either of these fuels instead of oil, the environmental impact caused by its demise would have been negligible.

Now, Dr. Zubrin’s ultimate conclusion is that methanol is better in the long run – my conclusion is that there is room for everyone in this domestic fuel boat, but that’s just me. He also completely discounts hydrogen as an alternative fuel possibility -but I would say that it may have its niche as well. Again, that’s just me – and I am no rocket scientist, just an observer.
Thanks to Gary Dikkers for pointing me to this article.

Ethanol

Alternative Fuel Essay Could Be Worth $1000

Cindy Zimmerman

Ag DayAny kid between 7th and 12th grade who can complete a 450 word essay on alternative fuels from agriculture and get it sent in before the deadline on February 15 could win $1000. It’s the National Ag Day contest and I was remiss in not posting this last week when I saw it, since the theme is “Growing our energy: Alternative fuels from agriculture.” So, the deadline is now literally just around the corner – well, more like on the doorstep at this point. Besides the $1000, the winning essay writer will receive a trip to Washington DC and recognition during the National Ag Day Luncheon at the National Press Club. According to information from the Ag Day website: At the luncheon, the winning essayist will have the opportunity to join with industry representatives, members of Congress, federal agency representatives, media and other friends in a celebration of agriculture. Statewide winners of the contest will also be selected. Each will receive a $100 prize.
All entries should be sent to: Ag Day Essay Contest (MC), 1201 NW Briarcliff Pkwy., Ste. 200, Kansas City, MO 64116, or msandfort@mccormickcompany.com.

Biodiesel, Ethanol