Bio-Oil could be new Black Gold

Cindy Zimmerman

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude.
Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.

Dynamo EnsynAccording to this story on Wired News, bio-oil could be the new crude – “a thick black liquid that could become a green substitute for many petroleum products.”
Bio-oil can be made from almost any organic material, including agricultural and forest waste like corn stalks and scraps of bark. Converting the raw biomass into bio-oil yields a product that is easy to transport and can be processed into higher-value fuels and chemicals.
“It is technically feasible to use biomass for the production of all the materials that we currently produce from petroleum,” said professor Robert C. Brown, director of the Office of Biorenewables Programs at Iowa State University.

The article sources two companies – Ensyn Group, Inc. of Delaware and DynaMotive in Canada – that are making commercial products using bio-oil.
The biomass is converted into bio-oil through a process called pyrolysis, in which the organic scrap materials are finely ground and heated at 400 to 500 degrees Celsius, without oxygen. In just two seconds, about 70 percent of the material vaporizes and is condensed into bio-oil — a dark liquid resembling espresso that contains more than a hundred organic compounds.
Pyrolysis also produces a gas, which is burned to fuel the process, and carbon-rich soot called “char,” which can be burned as fuel, used as a soil fertilizer or processed into charcoal filters or briquettes.

Fascinating stuff. Y’all come back now, y’hear?
(Thanks to our website designer Robert Canales for the link to this story)


Ask for Biodiesel

Cindy Zimmerman

Here’s today’s post from contributing blogger JW:
Break Time
Because I like to practice what I preach, I stopped in my local MFA BreakTime about three weeks ago and dropped off a letter asking them to sell biodiesel. In that request, I pledged to purchase all my fuel there if they were to offer it. Curious to see what they thought, I stopped in again today and asked them if they were going to carry biodiesel. The answer was they were waiting for an answer from corporate.
I have no doubt this is true, because I think all BreakTimes are corporate owned. But I’m hopeful that they will grant my wish, since they are one of the biggest suppliers of biodiesel in Missouri. I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out. As we saw in a recent post, gasoline suppliers are rushing to add ethanol and biodiesel to their mixtures, because MTBE is nasty stuff that they want to phase out. Even if they don’t do it on their own, there is legislation in this state to require it. Biofuels will soon be part of the blend, and it makes sense, even with the hurdles of distribution and supply. If you can’t find biofuel mixtures at your favorite gas stop, maybe all you need to do is ask.
Link for suppliers:
Links for Missouri bills:

Editor’s note: MFA Oil has been a leader in providing 10 percent ethanol blends at the pump. The MFA website has a page about what they are doing to reduce dependence on imports of energy products. “Because MFA Oil is a farmer-owned cooperative, marketing “home-grown” fuels is a natural for our company,” says the site. With regard to biodiesel, MFA says:
In 1993 we worked with the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council to make soy biodiesel available to three rural electric cooperatives in central and northeast Missouri that were field-testing the fuel as part of research conducted by the University of Missouri. In early 2002 MFA Oil made Soyplus® biodiesel available at bulk oil plants throughout our market area. We actively promote the product through advertising and other sales efforts. So, it’s available from corporate and if enough people ask for it, I would think local BreakTimes would sell it.


Growing Pains Making Headlines

Cindy Zimmerman

It was Irish author Brendan Behan who said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity – except your own obituary,” and the ethanol industry is getting a dose of it here with an AP article that has gotten picked up more than most of the positive stories written about ethanol in the past two months. Actually, it’s not really that bad in terms of publicity. All it says is that the ethanol industry is going to experience some growing pains in the next few months with demand exceeding supplies, leading to higher prices. For most businesses, that would be seen as a GOOD thing. But, this article makes it sound like it will be the end of the world. After a spurt of good fortune, the fledgling U.S. ethanol industry is anticipating some growing pains that could bring it unwanted attention this summer…..there’s trouble looming: The ethanol industry might not be ready to satisfy the expected summertime jump in demand. And by crimping the overall supply of motor fuel, this could contribute to a spike in gasoline pump prices at the start of the country’s peak driving season. Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen does admit there will be a short-term supply crunch caused by the oil industry’s faster-than-expected phaseout of MTBE. “Refiners made the decision to accelerate the removal of MTBE, not ethanol producers,” Dinneen said. Still, increased demand is not a bad thing – as long as the industry remains transparent on the issue and does all it can to make it as short term as possible.


Restaurant Chain Recycling Cooking Oil to Biodiesel

Cindy Zimmerman

The HollandEPIC Northwest-based restaurant chain The Holland, Inc. is sending off it’s used cooking oil to be converted into biodiesel. According to a company release, all 39 Burgerville locations throughout the Pacific Northwest will have their used cooking oil picked up by Portland-based MRP Services and taken to a processing plant where the oil is transformed into methyl esters (biodiesel) and glycerin (a byproduct) through a process called transesterification. Besides the Burgerville chain, The Holland also owns Beaches and noodlin’ restaurant chains and they are big on “sustainable practices.” MRP Services sees big potential in biodiesel according to commercial accounts manager Will Craig. “Our pump truck division, which picks up the oil, has become the largest division within MRP Services. With the amazing amount of growth within the biodiesel industry and a company like The Holland using their cooking oil for biodiesel, MRP expects that it won’t be long before the cooking oil collection becomes a division on its own.”


Feel Good When You Fill Up on Vacation

Cindy Zimmerman

EPIC Did you know that 76 percent of all vacations are taken by car? I did not know that. But, the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) does and they are encouraging vacationers this year to fill up with ethanol on the road and feel good about leaving less pollution behind. An EPIC press release urges motorists to make note of the many service stations across the country that offer ethanol-enriched fuel before leaving on vacation. EPIC executive director Tom Sluneka wants Americans to know that “Ethanol-enriched fuel is environmentally friendly, renewable and is currently available at thousands of gas stations across the country,” accounting for about three percent of all automotive fuels sold in the United States. EPIC also stresses that gasoline blended with ten percent ethanol can run in any car sold in the US. Since there are no national standards for ethanol fuel labeling, look for a sticker on the pump with the words “Ethanol-blended fuel” or “E-10.” If no label is visible, ask the retailer if ethanol is available. For flex-fuel vehicles that can run on 85 percent ethanol, check on to find out where to fill up.

EPIC, Ethanol

RI has potential to become world’s biggest ethanol producer

Cindy Zimmerman

This headline grabbed my attention. Rhode Island? Actually, no – it’s Rajawali Indonesia. Here’s the story from the Antara News. Seems that Indonesia has potential to become the biggest ethanol producer in the world because it has an abundance of raw material and vast lands for producing the commodity, an industry executive said.
“The country`s potential as ethyl alcohol producer is very big but its recent production is still below Brazil`s, China`s or India`s,” Agus Purnomo, chairman of the National Methylated Spirit and Ethyl Alcohol Association (Asendo) said.

Yeah – so, not Rhode Island.


Classic iPod Keepsake Winner Announced

Chuck Zimmerman

New Holland Since it’s National Agriculture Day, we want to say thank you to all our farmers who are keeping us fed with the most abundant and safe food supply in the world. This is the day for the announcement of the winner of the New Holland “Down on the Farm” Classic iPod Keepsake Contest. Thanks to all the people who entered online or at the New Holland booth at Commodity Classic. The random drawing has taken place and . . .

The winner is Marcus Spotts, a corn/soybean farmer from Nora Springs, IA. Congratulations to Marcus.

I caught Marcus on his mobile phone at lunch time to give him the news. You can listen to a portion of my conversation with him here: Listen To MP3 Telling Marcus He Won (3 min MP3)

I want to thank New Holland and Michael Peterson for working with us on this project. It has been fun and we are looking forward to doing it again soon.

Please keep our video iPod keepsake idea in mind. It makes a great and truly unique giveaway item! Can we create one for you?

Agribusiness, Promotion

Selling Idaho to Iogen

Cindy Zimmerman

Iogen A group of farmers wants Iogen Corp. to have their own private Idaho. According to this UPI article, there’s some heavy lobbying going on to get the “world leader in cellulosic ethanol production” to locate their first plant in Idaho rather than Canada. Idaho farmer Duane Grant a barley and alfalfa grower who has been involved with technology applications in farming for quite some time, said there are three factors that make a location in Idaho Falls ideal for Iogen’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant: its climate, the nature of the farming and the location of the plant. The article says Idaho’s congressional delegation is also in on the lobbying effort. “Cellulosic ethanol technology is exciting because it adds value to a waste product — creating another market for our farmers,” said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. “I am pleased that Iogen recognizes the value of doing business in Idaho, and I will continue to work to enable them to open a plant in Idaho.”


Domestic Fuel High

Cindy Zimmerman

Here’s the latest post from contributing blogger JW:
You’ve seen here that switchgrass holds enormous potential as a domestic fuel. It’s not the only kind of grass that does. Hemp is another native plant that can produce both ethanol and biodiesel. Industrial hemp contains less than 3% of the physcoactive properties of it’s popular cousin, marijuana. There are political and legal barriers to knock down, but this agricultural product has many potential uses including paper, clothing, and of course, fuel. Learn more about the many uses for hemp, here (and also at from whence we got the lovely leaf logo).

Biodiesel, Ethanol, Miscellaneous

Harrison Ethanol Website Located

Cindy Zimmerman

Farmers Ethanol Thanks to an alert reader – Tony Skulas of Future Concepts Computer Specialists, Inc. – I can now pass on to you a website for Harrison Ethanol (see previous post) which, according to Tony is AKA Farmers’ Ethanol LLC. Now, I don’t find any mention of Harrison on the website – although Tony gave me two different domain names – and – or .org for both. Check out the funky logo – kinda like Ragu spaghetti sauce. America, corn, energy, liquid fuel, patriotism, triangle, chemistry – it’s in there! Very creative.