Duke Energy to Capture Methane from Swine Waste

Duke Energy has finalized a deal to purchase captured methane gas derived from swine waste. The project will take place at farms located in Kenansville, North Carolina and its the second waste-to-energy project of its kind for Duke Energy. The captured methane will be treated, injected into a pipeline system and then used to produce renewable electricity at two power stations: H.F. Lee Station Combined Cycle Plant in Wayne County, N.C. and Sutton Combine Cycle Plant in New Hanover County, N.C. The project should be operational by summer of 2017.

5-24-16+SWINE+2nd+Pork+Release_mid“We see continued advancement in this technology in North Carolina,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “This project has environmental benefits and is cost-effective for our customers.”

The location is in the heart of Smithfield Foods’ pork operations. Duke Energy says the power produced will be carbon neutral as compared to the emissions that would result if the waste was left to decay using current methods.

Under North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS), Duke Energy companies must meet specific compliance targets for swine and poultry waste. In March, the company announced a project with Carbon Cycle Energy to use swine waste-derived gas at four power plants in North Carolina. With this project, the Optima KV digesters will produce about 80,000 MMBtus captured methane a year that will create about 11,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy annually. The renewable energy credits (RECs) generated annually by the effort will help satisfy state mandates and Duke Energy has filed to have both power plants designated as new renewable energy facilities.

Biodico Awarded Net Zero Farm CEC Grant

Biodico has received a $1.2 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to help fund its Zero Net Energy Farms project, which would enable farms to generate all electrical and heating power needs from on-site renewable resources. The monies were awarded under CEC’s Electric Program Investment Charge Challenge, a program designed to help develop advanced energy communities. Biodico is matching CEC funds and its Net Energy Farms project will be undertaken at Red Rock Ranch in Five Points, California and will be designed to combine solar cogeneration, wind turbines, anaerobic digestion and gasification.

1199bb48ee9b5be6644cbaf6b474ce71_CEC-grant2-863-430-c“The Zero Net Energy Farms project leverages Biodico’s proprietary technology to create an energy-efficient farm by utilizing economically viable solutions,” said Biodico President and Founder Russ Teall. “Our goal is to establish a template for ranches, farms and other agricultural interests throughout California’s Central Valley and beyond. This project comes at a particularly important time as California’s agricultural community searches for more efficient ways to produce, process and store more than 400 food, fiber, flora and fuel crops, not to mention convert biomass into electricity, as biomass power plants continue to close.”

Teall continued, “Equally important is the water-energy nexus—the production of on-site renewable energy reduces the consumption of water used to produce grid-based utility energy. As California agriculture continues to suffer the impact of water constraints, this has become extremely important.”

“There is a great need today for establishing a rational business case for tomorrow’s energy efficient farm,” added JJ Rothgery, chairman of the board at Biodico. “A Zero Net Energy Farm will help diversify power production and reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and water to generate electricity. The incorporation of these technologies will also enhance local economic development by providing jobs and an increased tax base.”

USDA Leading Mexico Trade Mission

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse is leading a U.S. ethanol mission to Mexico on May 24–25, 2016 to explore trade opportunities. On hand for the trip will be ethanol industry representatives from the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Growth Energy and the U.S. Grains Council (USGC). While there, they will be meeting with government officials, legislators and the Mexican private industry.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 9.22.29 AMAccording to the USDA, mission members will share their experiences with both ethanol production and the development of renewable fuels policies, with the goal of demonstrating how Mexico can implement its own renewable fuels program.

“Mexico, with the right policies in place, has the potential to achieve similar benefits producing ethanol from sugarcane,” Scuse said in a statement. “We view this as a partnership that can provide benefits for both Mexico and the United States.”

One reason for the visit is state-owned oil company PEMEX has plans to begin selling E6 (5.8 percent) ethanol-blended gasoline in selected cities in the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi, and Veracruz. Implementation of a nationwide E6 fuel option in Mexico would create a potential market for 790 million gallons of ethanol.

“The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of ethanol and for several years now has been the low cost supplier as well, allowing us to dramatically increase our exports. With domestic use artificially capped by EPA at 14.8 billion gallons, we will continue to seek export opportunities,” said RFA General Counsel Ed Hubbard, who attended the trade mission. “The world is short on octane and looking for low carbon alternative fuels to meet the climate change goals set in Paris last December. This is the right time to explore new trade opportunities. Mexico, in particular, should be looking for replacements to the highly toxic MTBE. Ethanol can help.”

Ryan LeGrand, USGC director in Mexico, added, “With the current reform to energy regulations in Mexico, the U.S. Grains Council believes that now’s the time to introduce ethanol into the Mexican fuel market in hopes of it one day becoming the principle oxygenate used in the country,” said “We see significant potential for exports of U.S. ethanol to Mexico — and therefore, U.S. grain demand — if the right policies are in place.”

Gevo and Clariant Ink ETO Tech Deal

Gevo logoGevo will be developing catalysts for Clariant to enable its ETO technology, which uses ethanol as a feedstock to produce tailor mixes of propylene, isobutylene and hydrogen. These chemicals are valuable as stand-alone molecules and also as feedtstocks to produce other products such as diesel fuel and bioplastics that would replace their petroleum counterparts.

Clariant will be scaling up the catalysts produced by Gevo via its ETO technology that uses mixed metal oxide cayalysts to produce polymer grade propylene or high purity isobutylene as well as high yields of hydrogen from ethanol in a single step. While Clairiant scale-ups the catalyst, Gevo will continue to focus on optimizing its isobutanol technology. According to Gevo, once the ETO technology has been successfully developed and scaled-up, Clariant will be in a position to produce quantities of the catalyst needed to meet commercial production requirements. As with its isobutanol technology, Gevo anticipates growing its ETO business through licensing.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 12.46.23 PM“We see the opportunity for Clariant catalysts to convert ethanol, produced from cellulosic or other carbohydrate sources, into more value-added products to create greater growth potential for the ethanol industry,” said Stefan Brejc, Head of Specialty Catalysts Business Segment at Clariant.

Gevo has filed a series of patent applications related to this technology, and says its ETO technology has the potential to provide the estimated 25 billion gallon global ethanol industry a much broader set of end-product market and margin opportunities, beyond the use of ethanol as a gasoline blendstock.

“We are pleased to be working with Clariant. They have tremendous capability and know-how to scale-up developmental, customized catalysts to enable commercialization of new, large-scale processes. We see the potential with this technology to address several major opportunities cutting across chemicals, plastics, fuels and hydrogen,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Chief Executive Officer of Gevo.

USGC Heads to Egypt to Promote DDGS

The. U.S. Grains Council (USGC) recently returned from a trip to Egypt to discuss using dried distillers grains (DDGS), a by-product of corn-based ethanol production, as feed for its growing aquaculture industry. Also on the trip was USGC member Mirasco who has a large client base in the Egyptian aquaculture industry.

“Egypt has the most active and the largest aquaculture industry in the region,” said Hesham Hassanein, USGC regional director for the Middle East and Africa. “But this growing sector only has limited knowledge of the technical and economic advantages of using corn co-products in fish feeds.”

TOC-Egypt Aqua ProgramTo assess this industry’s potential to utilize U.S. DDGS in their feed formulations, the trip included site visits to fish farms.

“During the site visits, we saw that average aqua production in Egypt was 2 to 4 tons per acre,” Hassanein said. “However there is the potential for these farms to increase output to 8 to 12 tons per acre with improved management. This means there is a great growth potential that could increase demand for coarse grains and co-products.”

The mission wrapped up with a seminar that was attended by 75 executives from the aquaculture sector. “During the seminar, we gave an overview of the advantages of using U.S. DDGS in aqua rations and discussed the success the Council has seen in Vietnam with our catfish feeding trials,” Hassanein said. “While Egyptian aquaculture is mainly focused on the tilapia species, the information from the catfish trial was useful to those attending our program also.”

The group also explored the possibility of launching a similar type of feeding trial in Egypt. “We were also successful in reaching a preliminary agreement with an international aquaculture research institute in Egypt,” Hassanein said. “They have agreed to conduct feed trials using higher inclusion rates of DDGS with support from Mirasco, which will provide the needed DDGS, free of charge, to carry out the trials.”

#USDA to Award $21M for Bioeconomy R&D

USDAThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made $21 million available to support the development of regional systems in sustainable bioenergy and biobased products. The funds will also be awarded to train the next generation of bio-scientists. The monies are offered through the AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts challenge area designed to provide renewable energy, chemical, and product options, among other goals.

“This announcement marks the Obama Administration’s latest investment in the biobased economy, which pumps $369 billion into the U.S. economy each year and supports 4 million jobs in rural and small towns across the United States,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Over the course of this Administration, America has more than doubled our renewable energy production, and today we import less than half our oil. We are saving money at the pump, bolstering national security by relying less on foreign oil, and combating climate change with investments in technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide for cleaner air.”

In fiscal year 2016, the Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts challenge area is soliciting applications that focus on the following priorities:

  • Regional Bioenergy Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs), which support the production and delivery of regionally-appropriate sustainable biomass feedstocks for bioenergy and bioproducts. While the focus of CAPs will be on feedstocks, competitive proposals must present the feedstock development and production in the context of comprehensive regional sustainable bioenergy and bioproducts supply chain systems.
  • Investing in America’s scientific corps: Preparing a new generation of students, faculty, and a workforce for emerging opportunities in bioenergy, bioproducts, and the bioeconomy.

Application deadlines vary by program area. See the request for applications for more information.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Sealed, an energy software company based out of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering cleantech incubator called NYC ACRE, has announced the launch of Sealed Pay As You Save, the first program that invests in energy savings resulting from residential efficiency improvements. Sealed guarantees these savings to customers by leveraging its proprietary software and analytics. Sealed PAYS will enable New York homeowners to benefit from up to $7.5 million in energy-saving improvements. The initial credit facility is provided by the New York Green Bank, part of Governor Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative.
  • Kum & Go will be offering E15 at more than 100 stores across the country by the end of the year. The company will be offering consumers a choice of E15 at pumps across 10 states and at about 30 locations.
  • Natural gas and renewable energy can provide all of the new electric power that Texas will need in the foreseeable future, researchers with the Brattle Group find in a new report prepared for the Texas Clean Energy Coalition (TCEC). “Exploring Natural Gas and Renewables in ERCOT Part IV: The Future of Clean Energy in ERCOT,” looks at the Texas generation mix over the next 20 years and forecasts how market and regulatory factors affect how electricity will be generated in ERCOT, how much it will cost, and how much CO2 will be emitted.
  • Twenty-five students from Tracy Area High School toured Highwater Ethanol to get a better understanding of clean Minnesota-produced renewable energy. During the two-hour-long tour, the students toured the various processes of ethanol production at Highwater Ethanol, which delivered 59.42 million gallons of ethanol in 2015.

Anti-Ethanol Bill Steps Consumers, Farmers Back

There is still buzz around a bill introduced last week by Representatives Bill Flores (R-Texas), Peter Welch (D-Verm.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Vir.) and Jim Costa (D-Cali.) that would cap ethanol blends in America’s transportation fuels at 9.7 percent by volume. This cap would be in direct opposition to the goal of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that aims for 20 percent of all fuels to be renewable fuels by 2020.

Growth Energy co-chair, Tom Buis noted that the bill is flawed in many ways, one being the ethanol industry is already producing, and fuel retailers are already blending and selling, more than 10 percent ethanol by volume.

Ethanol Blends Photo Joanna Schroeder

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

This bill is incredibly flawed because the ethanol industry is already producing over the bill’s 9.7 percent threshold and growing. Perhaps more importantly this bill would deal a blow to American consumers who have embraced ethanol as a less expensive, 21st century fuel that is higher performing and allows for consumer choice,” Buis stated. Today, E15 availability is growing and is now being sold in 23 states.

Paul Jeschke, a farmer from Mazon, Illinois, and chair of the Ethanol Committee of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), called the bill a step backward for farmers and consumers. “Americans want cleaner air, affordable choices at the gas pump, and a strong economy that fosters investment in new technology and improves our energy independence. Meanwhile, American corn farmers are struggling, with prices below the cost of production and the largest carryover stock in two decades.” Jeschke added, “The Renewable Fuel Standard was created to promote American renewable energy while creating a steady market for corn. This bill would undercut the RFS and negatively impact corn farmers, and with it, the entire farm economy.”

As members of Congress head home for Memorial Day recess, Jeschke is urging farmers and consumers to use the opportunity to reach out to their elected officials and call on them to block the bill and share with them the benefits of ethanol.

#Biodiesel Industry Calls 2018 RVO Shortsighted

The biodiesel industry is calling the required volumes of the advanced biofuels category under the Renewable Fuel Standard shortsighted in reaction to the EPA’s release of the 2018 RVO proposal. The amount of increase in biodiesel from 2017 to 2018 was a mere 100 million gallons. The Iowa Biodiesel Board is calling on the EPA to set volumes that more closely match the biodiesel industry’s potential.

IBB“We commend EPA for releasing their proposed biomass-based diesel volumes in a timely manner. But as the top biodiesel-producing state, those of us in Iowa know that the biodiesel industry can achieve much more significant growth in 2018 than what EPA currently calls for in this proposal,” stated IBB Executive Director Grant Kimberley. “Nationally, our industry already has the feedstock and the production capacity to reach 2.5 billion gallons in a sustainable manner, and we’re disappointed this proposal is quite far from that industry recommendation. The proposed number, 2.1 billion gallons, is still too low, especially since we are facing biodiesel imports, some of which have the benefit of foreign subsidies.

Kimberly noted that biodiesel offers a tremendous opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and assist the U.S. as well as other countries, in meeting climate goals. “In fact, under the RFS law, Advanced Biofuels must reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent compared to petroleum fuels, and according to the EPA, biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent to 86 percent.”

REGThe country’s largest biodiesel producer, Renewable Energy Group (REG) put a positive spin on the proposal that calls for 2.1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel for 2018. “We are pleased that EPA has again proposed continued growth of biomass-based diesel and overall advanced biofuel volumes. This proposal provides greater certainty in the marketplace, reflects the expanding usage and blend levels consumers want, and points towards continuing growth for the cleaner, lower carbon intensity fuel we produce,” stated REG President and CEO Daniel J. Oh.

“We are very appreciative of the advanced biofuel advocates within the Administration and on Capitol Hill for their consistent support.” Oh added, “We will continue to work alongside our industry partners to provide the EPA, OMB and other federal agencies additional market data that will support additional growth in the D4 (biomass-based diesel) and D5 (general advanced biofuel) categories, as we believe that there is a compelling basis for further increases over time.”

American Soybean Association (ASA) President Richard Wilkins took the opportunity to highlight the success of the biodiesel industry in not only meeting, but exceeding, RFS biodiesel targets, and calls on the EPA to reflect these achievements. He notes that the biodiesel industry provides a market outlet for surplus soybean oil as well as animal fats and other renewable ag feedstocks. Continue reading

Advanced #Biofuels Inch Upward in 2017 RVOs

The advanced biofuels categories were increased with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed 2017 renewable volume obligations (RVOs) that were released yesterday. The RVOs are part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). While not on track as mandated by law in 2007, advanced fuels are gaining ground with an increase in volumes from 2016.

ABA logoSome in the industry see the increase as positive. “Today’s proposed RFS rule for 2017 is good news for the advanced biofuels industry with increases to the advanced, biomass-based diesel, and cellulosic pools. This shows great progress for the advanced biofuels sector,” said Michael McAdams, President, of the Advanced Biofuels Association. “We look forward to commenting on the proposed rule and are particularly encouraged by the growth of available renewable diesel and biodiesel to our country to achieve these targets.”

However not everyone producing or focused on the growth of second generation biofuels see the increasing numbers as enough of a step in the right direction including DuPont, who has an operational cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa.

DuPont logo“DuPont is again disappointed with the EPA’s proposed rule on the 2017 Renewable Volume Obligations under the RFS. As raised in our comments on last year’s RFS rule for 2014 to 2016, the EPA has again injected infrastructure constraints into the calculation, rather than setting biofuels volumes based on the industry’s ability to supply fuel. This approach undermines fundamental principles of the RFS that have served as the foundation for the economic, energy security and environmental successes of the RFS.

Since 2013, the EPA has been inconsistent in issuing the annual RVOs, and when the agency delivered a rule, the methodology for setting volumes has created a high degree of policy uncertainty, almost eliminating biofuels investments, particularly for the advanced and cellulosic sectors in the United States. The renewable fuels industry is global in nature with substantial, long-term business potential. DuPont continues to vigorously pursue every opportunity to enable the growth of the biofuels industry here and around the world. We are committed to this industry and to bringing world-class technology and sustainable best practices to market to spur the growth of renewable industries worldwide.”