GFRA Tells G20 to Take Immediate Climate Action

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

grfa-logoOn the heels of the recent data showing that global temperature rise has been accelerating at faster rates than were anticipated when negotiating the Paris Agreement during COP21, Bliss Baker, president of the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GFRA) is calling on G20 countries to take immediate climate action on reducing GHG emissions. The climate data was released by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and showed that the average global temperatures in the first six months of 2016 were already approaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The data contained indications that global CO2 levels will soon exceed the symbolic 400 parts-per-million concentration level. To curb climate change, scientists have said that temperatures can not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius.

The ink on the Paris Agreement was barely dry before the foundation on which the negotiations were based had fundamentally shifted,” Baker said. “These changing circumstances should serve as a clear signal to the leaders of advanced economies that accelerated action to reduce CO2 emissions in the short and medium term is critical.

According to GFRA, it is estimated that the transport sector accounts for approximately 25 percent of all energy-related global CO2 emissions at present while having the lowest renewable energy share of any sector. Additionally, emissions growth in the transport sector is the highest of all sectors, and is expected to increase by over one-third by 2030.

A recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) called REMap outlined the key role that biofuels will have to play in the transition to a low carbon global transport sector to 2030 and beyond. The report describes the potential to significantly scale up renewables in the global transport sector on a cost-efficient basis to 2030 by setting biofuels targets. It estimates that demand for liquid biofuels would quadruple to 500 billion litres within the next 15 years.

Increased mandates for low-carbon transport fuel alternatives to crude oil like ethanol are a cost-effective and immediately available option to significantly reduce CO2 emissions,” Baker added. “In 2014 alone, global ethanol use in the transport sector reduced emissions by 160 million tonnes CO2 equivalent. Increased biofuel use represents huge potential for CO2 emission reductions in the transport sector that G20 nations must commit to in the short and medium term to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

biofuels, Climate Change, Ethanol

New IRENA Report Looks at Future of #Biofuels

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

IRENA has released the second report in it’s Innovation Outlook series called, “Innovation Outlook: Advanced Liquid Biofuels. The report looks at the global outlook future for liquid biofuel technology. According to IRENA, advanced biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 95 percent as compared to fossil fuels. This, said the agency, puts biofuels in the position as the only alternative fuel to mitigate carbon emissions from the aviation sector that uses around 380 billion litres of jet fuel per year.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-8-09-57-pmWhile advanced biofuels are beginning to reach commercialization, IRENA says the pace of fuel development must accelerate and projects will need to be developed in a wider range of locations if advanced liquid biofuels are to realize their full practical and economic potential for displacing fossil fuels.

There is no way to meet our ambitious climate change targets without addressing transportation, and the fastest, most-cost effective route to low carbon transport is via advanced biofuels,” said Jim Lane, editor and publisher of Biofuels Digest, an external reviewer of the report. “An additional benefit of advanced biofuels is that they can be used in the same engines, fuel pumps and drive trains but produce profound reductions in carbon when compared to fossil gasoline and diesel.”

The report calls for decisive support from policy-makers to make advanced biofuels competitive. To ensure that advanced biofuel plants continue to be built and their costs continue to decline, policies and business models needs to advance alongside technological innovation.

According to the report, by 2045, ad­vanced biofuels are likely to cost between USD 0.60 and USD 1.10 per litre to produce, meaning that with oil prices above USD 100 per barrel, most advanced biofuels should be able to compete effectively. But the report also predicts that if oil prices are below USD 80 per bar­rel, advanced biofuels produc­tion would have a difficult time competing with fossil based gasoline and diesel. Therefore, there is an urgent need for decisive policy actions that will unlock the potential for advanced liquid biofuels, and enable innovative business models to co-produce high value products along with biofuels.

advance biofuels, aviation biofuels, Biodiesel, Ethanol

Hundreds in Detroit for #ExEx16

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

exex16-signHundreds of buyers and sellers of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products have arrived in Detroit for Export Exchange 2016 and even though they are from more than 30 countries they are busy making connections and building relationships.

The event, which has been held every two years since 2010, is co-sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), and this year it is more important than ever for domestic suppliers of corn, distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS), sorghum and barley.

exex16-sleight“Obviously with four successive years of record harvests, I hear every day we’ve got to find markets for these grains,” said USGC president and CEO Tom Sleight. “It’s very important this year to really focus on short term market development, we’ve got to get some movement into the grain market. Exports in general are doing well and we hope this will give a little bit of a boost.”

Sleight says there is still lots of room for growth in many western hemisphere nations, including Mexico and Canada, while eastern countries such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan are increasing purchases of DDGS. “Japan we had our first month of 100 percent market share since 2009,” said Sleight.

Despite China recently imposing duties on U.S. imports of DDGS, Sleight says they have two teams from China in attendance at the Export Exchange this year. “It’s part of our normal business is to keep talking because opportunities change,” he said. “We have some trade difficulties right now, we think we can work through them but in the meantime we still keep talking to our customers.”

Sleight says he is excited about the agenda for the Export Exchange, but what it’s really all about it the networking opportunities where relationships are built and sales are made.

Learn more in this interview and watch for our coverage of the event this week: Interview with Tom Sleight, U.S. Grains Council

2016 Export Exchange Photo Album

Audio, corn, Distillers Grains, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Export Exchange, Exports, RFA, USGC

USDA Accepting FY 2017 REAP Applications

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

usda-rural-development-logosThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it is accepting applications under its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that is administered by the Rural Business-Cooperative Service for FY 2017. This cycle, REAP has two funding opportunities: Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Assistance, and Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants.

The goal of the program is to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses reduce energy costs with the use of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency programs. Eligible renewable energy systems that qualify under the REAP program include wind, solar, renewable biomass including anaerobic digesters, small hydro-electric, ocean, geothermal and hydrogen.

Applications for grants requesting $20,000 or less are due by 4:30 pm local time on October 31, 2016 or 4:30 pm local time on March 31, 2017. Applications for funds exceeding 20,000 are due March 31, 2016. Click here for more information.

Alternative energy, Renewable Energy, USDA

Van Unen Miersma Propane Partners with Semper Fi Fund

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

Van Unen Miersma Propane has forged a partnership with the Semper Fi Fund, a non profit organization that assists injured and ill service members and their families. Van Unen has purchased three propane delivery trucks and for every gallon of propane these trucks use, the company will donate one cent to the Semper Fi Fund. The propane company anticipates pumping nearly 750,000 gallons each year or donating $7,500 for each propane autogas truck.

van-unen-miersma-propane-teamVan Unen Miersma Propane’s new trucks will be wrapped in U.S. Marine MARPAT camouflage and feature the Semper Fi Fund logo. The partnership will last for the life of the trucks, which should be at least five years.

To celebrate the program, Van Unen Miersma is hosting a launch party November 2, 2016. Expected to attend: military personnel, politicians and civic leaders and members of the local fire and police departments. Also invited are propane customers. The launch party is expected to kick off with a welcome address, followed by an opening prayer led by Captain(R) Chuck Roots, a Navy Chaplain and Marine Corps Staff Sgt.(R). Van Unen Miersma Propane CEO Rick Van Unen will discuss the history and mission of the Semper Fi Fund. A short address from U.S. Representative Jeff Denham will precede the presentation of Van Unen Miersma Propane’s donation check, which will show the projected $22,500 that all three new trucks should generate in year one.

Since November 10th is the official 241st birthday of the Marine Corps, the event will conclude with a traditional cake cutting ceremony to celebrate the birth of the Corps. The traditional passing of cake from the oldest to the youngest Marine demonstrates the passing of the honor, experience, and heart of the Corps to the next generation of Marines to carry on.

The Semper Fi Fund was established by a group of Marine Corps spouses in 2004. The organization provides financial assistance and other support to post-9/11 wounded and injured service members from all branches. Since its founding, the Semper Fi Fund has given $136 million to 17,000 heroes and their families.

Alternative Vehicles, Propane

Homeland Energy Joins Billion Gallon #Ethanol Club

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

billionth-gallon-website-1024x149Homeland and Energy Solutions has joined the one billion gallons of ethanol club. The ethanol plant produced its one billionth gallon on August 31, 2016. The biorefinery went in to production in April 2009 and today has a nameplate capacity of 150 million gallons of ethanol each year. It’s one of the largest dry grind plants in operation today and employs 49 people.

“Homeland Energy Solutions is proud to achieve this important milestone,” said James Broghammer, Homeland Energy Solutions CEO. “Since the beginning, we have focused on expanding first through optimization followed by capital investments. We strive to get the most out of what we have while using a team approach with vendors, employees and suppliers.

In the years since going into operation Homeland Energy has purchased more than 340 million bushels of corn, equaling nearly $1.7 billion dollars. The ethanol plant has also produced more than 162 million pounds of corn and 2.6 million tons of distillers grains. The one billion gallons has also filled 34,722 loads of rail tanker cars.

“Congratulations to Homeland Energy Solutions for achieving one billion gallons,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Their commitment to cleaner-burning, homegrown ethanol has resulted in more local jobs, a cleaner environment and decreased dependence on foreign oil. The one billion gallons we celebrate today has not only had a big impact on the local economy, but its positive ripple effects extend across our nation.”

Homeland Energy Solutions Plant Manager, Kevin Howes, added of the achievement, “While we were not the first plant to reach one billion gallons, we reached this milestone as quickly as any other plant in the country. This would not have been possible without a very proactive Board of Directors and an outstanding group of employees. It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of and lead one of the best teams in the industry. I am looking forward to producing the next billion gallons.”

biofuels, Ethanol, Iowa RFA

ATRI Releases Fleet Fuel Economy Survey

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

A new fleet fuel economy and fuel usage study has found that the median fleet-wide fuel economy of 6.5 miles per gallon is being achieved through a number of technologies including biodiesel. The survey was released by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and was sponsored by ExxonMobil. For truck-tractors, aluminum wheels, speed limiters and low rolling resistance tires were reported as the most common fuel-saving technologies. For trailers, low rolling resistance tires, aluminum wheels and weight-saving technologies were identified as the most common technologies.

Nearly 100 fleet managers participated in the study and provided views on current and future trends in fuel technologies. They also offered their opinions on alternative fuels. Respondents represented more than 114,500 heavy-duty truck-tractors and nearly 350,000 trailers.

The report, “A Survey of Fuel Economy and Fuel Usage by Heavy-Duty Truck Fleets,” found limited use of alternative fuels with biodiesel blends including B5, B10 and B20, identified as the most common alternative fuel being used today. The survey found that fleet managers generally see the top advantages of specific alternative fuels as lower in cost, cleaner (reduced emissions), and more available than other alternative fuels. Respondents indicated the disadvantages of using fuels include availability or infrastructure for distribution, increased cost overall and possibly lowering fuel economy for their fleet.


“This report shows which technologies fleets are using and which ones they are more skeptical about,” said Steve Niswander, vice president, safety policy & regulatory relations with Groendyke Transport, Inc. and Chairman of ATRI’s Research Advisory Committee. “It also serves to highlight the difficulties fleets face when deciding which technologies are the best investments.”

advance biofuels, Alternative energy, Biodiesel, Fleet

Ames Lab to Develop Imaging to Study Plant Walls

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

The saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is being put to the test with research funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to deconstruct plant cell walls as a means of learning how to more effectively convert plant material into bioenergy. The project has been awarded $1 million per year for three years.

emily-smith-300The research will be conducted at Ames Laboratory and led by Emily Smith, Ames Lab scientist. The goal of the study is to develop a subdiffraction Raman imaging platform. This platform, said Smith, will provide an unprecedented look at the specific chemical structures of plant cell walls. From there, the researchers will determine how best to deconstruct plant material as as source of biofuels. (In other news, DOE lab Oak Ridge National Laboratory is researching how to deconstruct plant walls using a supercomputer.)

The problem we have is that we can only get spatial resolution of a couple hundred nanometers due to the diffraction of light,” Smith explained, who is also an Iowa State University associate professor of chemistry. “When we look at plant cell walls at that resolution, we lose information about specific chemical details. At best, we get an average of the composition. However, if we can get to the subdiffraction level as we propose to do, it will open up new avenues to understanding the details of the cell walls. The trick,” continued Smith, “is to apply laser pulses in the right way so that you gain the resolution you need without destroying the sample in the process.

According to Smith, the instrument will be unlike anything currently available used to study biomass. To build such a complex instrument, she is working with pulsed laser spectroscopy expert Jacob Petrich, as well as computational and theoretical expert Xueyu Song, both Ames Laboratory scientists and ISU chemistry professors. The instrument has its origins in the class of super-resolution imaging methods referred to as stimulated emission depletion (STED).

We’ll be collaborating with (Ames Laboratory scientist) Tanya Prozorov who has been doing in situ correlative optical and electron microscopy on biological samples in their natural, fully hydrated state,” Smith said. “By comparing our chemical analysis results with the high-resolution images Tanya can provide, we hope to better interpret what we’re seeing in these natural polymer structures.”

The team also will obtain input on plant cell walls and biomass from Olga Zabotina, Ames Laboratory scientist and ISU associate professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, looking primarily at Arabidopsis and Brachypodium transgenic plants with modified cell walls, which were generated in the Zabotina lab as a toolset to understand cell wall impacts on plant fitness and biomass quality.

The group will also eventually investigate what happens as microbial action breaks down the plant cell walls. Ames Laboratory scientist and ISU assistant professor of Chemical and Biological engineering Zengyi Shao will provide a variety of microbes and enzymes, to identify and possibly tailor the ones that provide the best pathways to break down the cell wall structures into the most advantageous materials for biomass conversion.

biofuels, biomass, Ethanol, Research

RFA Offering NEC Student Scholarships

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-10-28-26-pmOnce again the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is offering six scholarships for college students interested in learning more about ethanol by attending the National Ethanol Conference (NEC). The annual event will take place February 20-22, 2017 in San Diego, California. Scholarships will cover the cost of the conference registration fee of $899. Recipients are responsible for other costs including travel airfare, hotel and meals.

The NEC is the most widely attended ethanol industry conference and provides an exclusive opportunity to directly engage key decision makers and industry executives,” said Bob Sather, chairman of the Renewable Fuels Foundation and chairman of ACE Ethanol. “This scholarship is an incentive to provide students with a real live experience with worldwide leaders in the ethanol industry. The conference is the best classroom for these students to learn and network.

The 2017 NEC theme is “Building Partnerships, Growing Markets.” The event offers students the opportunity to receive an in-depth look into the ethanol industry, as speakers are set to address such topics as higher ethanol blends, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), E15 and global marketing.

Interested students should submit a 500-word essay explaining how their attendance at the NEC will help them achieve their future goals. They should also submit two letters of recommendation, an up-to-date resume, and a school transcript. Scholarships are only available to students who are attending a U.S. institution of higher learning or foreign students who are affiliated with the U.S. ethanol industry.

For full consideration, applications must be received by Dec. 23, 2016. Application materials can be found here.

biofuels, Ethanol, Ethanol News, National Ethanol Conference, RFA

ORNL Researchers Deconstruct Biomass for #Ethanol

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

Better methods for deconstructing biomass will lead to more efficient conversion to biofuels; however, this is one of the most complex processes in bioenergy technologies. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have already uncovered information about how woody plants and waste biofuels can be converted more readily into biofuels. Now the team may have come one step closer to solving this riddle with the discovery of the chemical details behind the process.

An illustration that demonstrates how THF (orange) and water (blue) phase separate on the surface of cellulose (green), thus facilitating its breakdown. Image credit: Barmak Mostofian

The research team is using computer simulations to study the chemistry of biomass deconstruction. Collaborators from the BioEnergy Science Center previously developed a pretreatment method for breaking down biomass that initiates delignification, the removal of the rigid plant molecule lignin. The cosolvent enhanced lignocellulose fractionation pretreatment involves aqueous solutions of tetrahydrofuran (THF), a versatile organic solvent. This cosolvent mixture uniquely interacts with cellulose, the main structural component of plant cell walls, to enable its breakdown.

Celluolose must be broken down in order to be converted into ethanol. Therefore if scientists can better understand how this process occurs, then they will be able to improve current pre-treatment methods or even find new solvents to boost the process.

As a means to discovery the chemicals involved in the breakdown of biomass, Smith’s team created models of up to 330,000 atoms and ran simulations on ORNL’s flagship supercomputer—the Cray XK7 Titan located at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF). They found that the THF–water cosolvent phase separates on the faces of the crystalline cellulose fiber. These faces are distinct regions with which certain enzymes or molecules can interact. During the phase separation, THF preferentially binds to the hydrophobic, or “water-fearing,” faces of cellulose, and water preferentially binds to the hydrophilic, or “water-loving,” faces. THF enhances the binding of water molecules to the bonds that link two sugar molecules, which can potentially increase hydrolysis, the chemical breakdown of cellulose by water.

We saw this phase separation, and we knew it might mean there was chemistry that was taking place on the surface that we hadn’t observed, that we hadn’t considered before,” said Micholas Smith, a CMB postdoctoral researcher.

The team also discovered that when they broke the cellulose apart, single chains of cellulose became surrounded primarily by water, while THF—because of its molecular structure—remained bound to the hydrophobic surfaces of cellulose. These results provided researchers with a fine-tuned understanding of the chemical properties behind the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass found in plants such as cornstalks, straw and other woody biomass.Read More

biomass, Ethanol, Research