CARB Affirms Biodiesel’s Low-Carbon Impact

CARBThe nation’s toughest regulatory board has affirmed biodiesel is the lowest-carbon fuel. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to readopt the Low Carbon Fuels Standard, which requires a 10 percent reduction by 2020 in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The vote also put in a regulation governing alternative diesel fuels (ADF).

The regulation puts in place a three-step process beginning in 2016 to create a path to bring cleaner diesel substitutes into the market. This regulation also establishes requirements and fuel specifications for biodiesel to ensure the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from biodiesel use will not increase, and will be reduced over time. Biodiesel and other ADFs can help producers achieve their target under the LCFS.

nBBThe National Biodiesel Board (NBB) welcomed the vote and pointed out biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent and often by as much as 81 percent versus petroleum, giving biodiesel the best carbon score among all liquid fuels.

“This is not an academic exercise. It’s where the rubber hits the road in determining where Californians get their fuels for the next 20 or 30 years,” said NBB’s Director of Sustainability Don Scott. “It’s the difference between continuing the status quo of oil dependence and stimulating the development of cleaner alternatives. CARB should be commended for its leadership and for taking a bold approach. We are proud that biodiesel is part of the solution.”

Fuel Cell Tax Extenders Act Introduced

Congressman John LarsonThere are a few in Washington, D.C. who have not forgotten about fuel cell technology. The Fuel Cell Tax Extenders Act of 2015 has been introduced by Representative John Larson (D-CT) with co-sponsors Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Chris Gibson (R-NY). If passed, the bi-partisan bill would extend federal incentives for residential, commercial and vehicular fuel cell use as well as extend and expand credits for hydrogen infrastructure. In response, companies like Plug Power have come out in support of the bill and stressed that the passage will provide certainty for fuel cell manufactures and investors.

“Fuel cell technology continues to grow and improve, supporting thousands of jobs and supplying clean energy to more and more Americans,” said Larson in a press statement. “Extending incentives for businesses, homeowners, or those purchasing new cars will make it easier to develop and use fuel cell and hydrogen technology—and provide the certainty that such investments remain affordable and accessible for all. These incentives are already in place. As the technology continues to improve, it just makes sense to ensure more Americans have access to this clean, affordable energy.”

The current tax iScreen Shot 2015-09-24 at 4.26.18 PMncentives for fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure are set to expire at the end of this year, while the fuel cell investment tax credit for material handling and stationary fuel cells will end on December 31, 2016. This legislation will extend all of the credits through the year 2021. And, said Plug Power, The Fuel Cell Extenders Act of 2015 helps to level the playing field, enabling customers of all sizes to invest in new business-improving technology like hydrogen fuel cells.

“The existing tax credits have been very successful in sparking great interest and demand for hydrogen and fuel cell solutions, thus passing this bill now will help keep that momentum strong,” said Andy Marsh, CEO at Plug Power. “I commend Representatives Larson, Tonko and Gibson for their steadfast support for hydrogen fuel cell technology adoption and for Plug Power’s continued growth.”

Congressman Tonko, one of the bill’s co-sponsors said of the proposed bill, “Fuel cell technology has gained widespread traction because of the efficiency and productivity gains that are realized. This is something everyone can get on board with,” said Congressman Tonko. “This legislation extends a critical and robust tax credit that will provide the incentive for large-scale conversions to this clean technology at manufacturing and distribution centers across the country, which will ultimately lead to new jobs. I thank Congressman Larson for his commitment to encouraging innovation and making energy efficiency our fuel of choice.”

Algenol to Aid China in CO2 Reductions

Algenol is partnering with South China’s Fujian Zhongyuan New Energy Company (ZYNE) to solve three major problems: lack of clean air, clean water and the needs for sustainable, low carbon fuels. The two companies will work together on an exploration project where Algenol will take ZYNE’s captured CO2 and covert it to ethanol. Algenol’s technology, Direct to Ethanol, uses the CO2 as the feedstock for algae to produce ethanol, gas, diesel and biojet fuel.


Algenol’s CEO and Founder Paul Woods and Wang Suwei, ZYNE’s Chairman of the Board in Seattle, WA

“We all share one atmosphere. Clean air has no borders,” said Algenol CEO Paul Woods during a ceremony to solidify the partnership. “We are eager to bring our technology to China because we know that our process can remove health-damaging pollution straight from its source and turn it into renewable fuel and clean water.”

According to an Algenol press statement, this partnership unites the economic and environmental benefits of their technologies with ZYNE’s existing expertise in delivering renewable fuels in China. The companies will identify and evaluate the utilization of CO2 emissions from industrial sources such as power plants, steel mills, cement and chemical factories in the Fujian province, and other parts of Southern China. Once the CO2 sources are identified, the process will begin to incorporate Algenol’s technology solution of carbon capture and utilization and renewable fuel production. An added benefit of Algenol’s technology is the primary by-product of clean water, which is valuable to many communities in Southern China.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1DuPont Microcircuit Materials (DuPont) was granted the 2015 Solar Industry Award in the photovoltaic (PV) Materials category for its DuPont Solamet PV19x series of PV metallization pastes, designed to help boost the power output of solar panels, lower overall system costs and improve the return on investments in solar energy systems. The company accepted the award during a ceremony held at the European PV Solar Energy Conference in Hamburg, Germany.
  • New York State Senator Catharine Young (R) recently announced $1million in state aid to help establish the Bio-refinery Development and Commercialization Center (BDCC) on Alfred State’s School of Applied Technology campus in Wellsville, New York. The proposed center will be used to further advance research of the Hot Water Extraction (HWE) process, which extracts useful chemicals from natural products, and take the current successful HWE process, developed in the laboratory at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), to a commercial level.
  • Edison Electric Institute (EEI) President Tom Kuhn was recognized as the 2015 Trade Association CEO of the Year during the Association Leadership Awards luncheon held in Washington, D.C. Presented by CEO Update, the award recognizes excellence in trade associations and professional societies.
  • The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region will overtake Europe to become the largest contributor to global solar Photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity, increasing its cumulative installed capacity from 63.3 Gigawatts (GW) in 2014 to 345.33 GW by 2025, according to research and consulting firm GlobalData. The report states that this increase, which will occur at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.7%, follows a period of highly positive growth, when the region’s capacity rocketed from 1.94 GW in 2006 to 63.33 GW in 2014, at an impressive CAGR of 54.6%.

Cause of Ethanol Train Derailment Probed

train-derailFederal investigators are looking into why seven ethanol tanker cars derailed in South Dakota over the weekend. No one was injured in the derailment that occurred early Saturday morning, but at least one of the cars caught fire in the accident involving a 98-car Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad train.

Senate Transportation Committee chairman John Thune (R-SD) is watching the investigation closely and says they believe the derailment was caused by a broken rail or structural failure in the small bridge where the incident occurred. “Safety has got to be the highest priority,” said Thune. “These were some of the older model cars that actually derailed and started a fire there.” The Department of Transportation has required updates to fuel transportation cars, including the unjacketed DOT-111 cars which commonly carry ethanol.

“Ethanol should have some different treatment with respect to these cars compared to oil tank cars,” Thune said. “Most of the seven cars that derailed were older models that will require upgrades under these new safety standards.” Five of the seven cars were the DOT-111 models and two were newer jacketed models that will still be required to have some upgrades under the new standards.

Propane Autogas Saves Money

Propane-Autogas-event-at-Prairieland-FS1Local municipalities, school districts and fleets are all saving money thanks to propane autogas. This news release from GROWMARK says Prairieland FS, Inc. based in Jacksonville, Illinois, taught local entities about the benefits of the fuel at an educational summit.

City of Springfield Director William McCarty, Office of Budget and Management and Mike Palazzolo, Fleet Manager shared their experience in converting 64 vehicles to propane autogas. According to McCarty the city has already realized a fuel savings of $100,000 over and above savings in maintenance and repairs. Prairieland FS supplies the city with propane and assisted with propane infrastructure – including design and installation of a new propane filling station.

Josh Olsen, assistant superintendent with Olympia Schools in McLean and Tazewell counties, shared his experience with propane powered school buses. Total cost of ownership, including reduced fuel expense and up to 50 percent reduced oil consumption, saves his school district money. The ability to start up faster than diesel vehicles in cold temperatures, cleaner exhaust, improved performance and quieter operation, make the propane powered buses popular with drivers, students and parents alike.

Industry representatives at the event included Central States Bus Sales, Icom North America, Dealers LP, Ray Murray, and the Illinois Propane Gas Association.

Tonya Crow, Energy Department manager, and the staff of Prairieland FS organized the event and showcased a number of propane vehicles and items at their office in Jacksonville. “We are pleased to bring this technology to local schools, municipalities and fleets knowing we can help them save money when budgets are tight,” explained Crow.

US Troops in Afghanistan Turn Waste into Biodiesel

bagrambiodieselKilling the bad guys… and staying green, that’s how American troops roll. This article posted on the military’s DVIDS channel says U.S. forces at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, are turning waste cooking oil into biodiesel.

“Bagram generates an average of 186 gallons of used cooking oil each day,” said Christopher Waechter, Fluor country environmental manager. “We chose a turn-key biodiesel processing system for ease of use … by local national laborers.”

Waechter said the initiative was proposed as a cost avoidance measure with a three week return on investment. The overall cost avoidance is projected to be as much as $750,000 per year.

Since Fluor provides Hazardous waste processing for Forward Operating Bases Dahlke and Fenty, they are able to ship used cooking oil from those locations he said.

In addition to the cost savings, the process has the added benefits of removing used cooking oil from the waste stream and increasing the skill sets of the local national workers while allowing them to work in a safer work area.

Using biodiesel to fuel the incinerators is also a much safer option than traditional methods according to Waechter.

“Biodiesel is both biodegradable and non-flammable,” Fluor Health, Safety and Environmental director Peter Provost said. “JP8 has a flashpoint of 98°F whereas the biodiesel has a flashpoint of 300°F so we’ve improved our safety envelope by more than three times. Any time you can achieve that kind of a percentage improvement, [its] a good thing.”

So far, nearly 26,000 gallons of used cooking oil has been turned into almost 27,000 gallons of biodiesel, saving taxpayers more than $207,000.

U of W Research Converts Poplar Trees to Biofuels

New research from the University of Washington is laying the foundation to use woody biomass from poplar trees into sustainably produced biofuels and biochemicals. A five-year $40 million dollar study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in its last year and results will seed a wood-based cellulosic ethanol production facility.

Poplar materials, including bark, leaves and wood, are used to make cellulosic ethanol.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Poplar materials, including bark, leaves and wood, are used to make cellulosic ethanol.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

ZeaChem, one of the industry partners in the study, is moving ahead with plans to build a commercial production facility in Boardman, Oregon, in 2016 that will produce cellulosic ethanol and biochemicals from poplar trees grown specially for those industries.

“We’ve established that poplar is a viable and sustainable feedstock for the production of fuels and bio-based chemicals,” said Rick Gustafson, a UW professor of bioresource science and engineering, who leads the project. “We’ve provided fundamental information that our industry partners can use to convince investors that production of fuels and chemicals from poplar feedstock is a great investment.”

The research team is known as the Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest and they have set up five demonstration tree farms with different varieties of poplar. None of the trees is genetically engineered, but instead researchers bred them to thrive in different environments and to grow fast. The trees can gain up to 20 feet a year, allowing for a harvest every two or three years.

When a poplar tree is cut, its stump naturally sprouts new shoots and the next generation of trees grow out of the parent stumps. Each tree can go through about six cycles of this regrowth before new poplars must be planted, explained Gustafson. Continue reading

Geothermal Industry

The Geothermal Energy Association (GEA) is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include geothermal energy in the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP). In a letter, GEA makes the following suggestions that would allow geothermal power plants to fully be included in CEIP:

  1. Include metered MWh generated from geothermal resources or allow states to include geothermal resources if their state contains these resources.
  2. Since the timeframe for geothermal includes exploration and more permitting in many states than an equivalent wind or solar project, include projects where significant construction has begun; this could include a binding written contract to the manufacture, construct, or produce electricity on a piece of the geothermal property, and includes expansion of existing facilities (incremental generation) or a new facility.
  3. Projects online in 2020 and 2021 under this program would receive credit for their MWh generated like wind or a solar project.

US geothermal energy photo DOE“Without this amendment to the CEIP program, GEA is concerned the way the current rule is written would shift investment away from geothermal projects in the west,” states the letter, noting geothermal’s importance in the low-income communities such as the Imperial and Coachella Valleys.

The letter states, “geothermal power meets the criteria and the spirit of the CEIP by providing emission free power in low-income communities. In fact, studies have shown, geothermal binary plants are less polluting than either wind or solar technologies on a lifecycle basis. In addition, these plants are located in some areas with the highest unemployment rates in the west. Adding geothermal to this provision could help expand these facilities, providing jobs and economic opportunities in these impoverished communities. Overall, geothermal power will be essential to western states’ long term clean energy portfolio and economies, while being consistent with the CEIP’s directive to advance clean technology in impoverished communities.”

Recently several senators (Reid, Feinstein, Boxer, Wyden, Merkley, Hirono, and Schatz), submitted a letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy also calling for geothermal energy to be included in the program. The letter stated, “We have noted that the Clean Energy Incentive Program includes solar and wind energy, but does not include a number of other important clean energy technologies that the federal government has historically defined as renewable energy resources, like geothermal energy, marine and hydrokinetic energy, biomass, small irrigation power, and qualified hydropower, as defined under Section 45(c) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Environmental Protection Agency should ensure that other clean energy sources of electricity are eligible for matching emission rate credits under the Clean Energy Incentive Program.”

DOE Releases Energy Productivity Roadmap

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recently released a new roadmap to increase energy productivity.  “Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030: A Strategic Roadmap for American Energy Innovation, Economic Growth, and Competitiveness,” reviews proven and effective strategies and actions to advance energy efficiency.

Strategies include:

  • states securing energy productivity through setting and updating vehicle and product codes and standards, and providing energy performance information to consumers;
  • utilities and regulators designing rates and related policies that more effectively align energy efficiency with utility business models; and
  • businesses reinvesting avoided energy costs.

Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030Moniz says by doubling energy productivity, American families will be able to power their homes and vehicles using less energy, while American businesses will be able to manufacture more while spending less and cutting harmful carbon emissions.

“Cutting energy waste and doubling energy productivity will help American families save money on their energy bills, enable businesses to produce more while using less energy and strengthen the U.S. clean energy economy,” said Moniz. “This roadmap provides a path for families, businesses and governments, among others, to follow. By taking steps to increase efficiency and cut waste, the U.S. will be more competitive globally and will see direct and long-lasting benefits for decades to come.”

The Roadmap focuses on scalable actions that have the potential to reduce energy consumption and support economic growth. The federal government, many state and local governments and a number of organizations in the private sector are already deploying energy productivity strategies, including some that are featured in the report, demonstrating that the goal of doubling energy productivity can be achieved. While energy productivity strategies often involve multiple economic sectors and levels of government, the strategies laid out in this report demonstrate that any organization or individual can take steps to double national energy productivity by 2030. The report provides a foundation for scaling up these efforts nationwide, while allowing for flexible and tailored solutions.