Some ethanol interests may be getting a little nervous about the oil industry ties of several Trump administration cabinet selections. Those include former Texas Governor Rick Perry for energy secretary, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for EPA administrator and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) this week announced new board members and officers for 2017, elected at last week’s annual meeting.
2017 IRFA Board of Directors Officers
President Eamonn Byrne, Lakeview Plymouth Energy
Vice President Steve Bleyl, Green Plains
Treasurer Bill Howell, POET Biorefining – Coon Rapids
Secretary Derek Winkel, Renewable Energy Group, Inc.
Executive Dir. Monte Shaw (non-voting)
The IRFA Executive Committee is comprised of the IRFA Officers and other members as elected by the Board. Elected to join the IRFA Officers on the Executive Committee for 2017 are:
Past President Tom Brooks, Western Dubuque Biodiesel
At-Large Craig Willis, Archer Daniels Midland
At-Large Rick Schwarck, Absolute Energy
“We are grateful for the leadership of Tom Brooks this year and we look forward to confronting the challenges and opportunities in 2017,” said newly-elected President Eamonn Byrne. “We intend to work with President-elect Donald Trump’s administration to implement a robust Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that ensures greater consumer choice at the pump.”
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, the man who sought a waiver for his state from the Renewable Fuel Standard and was consistently ranked as bad for the ethanol industry during his two presidential bids, has been tapped by President-Elect Donald Trump to be Secretary of Energy. With ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson picked as Secretary of State and Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt chosen to head the EPA, it may seem that oil-friendly interests have taken a strong position in the new Trump administration.
Some ethanol interests are understandably a little concerned. The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) issued a call-to-action to its grassroots membership today, urging ethanol supporters to ask their senators to work during the confirmation process to get some reassurance that Pruitt will support ethanol. ACE notes that Pruitt filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief in support of a lawsuit to overturn EPA’s approval of E15 for 2001 model-year and newer vehicles and has called the RFS “unworkable.” On the other hand, Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor last week congratulated Pruitt on his nomination and looks forward to “working with him to carry out President-elect Trump’s strong commitments to protecting the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who has accepted the position as Trump’s ambassador to China, got his assurances about Pruitt from the president-elect himself. During his weekly press conference Monday, Branstad said he talked to Trump during his “Thank You” tour in Des Moines last week. “First thing Trump told me is ‘don’t worry about him, he’s going to be for ethanol,'” Branstad said, laughing. “I think that was a condition he laid out when he appointed him.”
Listen to Branstad’s comments here: Gov. Branstad on Trump and RFS
UK-based Green Biologics has shipped its first customer order of biobased n-butanol and acetone from its manufacturing biorefinery in Little Falls, Minnesota. The company has developed several partnerships that include distribution agreements with Acme Hardesty, Nexeo Solutions, and Caldic, and has also developed a strategic partnership with HOC Industries. The facility was purchased by Green Biologics in December 2014 from Central Minnesota Ethanol Cooperative and was renamed to Central MN Renewables (CMR). Over the past 18 months, the company retrofitted the 21 million gallon per year ethanol plant with advanced fermentation technology to produce biobased n-butanol and acetone and expects the facility to be producing at full capacity in the next 12-18 months.
“The start of our first commercial facility is a critical milestone in building our position within the industry as a global renewable speciality chemicals company,” said Sean Sutcliffe, Chief Executive of Green Biologics. “We’re very proud to announce the start of shipments to key customers in highvalue markets and look forward to working with existing and new collaborators to bring a wide range of sustainable, environmentally-friendly products to shelves.”
The company brands its biobased products, alternatives to petrochemical materials including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, personal care and consumer products. Green Biologics sells its products under the name BioPure, which has received USDA BioPreferred status. The company offers a wide portfolio of 100 percent bio-based products in addition to n-butanol and acetone, including high purity 100 percent bio-based isopropyl alcohol and a range of specialty esters of n-butanol, isopropanol and other biobased alcohols.
David Anderson, global vice president of marketing for Green Biologics, added, “There’s a clear and urgent demand within consumer and industrial markets for more sustainable products that can deliver improved performance over traditional petro-based commodities. We’re meeting this need by creating high-value, performance-driven speciality chemicals and formulated products, all sourced from the chemicals produced at our commercial facility, and continuing to work in collaboration with industry leaders who share our vision.”
Turf Feeding Systems has been selected to design, build and manage a unique hydroponic biofuels project in Mexico for Zphere Works. The biojet fuel will be produced from Jatropha grown on an 80,000 acre Monarca plantation in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. Turf Feeding Systems says this is the first project to bring together products and technologies to create a large-scale high yield hydroponic agriculture.
“Hydroponics is the high end of horticulture with high tech irrigation, fertigation and grow lighting to push greenhouse plant production to maximum limits. However, we are doing all that and more taking the crop out of the greenhouse and putting it on 80,000 acres to produce high yield crops for biojet fuel and food,” said Michael Chaplinsky, President of Turf Feeding Systems.
Chaplinsky continued, “We have a worldwide team of agronomists, engineers and scientists who open new pathways to grow plants and crops with yields of 50% to 100% over traditional field production. We are using proprietary irrigation, special fertigation and probiotic organics, which will reduce irrigation water 50%, reduce fertilizer and chemicals by 60% and produce ultra-high yield crop production.”
The project will also utilize satellite pastures, food crops and greenhouses for food production. The plantation will also be used as a teaching tool for rural farmers in the region. Chaplinsky said he believes the project will become a cornerstone for a new sustainable ag model for the region.
“A research and development (R&D) center will be the first phase of the Monarca project, with a teaching and marketing center. The R&D center will have a complete genetic and testing laboratory, a hydroponic growing greenhouse and field testing of Jatropha and other crops. This will change agriculture and build the economy of the rural Yucatan peninsula,” Chaplinsky concluded.
New data from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) finds that nearly half of the U.S. has broken through the so-called “blend wall” in 2015. Gasoline purchased in 25 states as well as the District of Columbia, contained more than 10 percent ethanol on average. This, says the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), demonstrates that the spurious “E10 Blend Wall” is crumbling. In 2015, DOE data showed the average ethanol blend rate was 9.91 percent. In response to the data, RFA says its “completely undermines” the proposed legislation to reduce the amount of ethanol content in the country’s fuel supply to no more than 9.7 percent from Reps. Bill Flores (R-Texas) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).
Based on the 2015 data published by the DOE’s Energy Information Administration, the state with the highest average ethanol blend was Minnesota with 12.5 percent. On average, ethanol fuels such as E85 are available at nearly one out of every eight stations in the state. Iowa comes in second with an average of 11.5 percent up from 10.3 percent in 2014 and 9.5 percent in 2013.
Six coastal states also exceeded 10 percent of ethanol blended into their gasoline including California, Oregon, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Louisiana, with no states, for the first time ever, having an average ethanol content below 9 percent although Vermont ranked last with 9.18 percent. These numbers are up from 2014 when the national average was 9.83 percent and 22 states plus the District of Columbia were above 10 percent.
RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said the DOE data underscore that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is working as intended to drive increased use of ethanol and other biofuels. “As E15 and ethanol flex fuels like E85 have gained in popularity in recent years, the so-called blend wall has been reduced to a pile of rubble,” Dinneen said. “This data clearly shows that the RFS is delivering on its promise to expand consumer access to lower-cost, cleaner fuel options at the pump. And with EPA putting the RFS back on track in 2017, the share of renewables in our nation’s motor fuel will only continue to grow.”
Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen will keynote the 2017 Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit. His theme: Making Ethanol Great Again. The annual event is taking place January 31, 2017 at the Prairie Meadows Conference Center in Altoona, Iowa. Registration is open and it’s free to attend.
“The inauguration of a new President always creates the potential for changes to U.S. energy and trade policy,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Managing Director Lucy Norton. “As head of the Renewable Fuels Association, Bob Dinneen is well-positioned to forecast the future impact any policy changes could have on the ethanol industry and ensure renewable fuels always plays a key role in that discussion.”
Dinneen, who has more than 30 years experience in the ethanol industry, is a national leader on ethanol issues. He is also a key strategist in advancing policies that create robust and dynamic markets for renewable fuels such as ethanol. RFA was an instrumental organization in helping to get the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) passed in 2005 and then expanded two years later to 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels per year by 2022.
Click here to register to attend, learn more about the Summit, and review sponsorship and trade show opportunities.
Solenis has announced that the company has licensed its corn oil extraction technology to Hydrite Chemical. This resolves pending legal action filed by Hydrite against Solenis regarding Solenis’ patents for using polysorbate as an additive for corn oil extraction aids. Going forward Solenis has licensed the use of its corn oil extraction technology to Hydrite; thus, Hydrite will become an authorized licensee in the U.S. and Canada of Solenis’ technology. Solenis says that its technology enhances the efficiency of corn oil extraction in the corn-to-ethanol process.
“Our corn oil extraction technology is a game changing invention that has enabled many ethanol producers to improve their profit potential. This agreement is a win-win for the industry as it will enable more ethanol producers to reap the benefits of our technology,” said Shruti Singhal, Vice President, Industrial Water, North America, Solenis.
Jon Murnik, Executive Director – Foam Products, Hydrite, added, “As a market leader in ethanol, we are pleased to have reached an agreement with Solenis to continue to offer polysorbate chemistries to our customers, in addition to other products that enhance the biofuels process and produce more corn oil. We remain focused on product innovation to expand our current offerings of non-polysorbate chemistries.”
A new advanced green fuels laboratory developed and constructed by Southern Oil Refining (SOR) has opened in Yarwun, near Gladstone in QLD Australia. The lab is one step in Southern Oil’s goal of completing a commercial-scale biorefinery in the country. The facility will research biocrude and biofuels technologies and came to fruition with the help of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). This is the first laboratory of its kind in Australia. ARENA contributed $2.37 million in the project with a goal of advancing the green-fuel industry in the country.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said Australia boasted innovative biocrude development companies like Muradel and Licella, but until now the nation had no facility to help them test and refine their products. “ARENA is committed to helping accelerate the shift of new solutions like biofuels toward commercialisation and the Southern Oil laboratory is an important step that will enable local biofuel projects,” he said.
Frischknecht said any Australian biofuel company can use the lab at no cost. This lab fills a gap, he added, because it enables companies to test the technologies in their own country in local conditions. “The testing will be able to determine the viability of refining different kinds of biocrude, which can be made from biomass such as regional agricultural waste, into usable fuel,” said Frischknecht.
Australia has been executing its mission, said Frischknecht, to support the development and commercialization of advanced biofuel technologies. Frischknecht concluded, “The Australian commercial biofuel industry is in its infancy but its potential is significant. It could, for example, see plant waste from our sizeable agricultural industries turned into green fuels for use domestically or for export to meet aviation, shipping and defence demands.”
Lux Research is reporting that new policies are being put forward based on technology-agnostic carbon intensity metrics rather than focusing on mandating volumes of specific biofuels. The move to low carbon fuels is being led, says Lux Research, by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the near-term winners will be renewable diesel and conventional electricity followed by renewable electricity.
Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon by weight emitted per unit of energy consumed. Factors that affect carbon intensity include feedstock, process technology, power source and technology viability.
“Energy companies with diversified energy portfolios are well-positioned to take advantage of this paradigm change, shifting towards renewable sources to reduce carbon intensity values,” said Yuan-Sheng Yu, Lux Research Analyst and lead author of the report titled, “Identifying Winners in Low-Carbon Fuels.” He added, “With electricity a near-term winner, pioneers for the ‘utility of the future’ hold a strong position moving forward.”
To evaluate a fuels’ commercial, technological and economical attractiveness, the firm’s analysts looked at addressable market size, carbon intensity and pathway among other factors. The findings include:
- California is a model. Currently, California uses seven different low-carbon fuels derived from 26 different feedstocks, making up 11.3% of its fuel consumption. Under the state’s new regulations, growth of petroleum consumption has slowed to a mere 0.5% quarterly, while low-carbon fuels grew at 1.6% quarterly.
- Waste oil halves biodiesel’s carbon intensity. In ideal conditions, biodiesel derived from fats, oil and grease (FOG), has the potential to cut carbon intensity by half. Plenty of FOG-derived biodiesel is projected to be available – up to 2.5 billion gallons per year – and even though processing poor quality waste adds to cost, FOG-based diesel remains a significant opportunity.
Another finding: carbon-negative fuel is commercially viable today with biogas a leading technology. Lux Research says with California’s policies in place, improved biogas technologies along with other carbon-negative fuel pathways, will emerge to speed-up carbon emission reductions.