Study: EPA Lacks Transparency in Feedstock Approvals

John Davis

epa-logoA study from a pair of University of Illinois researchers says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks “transparency and clarity” when it comes to approving new feedstocks for biofuels as new pathway determinations. In, James McCubbins and Bryan Endres say that if it’s not biodiesel or corn ethanol, it seems to take a lot longer to get the agency’s approval… twice as long in some cases… and that affects the biofuel producer’s ability to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs):

Under the RFS2 pathways process, EPA assess biofuels based upon an energy balance equation that considers a biofuel’s feedstock, process, and type of fuel produced. EPA requires that if a particular fuel type, process, or feedstock varies significantly from any of the already modeled pathways found in the regulations, then companies seeking to develop biofuel through non-modeled pathways must petition EPA to determine the energy balance of that biofuel production process. Before conducting an assessment of the new pathway, EPA also will consider how close the new pathway is to actual production. Based upon priority, EPA will then determine the energy balance of the new fuel, feedstock or process, and assign it an applicable D-code that categorizes the biofuel as renewable, advanced, cellulosic or biodiesel. The D-code assignment allows producers of the biofuel, using approved pathways, to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) to a batch of biofuel, for the purpose of tracking its production, use, and trading.

The length of time between filing of the petition and final determination suggests that there may be a lack of transparency and clarity of the data EPA needs to conduct its assessment, especially for petitions involving substances or processes other than biodiesel or corn ethanol.

The study goes on to say that going forward, the EPA must develop clear guidance on the pathway approval process. If more hurdles are removed, the researchers contend that more advanced biofuels could meet RFS2 mandates.

Biodiesel, biofuels, Ethanol, Government, News, RFS, RINS

BioEnergy Bytes

Joanna Schroeder

  • BioEnergyBytesDFDyadic International’s President and CEO, Mark Emalfarb, is presenting at the World Biotechnology Congress 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts June 3-6, 2013 and the BIO World Congress, June 16-19, 2013 on Industrial Biotechin Montréal, Canada. He will be joined by James Moe, Chairman and Steve Hartig, General Manager, both with POET-DSM who will also be presenting at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Missouri June 10-12, 2013.
  • Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits has unveiled its new website. It is designed to provide information of the company’s products as well as educational and technical service offerings for the Fuel and Beverage Alcohol industries.
  • Dr. Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles Program, will testify before members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Wednesday, June 5 on proper implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). He will discuss the importance of expanding the production of biofuels, the flexibility Congress granted EPA to manage the goals of the RFS, and how the agency can use its existing authority to set ambitious but realistic goals for production goals in the coming years.
  • The 5th annual All-Energy Australia is taking place in Melbourne October 9-10, 2013. The focus of the event is the country’s clean energy sector and is co-located with Australian Sustainability and Waste Expo.
  • Platts 2nd annual Biomass Power Generation conference will take place in London on September 23 & 24, 2013. The agenda has been finalized, and registration is open.
Bioenergy Bytes

Jordan to Get First Wind Research Plant & Lab

Joanna Schroeder

Wind Energy in JordanAn agreement has been signed that will establish the first research plant and lab for wind energy in Jordan. The National Center for Research and Development of the Higher Council for Science and Technology has signed an agreement with Elsewedy for Wind Energy Generation (SWEG) to establish a pilot plant and research lab for wind energy in Al Fujaij, Al Shobak, having a 1.65 MW capacity at a cost of €2.92 million.

This agreement is part of a project to develop a national industry in concentrated solar energy and wind energy that is financed by the European Union and European assistance program to Jordan for renewable energy. The project aims to provide Jordan with technical assistance on running feasibility studies for the renewable energy system, calculate the cost of electricity generation from wind energy and help the country in pricing the cost of energy generation based upon the practical operation of these plants to boost investment in the renewable energy market in the Kingdom.

Electricity, Energy, International, Solar, Wind

Facts About Farmers and Farming

Joanna Schroeder

Pillar_2The Corn Farmers Coalition is educating policymakers in D.C. about how U.S. family farmers produce corn, (also used to produce ethanol) the top crop in the nation. Sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and its state affiliates, the campaign showcases how innovative and high-tech corn farmers have become by introducing a foundation of facts about farmers and farmers. The campaign will also benefit consumers, who according to a recent ZimmPoll, ag marketing is “not so good”.

“This has always been a crucial time of year in Washington to make sure our lawmakers and those who influence them remember the importance of corn farming to our nation and our economy,” said Pam Johnson, NCGA president and a corn grower in Iowa. “Our state corn checkoff programs have seen the importance of this program each year for educating a very important audience about this essential crop  and its high value.”

TwoSheets_3The campaign launched June 1, 2013 with a major advertising presence in Washington that puts prominent facts about family farmers in front of thousands on Capitol Hill, starting with “station domination” at Union Station through the month of June. The large-format ads will travel to the Capitol South Metro station for July. In addition, online advertising will appear influential Hill publications.Read More

Agribusiness, corn, Ethanol, NCGA

Project Volt Gas Volt – A Breakthrough Program?

Joanna Schroeder

During the EU Parliament in Brussels, a “breakthrough” green renewable energy program coined Project Volt Gas Volt was called for to make fossil fuel and first generation biofuel use obsolete. The call was made by Corinne Lepage, Member of the European Parliament (also the former French Minister of the Environment) and American Professor of Management, Robert I. Bell.

According to Lepage and Bell, renewable energy can now “keep the lights on” without disruption due to new technology and long term financing proposal for the project allowing surplus energy from wind and solar to be stored. Project Volt Gas Volt (VGV) offers a reliable, safe, Project Volt Gas Voltphase-out of nuclear power and fossil fuels with the possibility of enhancement rather than a reduction in life style.

“With Project VGV, industry and government have the solution for a successful energy transition, to optimize wind and solar energy,” said Lepage and Bell.

An element of the program would rely on new technology that converts surplus electricity generated by wind farms and solar parks to methane, that can then be stored for months in the existing natural gas grid. Bell and Lepage say the methane would become the “battery” for renewable energy while simultaneously making fracking obsolete.

“We will use the surplus energy from nuclear, now largely wasted at night, to help pay for the exit from nuclear. And we will use the CO2 generated from burning waste, biomass and from steel mills and cement plants to generate the methane,”  explained Bell.

Lepage added, “From now on, the question of exiting from nuclear while maintaining a continuous and sufficient production of electricity should not be a taboo, but a realistic political choice, one which will determine the employment of tomorrow.”

Alternative energy, biofuels, Environment, Solar, Wind

Biomass-based Diesel Imports Jump in March

John Davis

eiaWe’re seeing a big spike in the amount of biomass-based diesel imported into the U.S. Biodiesel Magazine reports the latest numbers from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show gross imports at 17.3 million gallons in March… a more than eight-fold increase above February’s 2.2 million gallons, and it marks the first biomass-based diesel from Argentina in about four years and the first time ever for the green fuel from Indonesia:

The two major biodiesel-exporting countries supplied the EU with much of the continent’s imported biodiesel in 2011 and 2012 until the trade war that began last year culminated late last month with the European Commission levying provisional tariffs on Argentine and Indonesian product. In March, Argentina shipped approximately 6.3 million gallons of biomass-based diesel to the U.S., while Indonesia exported about 2.1 million gallons to the U.S.

“We’re clearly seeing some small volumes of imports starting to come in given market economics with the tax incentive,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs for the National Biodiesel Board, “but we expect the vast majority of production will continue to be from domestic producers. We have always advocated that the biodiesel tax incentive be structured for producers instead of blenders, and we will continue to push for that change.”

Another 5.5 million gallons of biomass-based diesel was imported from Germany, and more than 3.3 million gallons came from Canada.

The EIA defines “biomass-based diesel” as “biodiesel and other renewable diesel fuel or diesel fuel blending components derived from biomass, but excluding renewable diesel fuel coprocessed with petroleum feedstocks.”

Biodiesel, International, NBB

Australian Co. Inks Deal, Will Re-Open Biodiesel Plant

John Davis

Lignol Energy logoAustralia-based Lignol Energy Corporation announced it will re-open an approximately 35 million gallon a year biodiesel plant. The announcement comes as part of a deal that sees LEC agree to acquire an additional 2.67 million shares of Territory Biofuels Limited (“TBF”) for nearly $1 million (US) that makes LEC a majority shareholder in TBF:

“We are excited to be working with the TBF team and adding our support as the majority shareholder in planning the re-start of the Darwin refinery,” said Ross MacLachlan, CEO and Chairman of LEC. “Our goal is to have the refinery come back on line in Q4 2013, and incorporate upgrades to process lower cost feedstocks that will enhance profitability in 2014. This is an important milestone for our company and represents the potential for us to accelerate our transition to commercial operations with a majority equity stake in a world scale biofuels project.”

Not only is the Darwin refinery able to crank out 35 million gallons a year of the green fuel, it is also the only glycerine refinery in Australia.

Biodiesel, International

Free Ethanol Seminars Coming in Nebraska

Joanna Schroeder

NEB 2013 Ethanol Safety SeminarsThe next two Ethanol Safety Seminars will take place in Grand Island and Columbus, Nebraska on June 12, 2013 and June 13, 2013. The safety seminars are sponsored by the Nebraska Central Railroad and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The sessions are FREE to attend and open to the public.

Attendees will receive in-depth information on proper training techniques that first responders and hazmat personnel need to effectively respond to an ethanol-related emergency. Certificates of Completion will be awarded at the completion of each safety seminar.

There will be two sessions each day: 9:00am-2:00pm and 5:30pm-10:00pm. Lunch and dinner will be provided. To register, please visit

biofuels, Education, Ethanol, RFA

EPA’s 411 on RINs & RVOs

Joanna Schroeder

A recent “Today in Energy” brief published by the U.S. Energy and Information Administration takes a look at how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) and Renewable Volume EPA rincycleObligations (RVO) as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). RVOs are the targets for each refiner or importer of petroleum-based gasoline or diesel fuel, while RINS allow for flexibility in how each of them may choose to comply.

The 2013 RFS target is 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels including targets for cellulosic biofuels, biodiesel, advanced biofuels in addition to an overall target. Volumes for the four RFS targets are assigned to obligated parties, refiners and importers, by way of RVO percentages that are calculated by dividing each RFS target by the total estimated supply of nonrenewable gasoline and diesel fuel in each year.  For 2013, the four proposed RVO targets are:

  • cellulosic biofuels – 0.008 percent;
  • ethanol equivalent for biomass-based diesel – 1.12 percent;
  • advanced biofuels – 1.6 percent; and
  • total renewable fuels – 9.63 percent.

Obligated parties must cover their RVOs by surrendering RINS within 60 days after the end of each calendar year.

RINS are used by the EPA as both a way to keep records and build flexibility into the RFS for meeting RFS volumes. Each gallon of fuel is assigned a unique 38 character code and is valid for the year in which it was generated; however, up to 20 percent of a year’s mandate can be met with RINs generated in the previous year.

In addition to monitoring compliance, RINs also add value to each gallon of biofuel to which they are attached. The value of RINs provides an economic incentive to use renewable fuels. If RIN prices increase, blenders are encouraged to blend more renewable fuels. However, when the biofuel is more costly than nonrenewable fuels but is still needed to meet RFS standards, the RIN value should increase to a point at which firms will increase biofuel blending.

And there you have it: EPA’s 411 on RINs and RVOs. Click here for more information.

advance biofuels, Biodiesel, biofuels, Ethanol, RINS

SEAD Searches for Most Energy Efficient EV

Joanna Schroeder

The Clean Energy Ministerial’s Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative is in search of the most energy efficient electric motor in the world. The SEAD Global Efficiency Medal competition will recognize the most energy efficient motors on the market as well as new technologies that have the potential to greatly reduce energy use in the future.

SEAD Global Efficiency MedalAccording to the International Energy Agency, electric motors account for over 40 percent of world electricity consumption. They are by far the largest consumers of end-use electricity and are responsible for more than 6,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually–equivalent to the yearly emissions of more than 1 billion cars.

“Electric motors are in everything from small appliances to large industrial equipment,” said Kavita Ravi, SEAD initiative lead. “The competition will allow manufacturers to distinguish themselves as producers of the most energy-efficient products and help consumers save energy and cut back on electric bills.”

By recognizing and promoting the world’s most energy-efficient electric motors, the SEAD competition will help buyers make informed purchasing decisions that can lower energy bills and spur greater innovation among manufacturers. SEAD Global Efficiency Medals will be awarded in four regions:  Australia, India, North America and Europe. Winners will be announced September 1, 2014.

Alternative energy, automotive, Electric Vehicles