Shell at ABLC: Don’t Blame Big Oil for Blend Wall

John Davis

reese1One of the great things about the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference is the diverse group of biofuels stakeholders with diverse points of view. Case in point, Shell Oil’s presence at the gathering, and the company’s Downstream Policy & Advocacy Manager, North America, John Reese, who makes the contention that it’s not the oil companies who are creating the E15 blend wall.

“We are really maxing out on the ability to blend ethanol into gasoline,” he says because the automakers don’t approve above E10 blends for about 95 percent of the cars and trucks on the roads now. “EPA did approve the use of E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles, but the issue is the automobile manufacturers don’t support that.”

Groups such as the Renewable Fuels Association contend differently, and even Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told me that those 2001 and newer non-flex fuel vehicles should be able to use E15 without any modifications to those vehicles. But John says we should believe those who have built and tested the vehicles. And while that’s coming from a big oil company, he says Shell supports biofuels because, frankly, the company has a stake in the success of the green energy market.

“We have a joint venture to produce ethanol, and we have interests in cellulosic biofuels going forward, so we’re really looking to find solutions to this.”

Listen to my entire interview with John here: John Reese, Shell

advance biofuels, Audio, biofuels, E15, Ethanol, Oil

REG Makes Case that Biodiesel Helps Food Supply

John Davis

reg-logoApparently tired of false claims that biodiesel takes from the food supply, biodiesel maker Renewable Energy Group has put out a whitepaper that actually shows how the green fuel is helping the food supply. Biodiesel Magazine has this good summary of “Food THEN Fuel: How the American Biodiesel Industry Is Strengthening Food Security.”

“[C]ritics of biofuels have [tried] to convince the public that biodiesel is merely part of an amorphous group of energy sources that share the same alleged disadvantages,” the paper states. “Indeed, they would have the public believe that biodiesel not only depletes the food supply by creating a competing use in fuel, but that it also contributes to higher prices at the grocery store. In reality, biodiesel is playing a vital role in strengthening America’s food security and reducing rising pressures on food prices. Rather than competing with food, biodiesel production applies a “food THEN fuel” approach by adding economic value for food industry byproducts and sending economic signals to the market to produce more. Biodiesel production helps make the food and agricultural sectors more profitable, incentivizes the production of protein and generally helps keeps grocery items, like meat, from increasing in price more than they already would due to inflation and petroleum energy costs.”

Some of the facts REG cites are that soybean oil is the historic primary feedstock for U.S. biodiesel and still makes up the largest single feedstock used. With the soy oil used for biodiesel, that still leaves more than 80 percent of the bean to be made into meal for livestock, keeping feed costs down for livestock producers.

In addition, other feedstocks for biodiesel, such as animal fats and used cooking oils, have created value-added markets in those food industries to help farmers and restaurant owners make more money and allow them to them to produce even more food at cheaper prices.

Biodiesel, food and fuel, REG

ABLC: Increasing Optimism in Biofuels Financing

John Davis

grooby1A big part of any business operation is being able to secure the capital to allow the company to get started and grow properly. Obviously, that’s no different for the biofuels industry, and attendees at the Advanced Biofuels Leadership Conference heard some good news from the financing side of the house.

“I think the overarching message of the panel was a sign of increasing optimism,” says Chris Groobey, a partner in the law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, who spoke during a session on debt financing. He says the last year and a half has been a tough time for the biofuels industry, but it’s not because the companies were doing anything wrong. It had more to do with the political and external environments surrounding the industry. And now he’s optimistic things are changing on the government and private financing fronts.

“Now you have folks who have made their companies and projects even better, and now that you have a solidified political environment, you have an opportunity now to do better things legislatively and you have folks in the government and private sector side of the money who are very, very motivated to get this moving. And they see 2013 as the time to do that.”

Chris adds that while there seems to be more Departments of Energy and Defense grants to use, those can be tricky to make sure the money is lined up correctly. Law firms such as his specialize in helping biofuels makers to navigate that maze.

He says while it’s pretty tough to get venture capital money in to the industry right now, there are plenty of opportunities to get debt investors involved, including some pretty big financial institutions that want to be part of this green energy market.

Listen to more of what Chris had to say here: Chris Groobey, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

advance biofuels, Audio, biofuels

Camp Pendleton Increases Its Solar Power

Joanna Schroeder

Camp Pendleton Dining FacilitiesCamp Pendleton has increased its commitment to renewable energy with the addition of two more solar power systems at Edson Range and Chappo Dining facilities. The 221 kilowatt and 125 kilowatt systems, respectively, installed by local firm Sullivan Solar Power should save the military base hundreds of thousands of dollars’ in electricity costs over the life time of the system. In conjunction with the economic advantages, the array will also provide a significant environmental impact by eliminating 13 million pounds of CO2 emissions over the warranty period of the solar panels.

“Camp Pendleton should be recognized as a leader in utilizing renewable energy opportunities. Between this solar installation and those completed within the last year, it’s obvious that the base is committed to developing a renewable future for coming generations,” said Daniel Sullivan, Founder and President of Sullivan Solar Power. “It’s reassuring to know that the military recognizes the value of solar energy.”

According to Sullivan Solar Power, the installation has been a boost for the local and national economy creating six new prevailing-wage jobs within the company. The installation firm employs International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) state certified electricians as their photovoltaic installers. Furthermore, the installation utilized only American-made products. The military base’s newly sustainable dining facilities are powered by 1,666 American-made Sharp 240-watt solar modules.

Electricity, Energy, military, Solar

Ethanol Daily Production at Nearly 35 Mil Gallons

John Davis

eiaLatest figures from the Energy Information Agency show that last week’s ethanol production hit 34.94 million gallons daily for an annual rate of 12.63 billion gallons. And the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) points out those numbers reflect about 10 percent of the overall daily gasoline demand:

Stocks of ethanol stood at 17.5 million barrels. That is a 1.6% decrease from last week.

Imports of ethanol showed zero b/d, unchanged from last week.

Gasoline demand for the week averaged 352.1 million gallons daily.

Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production was 9.92%.

The report goes on to say that more than 12.6 million bushels of corn was used to produce ethanol and nearly 93,000 metric tons of livestock feed, with almost 83,000 tons of that as distillers grains. Plus, the processes produced 4.33 million pounds of corn oil daily, which could feed the biodiesel market.

Biodiesel, Ethanol, Government, News, RFA

Bioenergy Bytes

Joanna Schroeder

  • BioEnergyBytesDFBlue Sphere Corp. has signed a purchase agreement for a suitable property for its 3.2 MW waste-to-energy plant in Rhode Island.
  • @ReneSola Ltd has been contracted to provide 7,200 of its 250-watt high-efficiency polycrystalline solar PV modules for a solar project to be built by S&C Electric Company, a Chicago-based provider of equipment and services for electric power systems, in Roswell, New Mexico this year.
  • ROUSH CleanTech is taking orders for its propane autogas powered Ford F-650 chassis cab fuel system aimed at fleets. Production will begin in October.
  • The European Parliament has voted against repairing the collapsing carbon market according to Rémi Gruet, Senior Climate Advisor of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) in Brussels. Given the failure of the European Parliament to support an effective carbon price, @EWEA urges the EU to urgently negotiate a way forward on backloading and for the European Commission to propose a long-term solution to create an effective carbon market.
  • There is only one week left to nominate an individual or organization for a Green Power Leadership Award. The nomination period has been extended one week to Monday, April 22, 2013. Sponsored by Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) and the U.S. EPA, the Green Power Leadership Awards are competitive awards that recognize outstanding commitments and achievements in the green power marketplace.
Bioenergy Bytes

GlobalData: BioEthanol Car Fuel of Future

Joanna Schroeder

According to a new report by @GlobalDataEnergy, #bioethanol is the car fuel of the future. The report, “#Cellulosic Ethanol – Global Production, Major Trends, Regulations, and Key Country Analysis to 2020,” finds that #ethanol is the most widely acclaimed alternative or additive for gasoline used for running vehicles. In addition, the U.S. ranked number one in biofuel production using natural waste feedstocks. According to the latest report, the U.S. is the global leader in cellulosic ethanol production, manufacturing 5.42 million gallons in 2012.

bioethanolBioethanol is produced through the fermentation of cellulosic feedstock such as forest and agricultural waste. The reports finds that the U.S. has an abundance of biomass feedstock, and dedicated energy crops such as #switchgrass and #miscanthus that are grown exclusively for conversion into cellulosic ethanol to help the nation’s ambition to meet fuel needs while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The U.S. is the only country currently working to promote the cellulosic ethanol market, says the report, with the U.S. Department of Energy (US DOE) providing grants to help companies establish a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant. As a result, several companies have set up pilot and demonstration plants and a few commercial plants are expected to be commissioned in late 2013. The report also finds that the U.S. have also mandated the addition of 10% ethanol in gasoline fuel, setting steady domestic demand for the industry, while certain recently released cars are able to run on a 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline mix.

The report finds corn stover and wheat straw are among the most freely available types of feedstock used in countries producing cellulosic ethanol, and growing ethanol demand may see these nations utilizing the residue of their corn crop for ethanol production, creating a sizable market for agricultural waste. GlobalData expects that the growing feedstock demand will create a structured market, in which biomass feedstock prices will be set based on their ethanol yield and the prevailing trading price of ethanol.

Some EU countries such as France and Italy have cellulosic ethanol production infrastructure, but a limited supply of biomass feedstock. Growth of commercial production in these countries may fuel the need to import feedstock from nearby countries or expand production to other countries with ample feedstock availability. A few producers with upcoming commercial scale plants in the U.S. have already started signing agreements to procure agricultural residue and other kinds of cellulosic feedstock.

Global cellulosic ethanol is expected to increase from 14.25m gallons in 2012 to 412.25m gallons in 2020, with commercial production anticipated to take off on a large scale in late 2013 and 2014, thanks to major players adding substantial production capacity and new companies joining the market. The report finds that the U.S. is expected to retain its market dominance until 2020.

biofuels, Cellulosic, Ethanol, feedstocks

IEA: Need Major Scale Up in Global Biofuels Production

Joanna Schroeder

Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released their Tracking Clean Energy Progress report in New Delhi that details the increased role that biofuels will need to play in reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) as part of their Climate Change Scenario by 2020. The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) applauded this finding, stating that biofuels are already significantly reducing global GHG emissions.

According to the report, globally, the world is not on track to meet the IEA’s goal of holding global climate change to a 2°C rise by 2020. According to the IEA’s Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index (ESCII) average CO2 emissions have only improved by 0.02 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of oil equivalent in the last 20 years. In Tracking Clean Energy Progress 2013order to reach the 2020 target the IEA recommended that annual biofuels production needs to more than double and advanced biofuels capacity must increase six-fold.

“Biofuels are the only real viable option available today to reduce emissions in the transportation sector,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA. “We agree with the IEA that biofuels offer real GHG emissions reductions today and that we must increase biofuel usage if we want to mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

In order to facilitate this major scale up in global biofuels production, the IEA released some specific recommendations for governments in their report:

  • Lessen the risks for early investors through mechanisms such as loan guarantees, guaranteed premiums for advanced biofuels, or direct financial support for first-of-a-kind investments.
  • Targeted policy support for advanced biofuels is required to ensure large-scale deployment.
  • Monitor sustainability in feedstock production.

“Frankly, the GRFA is not surprised by these findings, despite the commitments from world leaders we are clearly struggling to reduce emissions in the transportation sector,” concluded Baker.

biofuels, Carbon Dioxide, Climate Change, Environment

ZimmComm Agri-Blogging Opportunities

Talia Goes

zimmcomZimmComm New Media is now taking applications for students in the agricultural communications field to attend and learn how to “agri-blog” some of the most important industry events held every year.

The opportunities will include all-expense paid trips to one or more industry events where students will assist in the compiling of photos, audio and video and posting of activities on pertinent websites. Interns will learn and develop the use of tools, techniques and technology to gather and distribute information through various social media channels. Per-diem and college credits may also be available.

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ZimmComm Expands Content

Melissa Sandfort

zimmcomZimmComm New Media, LLC has expanded its website to serve as a new agricultural media content service for reporters, companies, organizations and individuals seeking high quality photos and audio from industry events and concerning current issues.

“We generate so much content on our agricultural and renewable energy websites that we decided to create one place for all of it to make it easier for people in the industry to locate and utilize,” said ZimmComm New Media president Chuck Zimmerman. “Last year we covered nearly 70 different industry events, posted more than 1200 audio files and placed nearly 20,000 high resolution photos in Flickr albums. All of that content is available for anyone to download and use free of charge.” will now have links to all the audio, photos and video that ZimmComm compiles at events, for podcasts, news conferences and more. In addition, AgNewsWire will also continue to be an agricultural news release distribution service as it has been since it was introduced in 2006.

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Audio, Media, News