Southeast Partnership Formed for Biomass Development

Development of biomass for energy in the southeast was also included in the USDA grants announced this week in the Pacific Northwest.

Among the grants is $15 million for research to be led by the University of Tennessee to develop sustainable feedstock production systems using switchgrass and woody biomass that will “produce low-cost, easily converted sugars for biochemical conversion to butanol, lignin byproducts and forest and mill residues, and dedicated energy crop feedstocks to produce diesel, heat and power.” Created to implement the research project is the Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems (IBSS) and one of the core partners of that group is ArborGen, a South Carolina-based company that specializes in the development and commercialization of technologies that improve the productivity of trees for wood, fiber and energy.

According to ArborGen officials, the company’s expertise will be utilized to explore the performance and cost advantages of short-rotation woody crops such as Eucalyptus, Pine and Poplar, matching the economic and environmental performance of each feedstock with a preferred conversion platform.

ArborGen’s focus in the IBSS partnership will be on optimizing wood characteristics for optimal conversion to advanced “drop in” biofuels and on developing sustainable methods for harvesting, transporting and storing purpose grown trees. ArborGen will also work closely with IBSS on ensuring that technology developed at IBSS will benefit rural economies. A key component of the IBSS partnership will be to ensure that information is developed to help land owners, rural communities and the emerging biofuels industry make decisions that promote sustainable development.

SunPower Opens Biodiesel Fueling Station in Duluth

SunPower Biodiesel has announced the opening of their first biodiesel fueling station in Minnesota.

The company’s original prototype FuelMaster® biodiesel station is located at SunPower’s production facility, based in Cumberland, Wisconsin. The newest addition is located in Duluth, MN and offers B99 (99% biodiesel and 1% petroleum diesel, the first station in Northern Minnesota to offer a B99 blend.

Jamie Helgeson of SunPower says they are excited to share the benefits of SunPower Premium Cold Flow Biodiesel with Northern Minnesota. “You can expect cooler running engines, ten times the lubrication of regular diesel, higher cetane and longer engine and parts life.”

According to the company, as the temperatures get colder, SunPower adapts by offering a winter blend of biodiesel, which also contains a fuel additive and has been tested to operate down to -30°F. SunPower Biodiesel, LLC produces premium cold flow biodiesel made mostly of canola, which maintains many of its cold flow properties when converted into biodiesel.

Indiana Corn Growers Offer Ethanol Blender Pump Grants

Hoosier consumers will soon be seeing new flex fuel pumps at fuel retailers across the state thanks to a new program launched by the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC).

The Flex Fuel Pump Program, unveiled during the Indiana Ethanol Forum in Indianapolis earlier this summer, awarded cost-share dollars to Indiana fuel retailers looking to install flex fuel pumps.

Recipients of the grants include Little Point Auto and Truck Stop, Inc. in Stilesville; Austin West-Side Sunoco in Austin; Eddie’s Service, Inc., in West Baden; and Capital Express Mart, LLC in Granger. Each of the stations will receive up to $20,000 in grant funds from ICMC.

“Hoosier corn farmers believe consumers should have the opportunity to have choices at the gas pump when filling up their vehicles,” said David Howell, ICMC vice president and farmer from Middletown, Ind. “The Flex Fuel Pump Program allows consumers to select the type of ethanol blend they want to use in their flex fuel vehicle and take advantage of the potential cost benefits of using ethanol.”

Read more.

Renewable Energy Group Transitions Leadership

The board of Renewable Energy Group (REG) today announced the succession plan for a seamless transition of the company’s leadership positions. The board offered unanimous approval of Jeff Stroburg’s request to transition from the dual position of Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer to the sole role of Chairman of the Board. Daniel Oh, currently President and Chief Operating Officer, will transition to the role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President and join the Board of Directors.

According to a statement from the board, “Mr. Stroburg and Mr. Oh have worked together closely throughout the last six years to manage the company’s strategic development. With more than twelve years at the helm of the company and an impressive resume of agricultural and energy industry leadership, we are pleased Mr. Stroburg will remain on the board to share his vision and leadership as the Chairman.”

“Working closely with Mr. Stroburg has been a remarkable learning experience,” said Oh. “More than a decade ago he had a vision for a value-added agricultural business that would move our country away from imported petroleum. I look forward to maintaining our relationship as he continues to lend his experience and expertise as the Chairman of the Board.”

Mr. Stroburg currently serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of West Central Cooperative, one of the Midwest’s largest farmer-owned cooperatives.

REG recently re-opened a biodiesel plant near Albert Lea, MN. In a post from that event, you can listen to an interview with Dan Oh.

Sorghum Could be Aviation Biofuel Feedstock

SorghumLouisiana State University is getting $17 million from USDA to study how to turn sugar cane and sorghum into biofuels.

The project is one of the five announced yesterday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, focused on developing aviation biofuels from various types of biomass. “We have an incredible opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and drive economic development in rural communities across America by continuing to build the framework for a competitively-priced, American-made biofuels industry,” said Vilsack. “Over the past two years, USDA has worked to help our nation develop a national biofuels economy that continues to help us out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world while moving our nation toward a clean energy economy.”

Through new and existing industrial partnerships, this project will use energy cane and sorghum to help reinvigorate the Louisiana sugar and chemical industries.

SorghumThis new project is in addition to a study funded this year at LSU by the Sorghum Checkoff to demonstrate sweet sorghum’s potential for significant yield in a relatively short growing period and its ability to be a steady feedstock supply for biorefineries through improved production management.

“Results from these studies would provide information producers need to most effectively plant and harvest sweet sorghum,” said Kun Jun Han, LSU sweet sorghum specialist. “It would also be useful to biofuel industry personnel when considering site locations, as well as local community leaders working to encourage biorefineries to locate in their area.”

Han said the study will investigate a wide range of planting dates for sweet sorghum to determine the impact on biofuel properties, such as biomass yield, sugar yield and fermentable sugar composition.

From mid-March to May 2011, sweet sorghum was planted at two-week intervals and again during June and July. Some sweet sorghum will be harvested in the early seedhead development stage, which should allow for multiple harvests per year. Meanwhile, other sorghum plants will be harvested at the more traditional stage of late seed development. Results from both harvests will be studied to find which is most effective.

Read more.

USDA Announces New Aviation Biofuels Projects

At the Seattle-Tacoma Airport on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced five major agricultural research projects “aimed at developing regional, renewable energy markets, generating rural jobs, and decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil.”

Altogether, the five-year program will deliver more than $136 million in research and development grants to public and private sector partners in 22 states. University partners from the states of Washington, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Iowa will lead the projects, which focus in part on developing aviation biofuels from tall grasses, crop residues and forest resources. Vilsack made the announcement with partners from private industry, research institutions, and the biofuels industry.

Among the five projects are two $40 million grants to Washington State University and the University of Washington to study the feasibility of producing jet biofuel from woody feedstocks in the Pacific Northwest. “This is a significant investment in biofuel production research, and the work at both Washington State University and the University of Washington will help ensure that Washington state remains a national leader in renewable energy research and development,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

Senator Maria Cantwell added, “The investment announced today will leverage the resources of our entire region, helping build up a biofuels supply chain and boost clean energy job growth across the nation.”

The WSU project will focus on converting closed timber mills into bioenergy development centers to develop a regional source of renewable aviation fuel for the Sea-Tac Airport. Weyerhaeuser Company is a participant in the WSU project as part of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance. As a subcontractor to the WSU-led grant, Weyerhaeuser will focus on determining the feasibility of sustainable production of woody feedstocks for use in biofuel and value-added products and exploring ways to convert woody biomass lignin components into value-added bio products.

“This region has a wealth of research capability and knowledge,” said Sea-Tac Airport Managing Director Mark Reis. “We recognize in order for us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we cannot do it without aviation biofuels.”

Read more here.

New DOE Report Asseses Energy Technology

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a brand new report that recognizes the importance of renewable energy for the nation’s future.

The inaugural Quadrennial Technology Review report (DOE-QTR) is billed as “an assessment of the Department’s energy technology research and development portfolios” establishing a framework for energy technology activities and priorities.

“Innovation in energy technology is going to be central to solving our energy challenges,” said John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “New energy technologies can reduce the cost of energy services to firms and families, improve the productivity of manufacturing, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase the reliability and resilience of our energy infrastructure, and reduce the risks from climate change, even as they strengthen and sustain U.S. competitiveness in global markets.”

The DOE-QTR defines six key strategies: increase vehicle efficiency; electrification of the light duty fleet; deploy alternative fuels; increase building and industrial efficiency; modernize the electrical grid; and deploy clean electricity. According to the report, “Reliance on oil is the greatest immediate threat to U.S. economic and national security, and also contributes to the long-term threat of climate change.” The DOE-QTR promotes “out of the box” ideas for improving all types of energy alternatives, including battery and fuel cells, biofuels, solar, and wind, with a strong emphasis on modernization and efficiency.

Read the report here.

Farmers Using Social Media To Reach Consumers

Our latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Can farmers effectively reach out to consumers with social media?” The answer was overwhelmingly positive with 75% saying Yes. However, there are some skeptics out there, 25% that said No. What do you think? Can we do it? Are we doing it? Are we making an impact? We’re seeing a lot of use of social media by people involved in the biofuels business and that includes the farm community.

Our new ZimmPoll is now live. We’re asking the question, “Do you think the world population will be 10 billion by 2050?” We hear all kinds of predictions on everything from population to climate change. How good are these models? Are they taking into account everything that might happen? Can they? How much stock should we place in them? More questions I know but these predictions are being used to shape policy decisions that have an immediate impact on us. What do you think? Take our poll and feel free to comment. Thank you.

ZimmPoll is sponsored by Rhea+Kaiser, a full-service advertising/public relations agency.

Global Biofuels Group Calls Qatar Comments “Self-Serving”

Global RFAThe Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) is calling comments made this week by a Qatari government advisor about biofuels contributing to world hunger “self-serving.”

At a global grains summit in Turkey on Monday, Quatari food security program advisor Mahendra Shah was quoted as saying, “Biofuels will trigger an increase in agricultural prices. Biofuels will result in another 120 million people hungry, just because we’re growing biofuels.” He cited a study by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Fund for International Development (OFID) which claims the use of crops for biofuels is forecast to raise food prices by 30 percent to 50 percent by 2050.

Noting that the report cited was funded by OPEC’s International Development arm, GRFA spokesperson, Bliss Baker said, “This so-called report from 2009 cannot withstand any level of academic scrutiny and is a self serving attempt to distract people from the real impact that energy prices are having on global commodities.”

“Qatar, a key OPEC member and promoter of this report, derives 85% of its export earnings and over 70% of its government revenues from crude oil. Qatar’s agenda is to promote crude oil and discredit alternatives like biofuels,” Baker added.

According to GRFA, there is evidence that demonstrates that the OFID report is wrong, including a 2011 study by the International Energy Agency that says “by 2050, biofuels could provide 27% of total transport fuel” and will “not compromise food security”. The GRFA recently published data showing a clear and direct link between crude oil prices and the UN FAO’s Food Price Index.

USDA Approves Payments for Advanced Biofuels

USDAUSDA will make payments to more than 160 energy producers in 41 states “to support and ensure the production and expansion of advanced biofuels.”

“Renewable energy production will create tens of thousands of direct, American jobs; thousands more indirect jobs, and clean electricity to power millions of homes. The payments I am announcing today represent the continuing commitment of the Obama administration to work with producers to provide the biofuel necessary to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

The payments are authorized under the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels (Section 9005 of the 2008 Farm Bill) and are made to eligible producers to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels. Payments are based on the amount of biofuels a recipient produces from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Eligible examples include biofuels derived from cellulose, crop residue, animal, food and yard waste material, biogas (landfill and sewage waste treatment gas), vegetable oil and animal fat.

The payments total nearly $80 million and range from a low of just over $1000 for Kaapa Ethanol in Nebraska to a high of nearly $10 million for Hero Bx in Pennsylvania for “biodiesel mechanical.” Some of the bigger payments being awarded include $6.2 million to Renewable Energy Group for biodiesel trans esterification, $4.8 million to Smarter Fuel of Pennsylvania for biodiesel from waste products, $4 million to White Energy in Texas for ethanol, $3.2 million for Louis Dreyfus Agricultural Industries for biodiesel from waste, and $2.6 million to ADM for biodiesel trans esterification.

For a list of all recipients, click here.