Bullish on Biodiesel

Biodiesel is back, but it needs the tax credit to keep it going.

Joe JobeAt the 4th International Biomass Conference and Expo, Joe Jobe with the National Biodiesel Board, said they are very optimistic about the state of the industry right now.

“Our plants are coming back on line and we’re very bullish,” Jobe said. “We believe that we’re going to have the best year in our industry’s history this year.” Jobe says their top priority is implementation of the RFS2 and a major component of that is seeing the biodiesel tax credit extended at least another year. “Last year the tax credit lapsed for 11 months and that had a significant negative impact on the industry,”

Jobe says the debate over land use continues to have an impact on the industry. “Land use and indirect impacts have really only been applied to biofuels, no other fuels, not even the fuel that it’s been compared to, baseline petroleum fuel,” he said.

Listen to or download my interview with Joe Jobe here: Joe Jobe NBB

NBB will be holding a webinar on the topic of biodiesel’s impact on the food supply and land use May 24. “Vantage Point: Views on Food, Fuel and Land Use” will feature insights from two national land use experts Dr. Stephen Kaffka with the U.C. Davis Department of Plant Sciences and Director of the California Biomass Collaborative and Keith Kline of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The 60-minute webinar starts at 12:00 noon Central time, on Tuesday, May 24 and is open to anyone with an interest in learning the reality behind food, fuel and land use. Register here.

First Mercedes Benz EV Delivered to Iceland

The first AMP electric Mercedes Benz, manufactured in Cincinnati, OH, has been delivered to Gisli Gislason, Chairman and CEO of Ireland-based Northern Lights Energy (NLE). This is the first in a contract worth $100 million to bring EV to Iceland. The car was “electrified” by AMP Electric Vehicles, a subsidiary of AMP Holding. This is the first EV delivered as part of a contract signed on April 14, 2011 with a larger volume of electric sport utility vehicles to be produced beginning in September.

“The demand for SUVs is very high in Iceland at approximately 35% of new vehicle sales,” said James Taylor, CEO AMP. “Our AMP Electric Mercedes ML SUV fits NLE and Iceland’s needs perfectly. The vehicle comfortably fits five people, and offers the efficient performance of 100 miles per charge. We are very pleased to have presented the first vehicle, and look forward to supplying the rest of this 1,000 vehicle agreement.”

NLE believes Iceland is a very suitable venue for EVs because most of the country’s electricity is derived from a combination of hydro power and geothermal resources, making the electric supply extremely economical versus expensive imported gasoline.

Gisli Gislason, Chairman and CEO of Northern Lights Energy, added, “We were very excited to receive and drive the AMP Mercedes ML EV today. The vehicle drove extremely well, and I feel will fit perfectly in our Iceland program. We have fifty Icelandic companies and government offices, including the Ministry of the Environment, signed up to host electric vehicle charging and to convert their fleets to 100% electric vehicles and their expectations are high. In my opinion, this AMP EV will meet and exceed all expectations.”

Although the first 1,000 EVs will all be earmarked for Iceland, there are plans to expand the sales territory throughout the Nordic region to include Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Faroe Islands.

Canada Fears Rising Gas Prices

I just returned from Toronto, Canada after attending the 2011 BIO World Congress (great stuff and check back as I post a series of audio interviews from the conference) and the country is feeling the impacts of rising gas prices. Consumers in Central Canada have seen gas prices rise nearly 30 cents almost overnight despite the drop in oil prices and many consumers are asking the question of who to blame. The front page article in The Globe and Mail on Wednesday, “The gas price puzzle,” stated that gas prices are higher now than in 2008 when a barrel of oil hit a record high of over $150 a barrel.

According to the article a “confluence of events” has caused the prices to skyrocket. “They include an unusual price discrepancy between European and North American oil and below average gasoline supplies in the U.S., which drives up whole-sale prices that also affect Canada.” Other factors include geography and bad weather south of the border.

Don’t let out sigh of relief that biofuels escaped blame. They didn’t and today a coalition of Canadian on-road diesel fuel associations are raising concerns that the biodiesel mandate set to go into effect in Canada on July 1st will actually cause gas prices to go even higher.

According to the coalition, which includes the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), Motor Coach Canada (MCC) and the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada (OBAC), the Canadian government’s own regulatory impact analysis statement predicts the biodiesel mandate will cost taxpayers $2.5 billion over the next 25 years and increase pump prices for diesel fuel. The report also believes fuel economy will decrease and any greenhouse gas emission reductions will be negligible.

To support their point, the coalition pointed the finger at Massachusetts and New Mexico’s biofuel mandates that allow for the suspension of the regulation should the price of diesel fuel be more than conventional diesel fuel. In addition, the coalition says that U.S. state biodiesel mandates have raised diesel prices anywhere from 1-8 cents per gallon, even with subsidies.

The coalition also cited other fears. Continue reading

Air Force Tests Independence Bio-Products’ Algae Jet Fuel

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base is testing jet fuel derived from algae produced by Dublin, Ohio based Independence Bio-Products (IBP). The algae was grown in open ponds in Ohio and harvested with the company’s patent pending harvest system. The tests are part of federally funded project to examine Algae to Fuel (ATF) processing technologies. According to IBP founder and President Ron Erd, the testing of the jet fuel sample has confirmed that the composition of the fuel is similar to fuels derived from other feedstocks including sobyeans, jatropha or camelina. This feedstocks are also being tested as jet fuel replacements.

Ohio is in the process of expanding the states “algaculture” industry. Three organizations are jointly working together on the project including the Ohio Aerospace Institute (OAI) of Brook Park, the Edison Materials Technology Center (EMTEC) of Dayton, and the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) of Toledo along with several other industry and university collaborators, including IBP. Three main areas are being researched:

1) selection of algae suitable for optimizing oil production based on climate factors
2) development of cultivation systems (growing locations, harvesting, dewatering, and separation techniques)
3) cultivation strategy (algae harvesting, processing into value-added products, etc.)

IBP has a proprietary technology where algae is cultivated in raceway ponds in Belmont County. Some of the ponds were heated using IBP’s patent pending system demonstrating operations throughout the winter. The algae was subsequently separated from water and dried followed by extraction and purification of the algae oil. The algae oil was upgraded to fuel by Applied Research Associates (ARA) of Panama City, FL using a catalytic hydrothermolysis (CH) process to convert the plant triglycerides to pure hydrocarbons very similar to their petroleum counterparts.

“The IBP development adds to the growing evidence that aviation fuel may be derived from domestically grown crops independent of foreign petroleum sources,” said Dr. Joseph Hager, Director Technology Transfer Programs. He continued by saying oil derived from Ohio-grown algae cultivated in open ponds demonstrates that this future fuel-producing crop may be sited in the harsher winter climates of the Midwest.

Waste Management Invests in Agnion

Waste Management (WM) has announced they have invested in Agnion Energy, a company developing gasification technology. WM joins other company investors including Kleiner Perkins, Caufield Byers, Munich Venture Partners, and Wellington Partners. Agnion’s allothermal gasification technology converts solid biomass feedstock into a hydrogen and carbon monoxide synthetic gas (syngas) with high heating value. The syngas can then be converted into liquids, hydrogen and methanol di-methyl-ether and or as a natural gas substitute using combined heat and power applications.

“Waste Management wants to maximize the value of the materials it manages,” said Tim Cesarek, managing director of Organic Growth at Waste Management. “Agnion’s technology complements Waste Management’s advancement of thermo-chemical conversion technology platforms and could enhance our suite of waste processing options.”

According to Agnion, their Heatpipe-Reformer design provides a flexible, small-scale on-site gasification technology solution with a relatively low upfront capital cost. The technology is ideal for schools/universities, warehouses/distribution centers, shopping malls, hotels, and hospitals.

“We view the fact that North America’s largest residential recycler and leading waste and environmental solutions provider has decided to invest in Agnion and our Heatpipe-Reformer technology as a tremendous honor and a vote of confidence,” said Agnion CEO, Dr. Stephan Mey. “Our first commercial biomass gasification plant is currently under construction in the Bavarian town of Grassau and we plan to build other plants in Europe and North America.”

350Green Installs 3 EV Charging Stations in Bay Area

The Bay Area is the home of three new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. 350Green, in partnership with Simon Property Group, will install one EV charging station at the Stanford Shopping Center, one at Santa Rosa Plaza and one at Coddingtown Mall. These are the first three major shopping areas to offer EV charging in the Bay Area while consumer shop.

“We are thrilled to offer our shoppers easy and convenient access to charging stations, demonstrating our ongoing commitment to sustainability,” said Kelly Hartsell, West Regional Vice President of Simon Property Group. “Our customers expect us to offer them goods and services that reflect their values. Known for being environmentally and socially conscious, the Bay Area is the perfect location to introduce this to our shoppers.”

The “Level 2″ charging stations are strategically located in mall parking lots. Shoppers at Stanford Shopping Center will have access to two chargers located in the Lower Level Parking Deck between Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. At the Coddingtown Mall, a “Level 2” charging is located at the North Main Entrance and in Santa Rosa Plaza’s the EV charging station will be located on its third level parking deck. The installations will be complete in the next 30 days.

Simon is working with 350Green for its Bay Area roll-out. The self-serve charging stations have the capability to “top off” or partially charge a customer’s electric vehicle in a 90 to 120 minute time frame, allowing shoppers to leave their vehicles at the charging station while they are shopping or dining. Charging will be free during an introductory time period, after which 350Green will offer various pricing plans.

“Our partnership with Simon is an important part of expanding our network of EV charging stations in convenient locations throughout the Bay Area,” said Mariana Gerzanych, 350Green’s co-founder and CEO. “In doing so, we help advance the EV revolution by making it easier and more convenient to charge up an EV than to fill up a car with gas.”

AE Biofuels Re-Starts California Ethanol Plant

The AE Biofuels ethanol plant in central California is back in production.

Subsidiary AE Advanced Fuels Keyes has restarted operations at the 55 million gallon per year ethanol production facility located in Keyes, California and hired about 50 full time employees. The company announced in March it was restarting the plant, which has been closed since 2009.

The original $130 million construction and commissioning of the plant was completed in November 2008 by Cilion, Inc. In early 2009 the plant was closed due to technical and market issues. AE Keyes took possession of the facility under a project agreement with Cilion in March 2010, signed a facility lease for up to five years, and funded $8 million of financing to retrofit and restart the plant.

The Keyes plant is a leader in environmentally responsible ethanol production with a 2.6:1 positive energy balance and near zero water discharge. In addition, the plant’s natural gas and steam powered turbine cogeneration unit generates all of the operating electric needs of the plant (4.3 megawatts), thus eliminating dependence on the state’s electrical grid.

AE Keyes was recently awarded a $1.88 million matching grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to accelerate the commercial implementation of AE Biofuels’ patent-pending, enzyme based, cellulosic ethanol production technology. The integrated cellulose/starch pre-commercial facility will be located near the 55 million gallon per year commercial ethanol facility. The CEC grant will enable the company to build upon prior enzyme optimization work conducted at its cellulose/starch pilot facility in Montana which was opened in 2008, and will help the State of California achieve the goals of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

Iowa Corn Indy 250 Promotion

The Iowa Corn Growers got competitive with Indy today at the Iowa Speedway. In the photo Indy car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay competes on pedal tractors with Dick Gallagher, Iowa Corn Promotion Board Chairman. Waving the green flag to start is Shannon Textor, Iowa Corn Growers Market Development Director.

Today was a promotional event that included Indy Car drivers, Iowa corn growers and representatives from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University. It was all done to promote the upcoming Iowa Corn Indy 250. They paired up into teams and ran through a course of various events that included the pedal tractors, cornhole toss, corn shucking, remote controlled race cars and more. We held the event inside the garages because some rain moved through.

I spoke with Kevin Rempp, Iowa corn grower and currently Secretary/Treasurer for the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. He says that the promotion with the Iowa Speedway and Indy has been a great partnership. The Indy cars are still running on ethanol and he’s proud to grow their fuel.

You can listen to my interview with Kevin here: Kevin Rempp Interview

By the way, Ryan beat Dick in the pedal tractor race just in case you were wondering.

You can find photos from today’s event here: Iowa Corn “Join The Team” Indy 250 Promotion Photo Album

Ethanol Supporters in DC

Growth EnergyGrowth Energy today welcomed ethanol supporters from Missouri, Minnesota and North Dakota to Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings with members of Congress to raise awareness about ethanol and its role in keeping gas prices down, strengthening our nation’s energy security and creating jobs in rural communities.

The Missouri delegation includes Greg Krissek and Monique Garcia from ICM and Lifeline Foods in St. Joseph, Steve Murphy and Grover Gamm of POET Biorefining in Macon and Richard Hanson of Show Me Ethanol in Carrolton. The Minnesota delegation includes Rick Mummert of POET Biorefining in Glenville, Richard Eichstadt of POET Biorefining in Preston, and Chris Oehler of POET Biorefining in Lake Crystal. Growth Energy also welcomed Russ Newman, the CEO of Tharaldson Ethanol in Casselton, N.D. All have plans to visit with representatives in Congress from their areas.

“Ethanol creates badly needed jobs in rural America, provides an excellent return on taxpayer investment by keeping gas prices down, and contributes to our rural economies, and it is crucial that our representatives in Washington understand that,” said Krissek, who adds that the meetings will focus on Growth Energy’s Fueling Freedom proposal.

Record Corn Crop Forecast as Ethanol Exports Grow

USDADespite flooding of farm land and delayed planting in many areas, USDA is forecasting a record corn crop for this year.

The World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate for May represents USDA’s initial assessment of U.S. and world crop supply and demand prospects. The report projects corn production for 2011/12 “at a record 13.5 billion bushels, up 1.1 billion from 2010/11 as a 4.0-million-acre increase in intended plantings and a recovery from last year’s weather-reduced yields boost expected output. The 2011/12 corn yield is projected at 158.7 bushels per acre, 3.0 bushels below the 1990-2010 trend reflecting the slow pace of planting progress through early May.”

The report increases projected corn use for ethanol by 50 million bushels “reflecting slow expected growth in gasoline consumption and continued export demand for ethanol in the coming year.” Ethanol exports set another record in March, as 84 million gallons of product (denatured and undenatured, non-beverage) were shipped to destinations around the world, according to the latest data from the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Through the first three months of the year, the U.S. has exported 201 million gallons of ethanol, equivalent to half of the amount exported in all of 2010 and almost twice the amount exported in 2009. Year-to-date exports have been equivalent to about 6% of total U.S. production.

Renewable Fuels Association Vice President of Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper says that export markets present real demand opportunities that the ethanol industry will continue to explore. “Artificially constrained markets in the U.S. and fears of instability in the policies that impact domestic ethanol production and use are forcing ethanol producers to seek other markets,” he said.

March was also a strong month for exports of the ethanol by-product distillers grains. Shipments totaled 686,098 metric tons, up 11% from February, but down 2% from March 2010 levels.