Ethanol Groups Respond to Oil Gripes About E15

The ethanol industry responded today to complaints made by the American Petroleum Institute about the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of E15 for commercial use.

In a conference call with reporters, API Downstream Group Director Bob Greco presented a “new analysis” of EPA’s regulations which claims “an estimated half of all gasoline station equipment is not compatible with E15” and said that this could result in serious safety and environmental problems for consumers.”

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty said it was not surprising to see the oil industry attach E15. “But it is surprising to see them going after pumps and tanks, because most of that equipment has been tested – for decades – using at least 15% ethanol,” Lamberty said. “Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listing for petroleum equipment requires that they pass dozens of tests using fuel that contains 15% ethanol and their listing for tanks and piping defines “alcohol-gasoline mixtures” as any level of ethanol or methanol up to and including 100%.”

Lamberty, who owns and operates a Sioux Falls convenience store, added that the pumps at his station are warrantied for E15, and his tanks and lines are compatible with gasoline ethanol blends. “My biggest infrastructure problem with E15 is that the API-member oil company that supplies my station won’t let me sell it,” he said.

The Renewable Fuels Association noted that the industry is working with all stakeholders to address any safety issues regarding E15, including a website dedicated to E15 information (www.E15fuel.org), a misfueling mitigation plan to help retailers avoid confusion, and an E15 Retailer Handbook for gas station owners seeking to offer E15.

Economics of Energy & The Environment

Ok everybody. It’s time to go back to school. Who has the time you think? Who has the money?  Who has a college campus near you? These are no longer valid excuses – the time is now to become energy literate.  There is a FREE online course called Economics of Energy & The Environment being taught by Dr. Ben Ho, Assistant Professor of Economics – Vassar College.  Ho believes that energy use and its impact on the environment will be two of the most important issues of the 21st century. I agree.

Ho explains that the large role of energy in geo-political relationships combined with the fact that a majority of greenhouse gas emissions believed to cause global climate change come from energy. This means the energy sector must change. This also means great opportunities for those who accept the mission of clean energy.

The class is designed as a primer for those interested in clean energy and its relationship with the environment.  Potential entrepreneurs, investors, managers and policy makers will all find the class beneficial. In addition, all of you folks running and working for energy companies (solar, geothermal, wind, biofuels, etc.) could learn a lot as well as those of us just interested and passionate about renewable energy. Topics will include environmental economics, energy economics, environmental ethics, oil sector, the electricity sector, alternative energy, sustainability, climate change, and climate policy.

I’ve checked it out and I’m going to take the class this summer, at my own pace. Everything is done online so you can hit the “Internet” when you have an hour or two of spare time and take as long as you need to complete the course. Dr. Ho answers questions so while it is not “real-time” per se, you can still get the one-on-one attention you may desire of the esteemed professor.

So, let’s take a DomesticFuel challenge and beef up our energy knowledge (a recent survey said most people were energy illiterate) and take the course. Write comments on the site as you go along. It would be great to get a good dialogue on the topics going. I will pull out some nuggets from each lesson as I take the course over the next few months and share them with you.  Ready…Set….Learn…my readers!

Ball State Completes A Hot Geothermal Project

It’s been while since I’ve written about geothermal so I thought I’d bring you this neat story from Ball State.  The university created the country’s largest ground-source, closed-loop district geothermal energy system. The project began in the Spring of 2012 when water heated by the Earth began flowing through a geothermal district heating and cooling system.

This portion of the project will enable Ball State to reduce the load on four of its aging coal-fired boilers. This is just the first phase. When the entire project is complete, the boilers will be shut down and one result will be the reduction of campus carbon emissions by nearly half.  At full capacity, the geothermal system will heat and cool 47 buildings with an estimated energy savings of $2 million per year.

So how was the geothermal system put into place? Nearly 3,600 boreholes will be drilled in borehole fields around campus.  During Phase 1, 1,800 boreholes were drilled an an equal number will be drilled during Phase 2. An eyesore you think? No! Once construction is complete they will not be seen and the campus will remain as beautiful as it was before the project begun.

Ball State says that this project has national implications: ground-source geothermal energy can be used in every state. The geothermal project was dedicated as part of an ongoing sustainability initiative and educational series, the Greening of the Campus IX: Building Pedagogy. The conference allows a diverse group of people to share information and ideas on environmental issues.  With the success of the geothermal project, I’m curious to see what neat energy projects Ball State comes up with next.

Project Converts Poultry Waste to Energy

An new collaboration is looking at whether poultry waste can be converted to energy and other byproducts using an advanced fixed-bed gasifier (AFBG). The lead is the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota along with DenYon Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy. The technology has been licensed by the EERC Foundation to DenYon Energy for commercialization in the poultry industry.

The project will kick off with several weeks of pilot-scale tests to assess efficiency and performance of the system. Both poultry litter and other waste materials from the industry will be tested as fuel. Ultimately, the test will be able to identify and barriers and challenges that need to be overcome to bring the technology to commercial scale.

“We are trying to achieve a complete solution for the poultry industry with this distributed energy technology,” said Nikhil Patel, Research Scientist, Project Manager, and inventor of the technology. “A distributed-scale energy and by-product recovery process is an emerging need in the poultry industry. This project can lead to environmental and economic sustainability by helping a major food processing industry eliminate waste and become more energy self-reliant.”

If the technology proves successful, poultry farms around the globe could use their own waste, a traditional liability, to supply lower-cost energy to their operations while simultaneously reducing disposal challenges, a huge opportunity. The technology converts the poultry litter to syngas and from there the syngas can be used to create electricity and heat needed during the production process. It is estimated that a farm generating 3000 tons a year of waste could produce about 280 kilowatts of power, enough to supply all the electricity needed for one year for nearly 150 average sized homes.

U.S. Leads The Way in Ethanol Exports

The United States has taken the lead in ethanol exports over Brazil according to the new study, “U.S. & Brazil Ethanol Outlook to 2022,” published by Hart Energy. The report predicts that the U.S. will retain this position into 2022 and beyond. Another major finding is that Hart Energy does not believe the U.S. ethanol industry can meet two major policy goals: Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The reason is that these production goals do not meet the realities of commercialization and availability. However, the report maintains that changes in policy are imperative for production goals to be met over the next several years.

“Much of the focus has been on the ‘blend wall,’ biodiesel, and cellulosic biofuels targets of the RFS program in the public forum,” said Tammy Klein, assistant vice president of Hart Energy. “But what’s so striking to us is that Brazilian ethanol is needed to meet targets under those programs — and our forecast shows it will not be available at critical points in the study period.”

Klein added that Brazilian ethanol will also be in high demand in other parts of the world, especially Europe. Ethanol is a key part of the strategy for increasing octane and meeting renewable fuel targets worldwide.  Yet the report forecasts wide fluctuations in Brazilian ethanol exports and estimates that the county won’t meet its peak levels of 2008 until 2019.

The study examines public policies, market developments, economics as well as addresses numerous factors affecting the ethanol industry, including a forecast for crude oil, gasoline, ethanol feedstocks and ethanol production, supply, demand, and Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs). The Outlook contends renewable fuel mandates in the U.S. will also create opportunities for increased production of corn-based ethanol and biodiesel.

Maelle Soares Pinto, director of Hart Energy’s Global Biofuels Center concluded, “The good news is the U.S. ethanol industry has been able to move forward despite the ‘blend wall’ and open new export markets around the world. The constraints we are seeing with Brazilian ethanol could open up opportunities for the U.S. ethanol industry, and this will be a key subject of study for us this year.”

Hart Energy will host a webinar on the study findings on Tuesday, May 15, 2012. More information on these findings and methodology is available by visiting the Global Biofuels Center.

Planting Corn

Our latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “With all of the discussion on projected corn acres this year, how many acres of corn do you expect to plant this year?” A full third of respondents said More than 2,000 acres. That was followed by less than 200 acres at 27%; 200-500 acres at 23%; 1,501-2,000 at 7%; 1,001-1,500 at 7% and 501-1,000 at 3%. Looks like we have a wide cross section of corn growers in the ZimmComm News Network community!

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “Should raw milk be allowed for sale?” This week’s question is prompted by one of the panelists here at the 2012 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit. She is a reporter with a food safety publication who says that this issue is the one that gets the most comments and response of any other. Seems people get pretty passionate about their beliefs when it comes to milk. Raw milk is still the suspect in an E. Coli breakout with 14 confirmed cases in central Missouri that put a couple of people in the hospital. What do you think?

Let your friends and neighbors know they can participate by sharing this link.

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

SDSU Students Capture Gold

Students at San Diego State University (SDSU) have captured gold – gold as in the sun. The students have helped to install a solar array on one of its busiest student facilities on campus.  The Aztec Recreation Center (ARC), managed by the SDSU student government, Associated Students, is the home of the second largest solar array on campus.  When students now enter the ARC, they can watch, real-time- a monitor tracking the solar energy output.

“This project represents the student led initiative for sustainability on campus,” said Morgan Chan, Sustainability Commissioner of Associated Students, “Sustainability is important to the students, the size of this project and the great savings we will have because of the new solar array really stands out to people within the Associated Students and the larger University community as well.”

In the Spring of 2008, a student-introduced referendum was passed to raise funds for the solar project, along with other sustainable upgrades and programming. Sullivan Solar Power designed and installed 250, 115-Watt solar photovoltaic panels using Sharp solar panels manufactured in the U.S.  It is estimated the solar system prevents 11,314,002 pounds of CO2 from being emitted over the next 20 years.  The solar power system will reduce costs, keep student membership fees low and help achieve the students’ and University’s sustainability goals.

Daniel Sullivan, founder and president of Sullivan Solar Power said of the SDSU student project, “This is the sixth solar project we have done for Associated Students and it is great to see that there is such a strong commitment coming from SDSU’s student leadership. During an era of budget cuts and furlough days in higher education, it is reassuring that the Aztecs are setting a national example and doing their part to save students money.”

Biodiesel Showcased During 2012 Living Green Expo

Biodiesel will be showcased at the 2012 Living Green Expo May 5-6 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. During the expo, the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (MSRPC) is sponsoring the Biodiesel Lounge, located in the Education Building. The exhibit will showcase how biodiesel supports local economies, cleaner air, engine life and energy security.

Biodiesel also helps to keep the air cleaner and has been recognized as a Clean Air Choice by the American Lung Association in Minnesota for its ability to lower harmful exhaust emissions as compared to traditional diesel fuels. The state of Minnesota has a B5 mandate, meaning all diesel fuel must be blended with at least five percent biodiesel. However, most vehicles can use up to B20, twenty percent biodiesel, according to MSRPC.

“Increasing the amount of biodiesel in our fuel allows us to take advantage of a renewable fuel made right here in Minnesota. I’m proud to live in a state that is leading energy innovations and taking part in valuable solutions like biodiesel,” said Ed Hegland, Minnesota soybean farmer and past chairman of the National Biodiesel Board.

So whether you’re interested in using biodiesel in your car or truck, or just want to learn more about the benefits of biodiesel, stop by the Biodiesel Lounge.

Fagen to Build Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in Iowa

Fagen, Inc. has been contracted by DuPont Industrial Biosciences to build the company’s first commercial cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa. Last year, DuPont bought land adjacent to Lincolnway Energy ethanol plant, which will enable synergies in energy and logistics. Last week, Butamax Advanced Biofuels announced its collaboration with Fagen to build out the biobutanol industry.

“Our selection of Fagen as a partner to build our plant in Iowa marks the next critical step on the road toward commercializing DuPont’s cellulosic ethanol technology,” said James C. Collins, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences. “We look forward to a strong collaboration.”

Prior to this partnership, DuPont had announced KBR Inc. will handle the front-end engineering, procurement and detailed engineering work for the biorefinery. In addition, the company, working with Iowa State University, is continuing to complete its large-scale stover supply chain testing in preparation for the opening of the commercial scale facility. DuPont is also operating a fully-integrated cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant in Vonore, Tennessee.

Fagen has constructed 60 percent of the ethanol production capacity in the United States, and Aaron Fagen, company CEO said of the partnership, “We look forward to working with DuPont to develop one of the first commercial scale cellulosic biorefineries in the United States. We have worked extensively to help develop first-generation biofuels and DuPont has presented us with an exciting opportunity to expand the advanced biofuels industry.”

Driving The Bioeconomy Highway

The National Bioeconomy Blueprint was recently released by the Obama Administration.  The report outlines the steps that agencies need to take to drive the bioeconomy highway.  The Administration recognized the growing sector has a priority due to its potential for growth and job creation.  The bioeconomy will also help drive new sources of bioenergy, improve the agricultural industry, change the face of manufacturing and address key environmental issues, among other benefits.

America’s economy is slowing transforming to a biobased economy.  “Home-grown” bioproducts already developed include food, feed and fiber as well as chemical substitutes for petroleum-based products; yet the industry has barely emerged. Research is critical to the future of the industry, but it is also important, according to the report, to equip the workforce with the education, training and skills they need to have thriving careers in the sector.

Another step that needs to be taken is to reduce the troublesome regulatory barriers in order to accelerate the advancement of bioinventions and bring them to market.  There are concerns, both health and ethical, that are a result of work being done with biological systems.

The Bioeconomy Blueprint outlines “five strategic imperatives” for a bioeconomy with the potential to generate new markets and economic growth:

  • Support R&D investments that will provide the foundation for the future bioeconomy.
  • Facilitate the transition of bioinventions from research lab to market, including an increased focus on translational and regulatory sciences.
  • Develop and reform regulations to reduce barriers, increase the speed and predictability of regulatory processes, and reduce costs while protecting human and environmental health.
  • Update training programs and align academic institution incentives with student training for national workforce needs.
  • Identify and support opportunities for the development of public-private partnerships and precompetitive collaborations—where competitors pool resources, knowledge, and expertise to learn from successes and failures.

In conclusion, the Blueprint calls upon Federal agencies to accelerate their support of the bioeconomy sector for the benefit of the country.