IRFA Launches 2012 Election Campaign Webpage

Joanna Schroeder

With the presidential elections only a few weeks away, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has unveiled a new web page that highlights the stances of President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney regarding their positions on renewable fuels. As the campaign progresses, additional information will be added.

“Iowa is the nation’s leading producer of both ethanol and biodiesel, so it’s not surprising that more than 10,000 Iowa families are directly employed by or invested in the renewable fuels industry,” said IRFA President Brad Albin. “Those 10,000 families, along with tens of thousands more involved in agriculture, will play a crucial role in the upcoming presidential election. IRFA will ensure voters have complete, accurate information about each candidate’s plan for renewable fuels before they vote.”

The 2012 Presidential Election web page features several comments from each candidate on renewable fuels and energy policy, as well as links to videos where you can watch each candidate discuss ethanol and biodiesel.

An example of what you can find on the webpage: In a speech before Congress made a decision on whether to do away with the countless subsidies Big Oil receives, President Obama stated: “Instead of tax payer giveaways to an industry that has never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double down on investments in clean energy technologies that have never been more promising. Investments in wind power, solar power and biofuels.”

Biodiesel, biofuels, Ethanol, Iowa RFA

EU Ethanol Dumping Allegations Dropped

Joanna Schroeder

Reuters is reporting that the European Union is no longer investigating allegations that the United States illegally subsidized and dumped ethanol on the European Market. The European Commission, which is the executive body of the European Union, conducted an 11-month investigation. During that time, the Commission says it found no evidence that such action had been taken by the U.S.

In a document on the anti-subsidy proceedings that Reuters is said to have seen, the charges were dropped because the U.S. had stopped the main subsidy scheme and the Commission felt that retaliatory measures were unnecessary. The Commission also is to have said in the document that “No more measures shall be imposed if the subsidy or subsidies have been withdrawn or it has been demonstrated that the subsidies no longer confer any benefit on the exporters concerned.”

However, a Reuters source said that if the U.S. reintroduces the ethanol blender’s tax credit over the next six months, then the investigation would be re-opened. If not, then the case is closed. The ethanol excise tax credit or 45 cents per gallon expired at the end of 2011.

biofuels, Ethanol, International

Celebrating National Co-op Month

Cindy Zimmerman

Each October, cooperatives across the United States celebrate the contributions of cooperatives to their communities during National Co-op Month and this year continues the celebration of 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives with the slogan “Cooperative enterprises build a better world.”

As one of the nation’s largest cooperatives, GROWMARK has been celebrating all year long, so we talked with president and chairman of the board Dan Kelley about why co-ops are so important for agriculture, both nationally and globally. Kelley says he was surprised to learn this year that nearly a billion people around the world are members of some type of cooperative. In addition to celebrating a year and a month dedicated to cooperatives, Dan says GROWMARK has been celebrating 85 years of existence as a cooperative.

The largest division of GROWMARK is the energy division which offers a complete line of refined and renewable fuels, lubricants, additives and propane to residential, commercial and industrial consumers in northwestern Iowa and beyond.

GROWMARK‘s core cooperative membership is in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa, but in recent years have expanded into other states including Colorado, Pennsylvania and Maryland and a solid membership in Canada as well.

Listen to an interview with Dan Kelley here: GROWMARK President Dan Kelley

Audio, Energy, GROWMARK

ContourGlobal to Build Largest Wind Farm in Peru

Joanna Schroeder

Countour Global Latam S.A. will be constructing two wind farms in Peru that the company acquired from Energia Eolica S.A. (“EESA”). The wind farms, Cupisnique and Talara, were under development by EESA and when complete, will have an installed capacity of 114 megawatts and be the first large scale wind farms built and operational in the Peru. They will also be the largest wind farms in operation in South America outside of Brazil.

Cupisnique is located in the province of Capasmayo in La Libertad region about 1,095 km from Lima, the nation’s capital. The Cupisnique wind farm will use 45 x 1.8 MW Vestas V-100 wind turbine generators. Talara is located in the province of Talara in the Piura region about 670 km from Lima. The Talara wind farm will use 17 x 1.8 MW Vestas V-100 wind turbine generators.  Both wind farms will also construct a new substation and transmission line to connect with the Peruvian national grid.

“We are very excited to be the first power company to enter the wind generation market in Peru,” said Joseph C. Brandt, ContourGlobal’s president and chief executive officer. “Cupisnique and Talara bring us into the dynamic and fast growing Peruvian economy whose continued impressive growth requires an increasing supply of reliable and low cost electricity. These two projects tap into Peru’s vast renewable resource potential and complement our regional generation and renewable footprint in Brazil and Colombia.”

Vestas Corporation has been contracted to provide engineering, procurement and construction of the wind farm. When completed, the electricity generated will be sold under Peru’s RER program.

Electricity, Energy, Wind

Queen Creek Solar Farm Has Successful Start-Up

Joanna Schroeder

The 25.2 megawatt Queen Creek Solar Farm in Queen Creek, Arizona is now operating. Owned by PSEG Solar Source, the Salt River Project (SRP) has a 20-year agreement to purchase all of the solar energy produced by the project. The solar farm is located on 148 acres of land about 30 miles southeast of Phoenix. The solar system is comprised of nearly 90,000 crystalline panels and operates on a single axis tracking system.

“We are pleased to be providing clean, solar energy to Salt River Project,” said Diana Drysdale, president, PSEG Solar Source. “Arizona has the attributes we look for when choosing a project – good sun, a receptive regulatory environment and supportive local officials.  It is exciting to be adding Arizona to the list of states where we have operational solar facilities even while we are beginning construction on an additional site in Delaware.”

The plant is estimated to produce enough energy to serve about 3,300 SRP customers’ homes. The solar system requires no water, and is expected to reduce 21,000 metric tons CO2 emissions each year or the equivalent of taking approximately 4,100 cars off the road.

SRP General Manager Mark Bonsall added, “As we look for ways to diversify our portfolio, it’s also important that we continue to invest in the state and the local economy. Queen Creek Solar not only provides our customers with clean energy, but it’s also a resource that is located right here in Arizona.”

Electricity, Energy, Solar

Pacific Ethanol Raises $11M in IPO

Joanna Schroeder

Despite concerns over the drought in the U.S. that is effecting the corn harvest, Pacific Ethanol, whose primary feedstock is corn, raised $11 million in its public offering of common stock. The goal was achieved in less than a week. The company had also raised money two months before in an effort to raise funds to regain majority ownership in its ethanol plants that was lost when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

The stock was priced at 40 cents per unit on Sept. 21. On Sept. 26 Pacific Ethanol said that it had closed on its public offering of 27.5 million units for gross offering proceeds of $11 million. The company intended to use the money to repay its $10 million in senior unsecured notes that are due in April of 2013 and this has been accomplished.

Neil Koehler, the company’s president and CEO, said, “The equity we raised on September 26th allowed us to repay the $10.0 million debt in advance of its maturity date, significantly reducing the company’s short-term debt obligations and related interest payments. This and the recent increase in our ownership position in the plants are important milestones marking progress in our plans to improve the profitability of our business.”

Pacific Ethanol now owns a 67 percent interest, or the majority share in New PE Holdco LLC, which owns the company’s plants operating in Boardman, Oregon, Burley, Idaho, Stockton, California, and the idled biorefinery in Madera, California.


Global Biofuels Market Forecast to Grow

Joanna Schroeder

According to a new Global Biofuels Market Report, the global biofuels market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 7.7 percent between 2011-2015. A key factor is the expected increase in government funding and subsidies. The report looks at growth in the Americas, the EMEA And APAC regions and includes discussions about key companies operating in the market such as POET, Valero Energy Corp, Archer Daniel Midland Co., BioFuel Energy Corp., and more.

The report aims to answer several key questions that would affect biofuels growth both on a global scale as well as within regions and within countries. For example, the report forecasts market size in 2015 and the rate of growth; identifies key market trends; discusses market drivers and challenges; highlights key companies operating in the biofuels sector including analyses of opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses of each company.

biofuels, Research

Study Looks at Converting Biomass & Electricity to Fuel

Joanna Schroeder

In a collaborative effort between University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, a continuous process for converting biomass and electricity into renewable liquid transportation fuels has been developed. The researchers used a proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell to convert the model biomass compound acetone into isopropanol. This chemical compound can be used in a myriad of pharmaceutical and industrial applications and can also be used as a gasoline additive.

The project, led by George Huber, a UW-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering, and other members of his research team, say the advance paves the way for researchers to convert biomass molecules such as glucose into hexanes, which are significant components of gasoline currently derived by refining crude oil.

“Essentially, we are making renewable liquid fuel that fits into the existing infrastructure,” said Huber, whose team published its results in the Sept. 7, 2012, issue of the journal ChemSusChem. Unlike other technologies that use large quantities of expensive hydrogen gas to convert biomass to biofuels, the team’s process is driven by electricity, which is inexpensive and readily available in rural areas. And, we’re storing the electrical energy as chemical energy.”

A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electrical energy, or vice versa. Reactions in a proton-exchange-membrane fuel cell, which consists of two “halves,”  require only water, electricity and the biomass-derived molecule. The chemical reaction is facilitated by a positive electrode coupled with a catalyst. The other side-the cathode-consists of a negative electrode and a catalyst.

The next step involves reducing biomass molecules into fuel. Read More

advance biofuels, biomass, Electricity, Research

VIASPACE Signs Giant King Grass Supply Contract

Joanna Schroeder

Tibbar Energy is in the process of developing a 6 megawatt renewable biomass energy project in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the island of St. Croix. The 20 year project will include VIASPACE’s renewable energy crop called Giant King Grass as the primary feedstock to generate biogas. The energy project is slated to be underway in 2013 and in production by the first quarter of 2014.

“We see the U.S. Virgin Islands as the ideal location for this type of renewable energy project with its tropical climate for agriculture, and the strong need for economically viable energy,” said Tania Tomyn, President and CEO of Tibbar Energy. “Electricity on St. Croix, currently generated from diesel and heavy fuel oil, is very expensive and produces substantial carbon dioxide emissions. The Tibbar biogas system uses continuously renewable Giant King Grass, and produces electricity at a much lower cost than fuel oil with negligible carbon dioxide emissions.”

Tibbar has entered into an exclusive partnership with VIASPACE to grow Giant King Grass on St. Croix on a 1,500 acre plantation to supply renewable biomass to the biogas power plant. Tomyn says Giant King Grass is an ideal feedstock because it is not used for food, and has a high crop and biogas yield.

biogas, Electricity

FAPRI Study Weighs Impact of RFS Waiver

Joanna Schroeder

A new report has been issued by FAPRI-MU regarding the impacts of various RFS waiver options to inform decision makers who will determine if and how a wavier should be issued to adjust biofuel mandates for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). The request came from various sources in response to the 2012 drought that still continues.

“Renewable Fuel Standard Waiver Options during the Drought of 2012,” outlays several conclusions:

  • Reducing the overall RFS has a small negative effect on the corn price during the current marketing year because overall ethanol use would be almost as much even if there were no mandate.
  • The waiver might have larger impacts on markets for crops harvested a year from now. A key question is if biofuel use during the waived years can count against future mandates, as is normally permitted within certain limits. If so, then it will be less difficult to meet the larger and more challenging mandates in the future.
  • Biofuel use mandates interact with each other and with markets, leading to potentially offsetting impacts. For example, if the advanced mandate is waived, then ethanol imports and exports are affected more than total domestic use.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President Bob Dinneen responded to the study. “The new FAPRI study is just the latest in a series of recent reports that show waiving the RFS would not have the types of impacts claimed by the livestock groups and grocery manufacturers. The suggestion that an RFS waiver would significantly bring down feed prices and reduce retail meat prices is absolutely absurd. The only real impacts of a waiver would be to discourage farmers from planting corn next spring and to interrupt and delay important investments in new feedstocks and advanced biofuels technologies.”

The research showed that a waiver might be expected to reduce corn use for ethanol by just 1.3 percent in 2012/2013 and reduce corn prices from $7.87 per bushel to $7.83 per bushel. Estimates for the the 2013/2014 market year show that corn use for ethanol might fall 6.6 percent and corn prices might decrease 3.2 percent. In addition, the report found that a waiver of the RFS would not meaningfully increase the amount of corn available for feed use in 2012/2013. Rather there would only be 25 million more bushels of corn being fed to livestock, a 0.6 percent increase over the case where there is no waiver.

FAPRI researchers noted that there are important uncertainties in their analysis. For example, there is a mismatch of marketing year corn data and calendar year biofuel mandates, which could be a source of error. Another is the nature of ethanol demand, particularly how quickly markets could shift back to fuels without any ethanol. A third uncertainty is about current market conditions. The markets for mandate compliance certificates reveal how difficult it is to meet mandates at present and in the near future, but they are newly created by the mandates and are not well understood at this point.

biofuels, Ethanol, Research, RFA, RFS