2010 – Another Banner Year for Ethanol

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2010 was another record breaking year for American ethanol producers. Average daily ethanol production averaged nearly 863,000 barrels per day ( b/d). That represents 36.24 million gallons of daily production and nearly 13.23 billion gallons of production for calendar year 2010. 2009 ethanol production was 10.75 billion gallons. Imports for 2010 were down from 2009 with 9.7 million gallons in ’10 and 193 million gallons in ’09.

Yet while imports were down, exports of U.S. ethanol reached an all-time high. According to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), using government data, total ethanol exports ended the year at 397 million gallons, marking a nearly four-fold increase over 2009. Of the 2010 total, 270 million gallons (68%) were classified as denatured ethanol, while the remaining 127 million gallons (32%) were undenatured or non-beverage. These exports are not eligible for the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC), also called the blender’s credit. Dried distillers grains (DDGs) were also exported in record numbers in 2010 with 9 million metric tons exported.

“In today’s volatile oil market, ethanol production is helping to reduce costs for consumers at the pump and is the only measure currently moving America away from imported oil,” said RFA President Bob Dinneen. “At nearly 10 percent of the U.S. gasoline market, American ethanol production is supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs while reducing our need to import 445 million barrels of oil to refine into gasoline. That is more oil than we import from Saudi Arabia each year. At a time of increased energy uncertainty and volatility, domestic ethanol production from a growing array of feedstocks is helping create the kind of economic and energy opportunities this country will need to regain control over our future.”

The yearly data was compiled via the final monthly ethanol production report for 2010 released by EIA. According to that data, December 2010 was a bigger than expected month for ethanol production. The industry produced nearly 918,000 b/d, down slightly from 924,000 b/d in November 2010. December daily production on an annualized basis was 14 billion gallons. Demand for ethanol, according to RFA calculations rose to 918,000 b/d, up from 900,000 b/d in November 2010. RFA calculations for 2010 ethanol demand stand at just shy of 860,000 b/d. December stocks for ethanol fell slightly to 17.94 million barrels, or 19.5 days of supply based on demand calculations.

EV Charging Stations Arrive in Kansas City

Electric vehicle (EV) charging stations have arrived in Kansas City, Missouri. Posty Cards has installed the first publicly available ChargePoint networked charging station in the KC metro area. The ChargePoint stations are the creation of Coulomb Technologies and were installed by Posty Cards as they attempt to have their new headquarters become Platinum LEED Certified. In addition to the new ChargePoint station, the building also features the largest solar panel installation in the KC area, solar heated water, high-efficiency variable volume HVAC, natural lighting with active artificial lighting controls, rain water reclamation for irrigation and flushing toilets, and native plant landscaping. The project, led by Turner Construction Company and McHenry Shaffer Mitchell Architects, is expected to be the first LEED Platinum manufacturing facility in the United States.

“The ChargePoint station is a further example of our commitment to sustainability, and we hope this installation will support and raise awareness that electric vehicles will soon be available throughout Missouri,” said Erick Jessee, President of Posty Cards. “Even better, we are encouraging our employees and the public at large to consider owning electric vehicles as a cleaner, more efficient mode of transportation.”

Although a ChargePoint station is open to the public, you must be a ChargePoint member to actually charge your vehicle. Members are able to track electricity consumption, greenhouse gas emission reductions, locate ChargePoint stations throughout the country as well as receive navigational assistance to these locations. In addition, a user can check station availability from any smart phone or web browser among other features.

Coulomb’s CT2100 ChargePoint charging stations have dual outputs that deliver charge simultaneously. Stations supply both a 7.2 kW Level II output delivering 208 – 240 VAC @ 30 Amps via a standard SAE J1772 connector attached by a fixed 18-foot cable, and a 2 kW Level 1 output delivering 120 VAC @ 16 Amps via a standard NEMA 5-20 receptacle protected behind a locking door.

Sen. Thune to Address Ethanol Advocates at DC Fly-in

U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) will be speaking with ethanol advocates in Washington, DC on March 29 during the American Ethanol Coalition’s (ACE) “Biofuels Beltway March.” Thune was recently appointed to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over ethanol tax credit issues.

ACE members from around the country are meeting in DC March 29-30 to visit Members of Congress and their staff to discuss issues such as ethanol tax incentives and market access including the E15 waiver, flexible fuel vehicles and blender pumps. Last year 30 advocates participated in the program and this year ACE hopes more than 60 people will head to DC.

“We are pleased that Senator Thune will be meeting with us as we gather in DC later this month,” said Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of ACE. “I encourage all ethanol supporters to consider making the trip to visit personally with Senator Thune and other Members of Congress in their offices on the Hill. Given two recent votes in the U.S. House of Representatives against ethanol, we need to rally ethanol advocates, and meeting one-on-one is the most effective way to get our important message across.”

Senator Thune will address the group at a reception on Tuesday evening, March 29, after the first day of Hill visits. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Dallas Tonsager, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development have also been invited to speak to the ACE group while in DC.

Industry Responds to EPA’s Triennial Biofuels Report

Yesterday, Growth Energy submitted comments on EPA’s first triennial report to Congress on the environmental impacts of biofuels. The organization’s comments are focused on the technical accuracy and potential implications of the Report and its implications to ethanol. The Report is required by EISA Section 204 and calls for EPA to report to Congress on the environmental and resource conservation impacts of increased biofuel production and use.

Several areas are considered in the Report including air and water quality, soil quality and conservation, water availability, ecosystem health and biodiversity, invasive species, and international impacts. In addition the report reviews impacts and mitigation tools across the biofuel supply chain including feedstock production and logistics as well as biofuel production, distribution and use. Finally, the Report focused on ethanol, both conventional (aka corn-based) and advanced (or cellulosic) as well as biomass-based diesel.

In the letter, Growth Energy wrote, “As an organization of ethanol producers, we have considerable experience in life cycle analysis (LCA) and knowledge of biofuel production, distribution and use. We would appreciate the opportunity to work with EPA, USDA, DOE and other agencies in conducting the LCA for the next triennial report due in 2013. Prior to such an analysis, it is premature to use the conclusions and recommendations from this Report to inform policy or regulatory decisions.” Click here to download Growth Energy’s full comments.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) also responded to the report and RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, “EPA took the ‘Murphy’s Law’ approach to this draft report—they assumed if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.”

Dinneen continued, “RFA is greatly concerned that EPA has misinterpreted and expanded the scope of the triennial report as established by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Specifically, EISA compels EPA to assess only those environmental impacts that are likely to result from the requirements of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Unfortunately, EPA’s draft report seems to raise every conceivable environmental problem that could possibly arise from biofuels expansion, without any regard for the actual likelihood that the problem will occur.” Click here to download RFA’s full comments.

Both organizations have reached out to the EPA to schedule meetings to address their concerns prior to the final report being submitted.

Vilsack to Sign Biofuels Agreement

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will encourage development of bio-based products, including biodiesel and ethanol.

This USDA release says Vilsack will sign the MOU with the 36-state Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, a group dedicated to providing leadership on ethanol and biodiesel policy development:

“This agreement will strengthen public, private and academic partnerships that are essential to bio-based industries,” Vilsack said. “It is important that we work together to encourage the development of more bio-based products. Not only will this reduce our nation’s dependence on imported oil, it also will lead to a cleaner, healthier environment.”

The MOU calls for supporting the federal government’s efforts to reduce fossil fuel-based energy consumption by eliminating obstacles to higher-blend biofuels, develop sustainable feedstocks, and make the public more aware of the benefits of American agriculture.

Enzyme Helps Argentine Soybean Plant’s Oil Production

The world’s largest soybean processing plant, which produces biodiesel, soybean oil and meal, is using an enzyme that is helping increase edible oil production.

This press release from Verenium Corporation
says that Argentina’s Terminal 6 is using Verenium’s Purifine enzymatic degumming process at its Puerto General San Martin facility. Not only does the process increase oil yields, but it also adds benefits in refining the Purifine-degummed oil:

“Terminal 6 is a leading processor of soybeans, and a flagship plant for Bunge Argentina and Aceitera General Deheza,” said Janet Roemer, President and Chief Operating Officer of Verenium. “Verenium is pleased to be able to work with Terminal 6 to enable enhanced operating efficiency through the use of Purifine PLC. This implementation provides further validation of Verenium’s Purifine technology to increase oil yields and improve the efficacy of meal production, and has been enabled by our partnerships with Alfa Laval and Bunge.”

“Implementation of the Purifine PLC enzymatic degumming process has resulted in a significant increase in oil yields and processing margins enabling our facility to more fully reach its potential,” said Enrique Humanes, Chief Executive Officer, Bunge Argentina. “Successful installation of this process shows Bunge Argentina’s continued commitment to leading edge process technologies that provide economic and environmental benefits.”

“The implementation of Verenium’s PLC technology at Terminal 6 combined with Alfa Laval’s process, engineering and equipment supply capabilities, is the second large scale project we have completed together,” said Bent Sarup, General Manager of Alfa Laval’s Vegetable Oil Technology activities. “Completion of the start up of Terminal 6’s new process is further validation of our ongoing partnership with Verenium.”

The Terminal 6 industrial facility is specifically designed to use large-scale process efficiencies that maximizes oil and meal from soybeans at a low cost. Verenium’s enzyme will improve those efficiencies by lowering oil loss.

Global Ethanol Leaders Together

2011 ethanol conferenceIn the great tradition of saving the best for last, the 2011 National Ethanol Conference concluded with a lively panel discussion featuring global ethanol leaders.

Those on the panel were (LtoR) George Fitch, Director of the Caribbean Basic Ethanol Producers Association; Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association; Marcos Jank, president and CEO of Brazil’s UNICA; Robert Vierhout, Secretary General of ePURE, European Renewable Ethanol; and Gordon Quaiattini, president of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association.

2011 ethanol conferenceModerator Bliss Baker with the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance started the session off with a bang by asking Jank his opinion on the United States tariff on imported ethanol. “I’d like to say ‘happy 30th anniversary’ to RFA,” Jank responded, turning his attention to Dinneen on his right. “I was questioning myself, if after 30 years the industry is not now a mature industry, which means if the industry still needs subsidy or not, still needs a tariff or not.”

Noting that the U.S. is now the largest ethanol producer in the world, Jank said to Dinneen, “I hope that in three years you will be a free trader as we are. It’s time to eliminate the tariff, it’s time to compete.”

The Caribbean’s Fitch challenged Jank’s position on the tariff issue and encouraged Brazil to avoid taking action against the U.S. tariff with the WTO. “The tariff is not WTO actionable,” Fitch said. “So what you’re doing is creating trade hostilities that you don’t need to create.” He suggested instead that Brazil continue marketing ethanol to the U.S. through the Caribbean Basin. “I would think that UNICA might want to use this as an initiative on their part,” he said. Brazil now can have their own Caribbean Basin Initiative to help countries not as advanced as they are … as opposed to getting into what could be a very nasty trade fight by going after the tariff.” Continue reading

Overfertilizing Corn Undermines Ethanol

In a new paper published online in American Chemical Society’s Journal Environmental Science and Technology when it comes to growing corn for ethanol and using fertilizer – less may be more. Postdoctoral researcher Morgan Gallagher led the research team as part of her dissertation at Rice and discovered that corn, and its stalks and leaves, responded differently to nitrogen fertilizer.

The team found that liberal use of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize grain yields from corn crops results in only marginally more usable cellulose from leaves and stems to be converted into cellulosic ethanol. They also found that when the corn is used for food and the cellulose is processed for biofuel, increasing the rate of nitrogen actually makes it more difficult to extract the cellulose, or lignin, which is converted to sugars and ultimately ethanol, from the corn stover and stalks. This is the case because surplus nitrogen fertilizer speeds up the biochemical pathway that produces lignin.

Carrie Masiello, an assistant professor of Earth science at Rice and Gallagher’s adviser believes that the findings of this research are an important next step in building a sustainable biofuel economy. While some nitrogen fertilizer is needed for plants to grow and function, she noted that for some crops, a little is enough.

We already know too much fertilizer is bad for the environment. Now we’ve shown that it’s bad for biofuel crop quality too,” Masiello said. While farmers have a clear incentive to maximize grain yields, the research shows a path to even greater benefits when corn residues are harvested for cellulosic ethanol production.”

The research showed that although increasing nitrogen improves the plant’s cellulose content, grain yield quickly hits a plateau. “The kilograms of grain you get per hectare goes up pretty fast and peaks,” Masiello said. At the same time, the researchers found only a modest increase in plant and stem cellulose, the basic component used to produce cellulosic ethanol.

The implicit assumption has always been that the response of plant cellulose to fertilizer is going to be the same as the grain response, but we’ve showed this assumption may not always hold, at least for corn,” Gallagher said.

These are just a few of the findings of the research and the team hopes that their methods can be transferred to other energy crops. Click here to read the full release.

70,000 Directly Involved in U.S. Ethanol Industry

According to an economic analysis from Cardno ENTRIX, unveiled during the 2011 National Ethanol Conference, John Urbanchuk 70,600 Americans are employed directly in the production of ethanol and in industries providing goods and services to ethanol producers. Today, there are ethanol plants either operational or in construction in 29 states, and as a result of the economic activity generated by ethanol production, more than 400,000 Americans have been able to keep their jobs or find new ones.

Also according to the report, ethanol production is contributing to our nation’s financial well-being. In 2010, the report calculated that ethanol production contributed $53.6 billion to the national Gross Domestic Product and added $36 billion to American household incomes. It also discovered that the increased economic activity and income generated by America’s ethanol industry added nearly $12 billion to federal, state and local governments through increased tax revenue.

In another area, the report found that the production of 13 billion gallons of ethanol equated to the importation of 445 million less barrels of oil in 2010 used to refine gasoline. To give you a comparison, this is more oil than America imports from Saudi Arabia annually, and displacing these barrels of oil saved the U.S. $34 billion last year.

“The investments we have made in our domestic ethanol industry are paying dividends in thousands of communities all across the nation,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “The jobs, economic activity, and energy security benefits we are witnessing today thanks to a commitment to renewable alternatives to imported oil are just scratching the surface. Continued innovation in ethanol technologies along with a renewed commitment to giving Americans more control over their energy future will create hundreds of thousands of more jobs and put America back in business as a leader in energy innovation.”

Alltech Holds Algae Conference

Animal health and nutrition leader Alltech recently wrapped up its first conference on algae.

This company press release says the invitation-only conference, entitled “Algae: The Growth Platform,” was the company’s first international conference, drawing 60 attendees from around the world to Lexington, Kentucky:

“This conference is important to the region, to the state, and to the future of science. What science needs is a ‘game changer’ and algae are going to be that ‘game changer’,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech.

Conference presentations from several of Alltech’s leading researchers were focused on the characteristics and potential uses of algae. There are roughly 800,000 species of algae, which vary greatly in form, function and chemical composition.

Algae can be used in animal feed, food supplements, pharmaceuticals, bioremediation and biofuels. Several of these industries were represented among the international audience and lively group discussions were inspired by the specific challenges and opportunities for algae production in agriculture, environmental and renewable energy applications.

Another part of the conference included Alltech cutting the ribbon on its new algae facility in Winchester, Kentucky, a facility with more than $200 million worth of equipment that will help the company research and perfect commercial operations.