Biofuels Groups Support RFS in Federal Lawsuit

Ethanol and advanced biofuels groups are mobilizing to fight a court challenge by the petroleum industry over the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Six biofuel trade associations have filed a motion in the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to intervene in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) 2012 final rule being challenged by the American Petroleum Institute (API). The filing was made on Friday, April 6.

Specifically, the groups are standing with EPA in its implementation of the requirements under the RFS, including the cellulosic biofuels volumes. The trade associations seeking intervenor status are the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA), the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC), the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Growth Energy, and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

In their joint filing, the groups noted that their “members have investments in equipment, research and development, to supply the necessary renewable fuel.” API’s challenge would reduce the standards set by Congress and EPA and deprive members of the benefit of the investments made in reliance on Congress’ policy choices.
The case is D.C. Circuit case no. 12-1139, American Petroleum Institute v. United States Environmental Protection Agency.

679 Renewable Energy Initiatives Supported in 2010

There were 679 renewable energy initiatives supported by 23 federal agencies and their 130 subagencies in fiscal year 2010. This according to a study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on renewable energy. The leading agencies in renewable energy support included the Department of Defense (DOD), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Combined, 60 percent of the projects were supported by these four departments.

Of all the alternative energy sources reviewed, the majority of the supported projects were in bioenergy, solar and wind. There was a mix between projects awarded to public and private sector companies, with private companies winning the majority of awards. In addition, the study found that many projects contained the development of technology that used multiple sources of energy.

Two thousand and ten proved to be some of the highest amount of funds invested in renewable energy, in part due to the allocations of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, with those funds spent and not anticipated to be renewed, the study concluded that future levels of funds for renewable energy projects was uncertain.

For the most part, awards were given to projects in four categories: supporting research and development; using renewable energy in vehicle fleets and facilities; providing incentive for commercialization and deployment; and regulation, permitting and ensuring compliance. The study found that within these four key roles, different agencies took the lead in development.  Research and development was led by DOE, DOD and USDA; fleets and facilities was led by DOD and the General Services Administration; commercialization and deployment was led by Treasury and USDA; and regulation, permititng and compliance was led by Interior and EPA.

While the report was robust, there is no corresponding list of the projects cited nor any recommendations. You can view the entire report here.

Algae.Tec’s Biofuels Projects Full Speed Ahead

Algae.Tec has announced that its two biofuels projects are full speed ahead. The company, founded in 2007 has offices in Atlanta, Georgia and Perth, Western Australia, and its company is focused on developing algae to biofuels technology using an enclosed algae growth and harvesting system. One project is underway in Australia- Shoalhaven One- and one in Sri Lanka.

Shoalhaven One is making good progress despite major rain and flooding. The cement platform structure along with the associated plumbing is complete. The next step is to install the containerized bioreactor technology. The company’s technical director, Earl McConchie, is arriving in Australia this week to oversee the final phase of the project.

A different use of the algae technology is underway at the Holcim cement plant in Sri Lanka. Bioreactors, currently being fitted at the Algae Development & Manufacturing Centre in Atlanta, GA will head to Sri Lanka in May whereupon installation will begin. This site will use the algae to capture carbon created during the production of cement and then produce advanced biofuels.

“In Nowra, the Algae.Tec facility will take a carbon feed from the Manildra Group operations, and in Sri Lanka the facility will take a feed from the subsidiary of industrial giant Holcim, the world’s largest cement and building materials company,” explained Roger Stroud, Executive Chariman for Algae.Tec.

Stroud said that the company is focused on producing global-scale biojet fuel from algae. Algae.Tec has biofuels MOUs with the European airline Lufthansa, and a 50/50 equity joint venture with Chinese company the Kerui Group for roll-out in China.

Sweetwater Energy & BioGasol Partner for Bioproducts

Rochester, New York based Sweetwater Energy and BioGasol ApS, a Danish biotechnology company, have entered into a strategic partnership to improve sugar extraction from biomass. Sweetwater is a cellulosic sugar manufacturer and will use BioGasol’s pretreatment technology, Carbofrac, as part of an overall technological solution to increase the amount of sugar extracted from plant-based feedstocks.

“We’re very excited about this partnership,” said Arunas Chesonis, Chair and CEO of Sweetwater Energy. “The combination of BioGasol’s pretreatment technology merges so well with the advances we’ve made in hydrolysis and inhibitor reduction that the relationship almost seemed inevitable.”

Sweetwater produces low-cost sugars and then sells these sugars to refineries. The refineries then use the sugars to produce biofuels, biochemicals and bioplastics. Dr. Sarad Parekh, along with his team, developed a way to dramatically increase the efficiency of the extraction and fermentability of extracted sugars from a variety of biomass. Ultimately, this technology is able to produce cost-effective sugars that bioenergy companies can then profitably convert to next generation bioproducts.

Anders Weber, CEO of BioGasol added, “Our two companies have remarkably similar philosophies in that we both believe smaller, decentralized pretreatment and hydrolysis facilities are the key at this stage to making cellulosic biofuels and biochemicals work. Sweetwater has the business model and technology that fits perfectly with BioGasol’s high yield and flexible pretreatment equipment. We couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this partnership.”

Enrollment for Operators’ School Opens

Lallemand Ethanol Technology has opened its enrollment for its annual Operators’ School, a three-day program for ethanol lab, plant and management personnel to learn all about alcohol production.  The classes will be held May 22-24, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska at the Scott Conference Center. In addition to learning the basic about ethanol production, students will also hear about the latest troubleshooting techniques and technologies used in the industry.

Topics that will be covered include raw materials, to distillation, to co-products. There will be hands-on demonstrations and all classes will be taught by industry scientists and academics who will be joined by Ethanol Technology Institute experts.

You can learn more about The Operators’ School here or register by clicking here.

Current Biodiesel Market Will Hurt Oil Companies

According to Wayne Lee, CEO of Lee Enterprises Alternative Fuels Consulting, the current biodiesel market will hurt oil companies. The company, under its RIN 9000 program, is now providing free information about biodiesel companies to the oil industry. This initiative was launched to provide RIN obligated parties to help address what Lee says is “RIN purchase hesitation,” an emerging trend in the biodiesel industry.

“RFS2 mandates that these refiners and importers purchase renewable identification numbers to show compliance with RFS2,” Lee explains. “Last year the EPA uncovered two isolated instances of people apparently producing RINS without producing any biodiesel. But when the EPA started invalidating some of these RINs, it caused quite a problem for oil companies who then were understandably hesitant to purchase RINs.”

Legally speaking, obligated parties must buy RINs but RINs can only be created when biodiesel is produced. So, says Lee, if biodiesel producers can’t sell their RINs (aka can’t sell their biodiesel) and quit producing biodiesel, it will likely cause a significant price increase for those that do exist.

To address this problem, Alternative Fuels Consulting began administering a RIN procedure verification program for producers and obligated parties. The service includes onsite plant inspectons, third party verification of plant procedures, independent biodiesel testing, and education. From there, a list is compiled of producers who have completed their review and then provided to obligated parties for free.

Obligated parties can sign up to receive the report at the company’s website.

SunPower Open House in Duluth, Minn. Friday, April 13

Wisconsin-based SunPower Biodiesel is hosting a “Lowest Diesel Price in the Midwest,” open house for the public on Fri. April 13, 2012, from noon to 2 p.m., at 2721 Midway Road in Duluth, Minn.

The station, which opened last September, offers premium cold flow biodiesel, and is known for being the sole retailer of higher blends of biodiesel in northern Minnesota.

Now that warmer temperatures are arriving, SunPower brings its summer Profit-Booster B Blend, B99, back to the pump. With its increased cetane, greater lubricity, and better mileage potentials, Profit-Booster B99 works like a high-quality diesel fuel additive, without the added price.

The “Lowest Price in the Midwest” Open House celebration will include a live radio remote and raffle drawings every half-hour. In addition to other give-a-ways, SunPower will also offer food, drink and an opportunity to learn more about the benefits of biodiesel at their informational booth, with knowledgeable staff onsite to answer questions.

“We want to get people’s attention with our price,” says Jaime Helgeson, sales associate for SunPower Biodiesel.”We know that once a consumer tries our product, he will notice better performance and won’t want to switch back to petroleum-based diesel.”

Groups Encourage Support of Energy Title Programs

More than 100 organizations that represent a broad range of renewable energy, farm, ranch, commodity, environmental and other groups have joined together to ask leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to reauthorize and fund energy title programs from the farm bill that revitalize rural America and improve national security and the environment.

According to the letter, the Rural Energy for America Program, Biomass Crop Assistance Program, Biorefinery Assistance Program and Biobased Markets Program strongly support American agriculture and ensure broad public benefits to the entire country – including creating or saving thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

The letter urges Congress to provide significant mandatory funding for these vital programs so that farmers, ranchers, and rural small businesses will have the benefit of dependable and predictable financial support throughout the life of the next Farm Bill.
The signatories to the letter, many working through the Ag Energy Coalition (AgEC), will continue their outreach to Agriculture Committee leaders to ensure these programs are fully reauthorized, effectively streamlined where needed, and receive strong funding as the Farm Bill is debated and reauthorized.

Senators Harkin, Conrad, Klobuchar and Franken recently introduced energy title legislation providing over $1.2 billion in funding over the next five years for these critical programs. The AgEC strongly supports their efforts.

Read the letter in its entirety.

Two Blender Pump Grand Openings Next Week in Neb.

Two new blender pumps have been added in Nebraska at Aurora Cooperative’s Aurora West A-Stop 24 and in Broken Bow at Trotter Whoa and Go. Grand openings for both will be held next week.

The grand opening of the Broken Bow pump will be held Mon., April 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Aurora grand opening will be on Wed., April 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special promotions will be held in both locations at the events.

The new blender pumps are among approximately 60 in Nebraska to offer a variety of renewable ethanol fuel blends including E10, E30, and E85. To find a list of retailers that offer E85 and other mid-level ethanol blends, visit the Nebraska Ethanol Board website or check the Nebraska Corn Board website.

“Gas prices keep increasing. With ethanol being about a $1.00 per gallon cheaper than gasoline, flex fuel vehicle owners can save even more when fueling up with E85 and other mid-level ethanol blends at blender pumps,” said Kim Clark, Ag Program Manager with the Nebraska Corn Board.

“Consumer choice and ethanol fuel availability are a high priority with today’s gas prices,” said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board’s Administrator. “When flex fuel drivers fill up on E85, they’re strengthening Nebraska’s economy, making our country more energy independent and going easier on the environment,” Sneller said.

Sign up for the Nebraska Ethanol Board’s FFV club for updates of new E85 locations and other announcements.

The Mohave Desert Soon to Produce Golden Power

Google has gone far beyond “web searches” and delved into projects that would save “Google” earth. The company has invested in several high profile projects, one being the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). Once completed, this project is being hailed as the largest solar project in the world and will use the lastest solar technologies to capitalize on converting the hot sun of California’s Mohave Desert into golden power.

Ivanpah is located on 3,600 acres of land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Once complete, it will produce 392 megawatts of power each year. The project is a joint effort between BrightSource Energy, who is developing the solar thermal power facility, Google and NRG Solar. In addition to the monies invested by the partners, the project has also received a U.S. Department of Energy Loan guarantee.

Here are some of the highlights of the project:

  • A 392 megawatt (gross) solar complex using mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers.
  • The complex is comprised of three separate plants to be built in phases between 2010 and 2013, and will use BrightSource Energy’s LPT solar thermal technology.
  • The electricity generated by all three plants is enough to serve more than 140,000 homes in California during the peak hours of the day.
  • The project will provide power to Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

This project is experiencing large amounts of attention for two reasons. Continue reading