DOE Biomass Conference This Week

Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will keynote the Department of Energy 4th annual Biomass Conference on Tuesday.

This year’s conference, Biomass 2011, will focus on topics surrounding the use of biomass as a replacement for petroleum to supply the energy, products, and power markets. The Biomass 2011 theme will explore the new horizons of bioenergy technologies and deployment strategies, business practices, policies, and partnerships that will help sustainably transform the energy landscape.

Among those on the conference agenda is POET’s Project LIBERTY Director Jim Sturdevant who will outline the company’s vision for expanding the reach of its technology to other ethanol producers and new feedstocks. He will also show how the industry will spread to make every state an energy-producing state and what that will mean for America’s economy. Sturdevant will join Richard Wynne, Director of Environment and Aviation Policy for Boeing Company; Henry Bryndza, Director of Biochemical Science and Engineering for DuPont and Mark Maher, General Motors Executive Director for Powertrain and Vehicle Integration in a plenary session “Industry Perspectives on Bioenergy” on Wednesday morning.

Elsevier Biofuel Launched to Guide Innovation

A new tool is now available for biofuel managers and research development professionals to help solve innovation challenges. Elsevier Biofuels is an unique online search and discovery tool that gives companies access to the highest level of scientific, industrial and commercial information that can be utilized by companies to assist them in solving problems or make key decisions.

“BioEnergy RD&D (Research, Development and Demonstration) is a complex interdisciplinary challenge,” said Marcus Gay, biofuels information consultant, Elsevier Biofuels. “As a former BioEnergy R&D manager I am acutely aware of the technical, economic and commercial challenges faced by professionals in the industry. Elsevier’s Biofuel Information Discovery Tool pulls together scientific and commercial information enabling researchers to have this critical binocular vision during every stage of the development process.”

Using keywords, users can drill down to needed data and information. They can also tap into the Elsevier Biofuel Tree Thesaurus where more than 900 journals, 800 books, and 5.8 million patent documents are available. The platform also allows users to compare high-quality data specific to the biofuels industry including: solve problems with existing scientific knowledge; research new, promising advanced technologies; compare applicable approved pathways and methodologies; and minimize waste in resources.

“Having tested the beta version of Elsevier Biofuels discovery tool thoroughly, it became immediately apparent how limiting the information returned from internet only search is, by comparison,” said Dr. Skye Thomas-Hall, Senior Scientist, Cellana LLC. “The combination of high quality journal, book and patent information in one location, is a huge advantage that increased my efficiency by at least 15-20%.”

Some Skepticism About USDA Acreage Predictions

The majority of you who responded to our latest ZimmPoll think USDA’s acreage predictions are way off. We asked the question, “How accurate do you believe the USDA acreage predictions are?” 55% said Way Off while 41% said Close and 4% said Spot On. So there you have it. Take ’em with a grain of salt. Hey, they’re a prediction after all. Does anyone know what the future looks like?

Our new ZimmPoll is now live. We’re asking the question, “Are you worried about how government regulations will hurt your business?” This is a big topic in Washington, DC right now and applies to all businesses. Please chime in and let the world know what you think. Thanks.

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

Buses in São Paulo to Use Sugarcane Diesel

Sugarcane is not just for ethanol. Amryis Brasil S.A., the Brazilian arm of Amyris, has announced that it will be supplying 160 city buses in São Paulo with its Diesel de Cana, or renewable diesel produced from sugarcane. Beginning this August and expiring at the end of 2012, buses operated by the Viação Santa Brígida will run on a blend of 10 percent Diesel de Cana, with the remaining fuel blend comprised of biodiesel and petroleum diesel supplied by Petrobrás Distribuidora.

“Following the successful launch of our first industrial scale production facility and the positive results of the fleet testing in Brazil, we are thrilled to be a commercial supplier of renewable fuel for buses in Brazil’s largest city. Over the next year, as we expand our fuel supply agreements with bus fleets in São Paulo, we expect to achieve $10-12 million in annual diesel sales,” said John Melo, CEO of Amyris.

São Paulo currently has more than 15,000 buses that burn nearly 450 million liters of diesel per year. The move to Diesel de Cana signals the city’s commitment to reducing its fossil fuel use by 10 percent each year through 2018.

Melo continued, “Brazil’s growing demand for low-sulfur diesel creates a significant opportunity to highlight the superior performance and benefits of our renewable diesel while allowing the country to reduce diesel fuel imports, which comprised nearly 20 percent of Brazil’s diesel needs in 2010.”

The fuel has been tested by SPTrans, Mercedes-Benz, Petrobrás Distribuidora, and Viação Santa Brígida and the results show that when a 10 percent blend of Diesel de Cana is added to a B5 S50 blend, the fuel can lower smoke up to an additional 40 percent. Commercial vehicle manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz have issued warranties for the B10 Diesel de Cana blend.

Algae Meal Performs as Dairy Cattle Feed

With the demand for meat rising in countries like China and India, there is a shortage of protein in the marketplace. Therefore, one of the hopeful co-products of algal biofuels is algae meal. PetroAlgae has announced that after completion of a third-party feed trial, its micro-crop meal performs as well as alfalfa in dairy cattle diets. The global market for dairy feed from alfalfa alone is estimated at 400 million metric tons by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The study encompassed a continuous 6-week feeding trial of a statistically significant sample of 36 dairy cows living in barns housed at the University of Minnesota. It measured the algae meal against a 17.5 percent protein alfalfa diet and measured nutrient intake, milk yield and composition. With the positive results, PetroAlgae anticipates its micro-crop meal will be highly competitive in the feed market.

The University of Minnesota study is the first to validate PetroAlgae micro-crop meal in the dairy diet against the industry standard. Several key findings included algae meal having higher dairy efficiency values, higher energy values than alfalfa, and algae meal matched the alfalfa diet in milk, milk yield, body score, and body weight.

“The results of this study show that PetroAlgae micro-crop meal is a desirable ingredient for high producing dairy cattle and that it performed comparably to high-protein alfalfa meal,” said Dr. Noah Litherland, who performed the study at the University of Minnesota. “We are encouraged to see this product perform so well against one of the more universally understood products in dairy nutrition.”

Litherland added, “There is also an intriguing opportunity to alter the lipid composition of the meat and milk for added human health benefit.”

Clean Energy Policies Could Boost Midwest Economies

According to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), clean energy policies would boost Midwestern economies. Last week, the Brookings Institution released a study that found the private-sector “green” economy in the Midwest already employs nearly 40,000 people. However, “A Bright Future for the Heartland: Powering the Midwest Economy with Clean Energy,” estimates that this number is already higher and will continue to grow.

In particular, the report found that the Midwest has great potential to produce electricity from renewable resources including wind, biomass and solar. Iowa is already the leading state for wind and biofuels and other Midwestern states like Minnesota are following close behind. The UCS report says that renewable energy has the ability to cut home and business energy bills, drive billions of dollars in new business investment and create thousands of jobs. All of this can happen, says the report, while reducing the use of energy created by coal.

“Adopting stronger clean energy standards can help transform the region’s economy,” said Steven Frenkel, director of UCS’s Midwest office. “Generating more renewable energy will put people back to work manufacturing the components needed to power the clean energy economy, such as wind turbines and solar panels. At the same time, reducing energy use can help keep Midwest businesses competitive by cutting their energy costs.”

The study analyzes the possible impact of a clean energy strategy that would help the economy. The duo approach includes policy combined with the adoption of energy efficient technologies. More specifically, the “proposed” policy would require 30 percent of each state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 coupled with the goal of a 2 percent reduction in annual power consumption by 2015 with an additional 2 percent reduction each following year. The study also found that while individual state policies can have an impact, the greatest achievement would happen if all states acted together.

Claudio Martinez, UCS energy analyst and report author added, “Few places in the world have the combination of a great renewable energy potential, a strong manufacturing base and the skilled workforce needed to realize that potential. And the Midwest is one of those places.”

San Juan Water District Goes Solar

San Juan Water District (SJWD) is now powered by solar energy. The solar panels will now supply up to 90 percent of the electricity consumed by the water treatment plant, administration buildings and booster pump station. The district estimates that the solar panels will save them $12 million in energy costs over the 25-year life of the system. SunPower designed and built the solar power system on nearly 4 acres of District-owned land and the panels were mounted on the SunPower to Tracker system which rotates the panels to follow the sun during the day.

“San Juan always looks for programs that benefit our customers,” said Ted Costa, San Juan Water District board president. “This project will allow the district to minimize the long-term impacts on ratepayers from rising energy costs. When we have the opportunity to help the environment and improve our bottom line, that’s a win/win.”

To help offset the costs of the solar panels, the district received a California Solar Initiative rebate from PG&E that will cover almost 40 percent of the construction costs. SunPower says the balance will be recovered through energy costs saving over the next nine years. In addition, using EPA figures, they almost estimate the CO2 reductions will be similar to removing 3,525 cars off of California roads over the next 25 years.

“With SunPower systems operating at more than 20 water agencies, representing approximately 20 megawatts in total, our experience and ability to deliver guaranteed performance sets us apart,” said Jim Pape, president of SunPower’s residential and commercial business group. “We applaud SJWD’s decision to convert a small piece of underutilized land into an asset that generates clean, reliable solar power and significant savings. Solar power makes good sense today for public agencies and our environment.”

Beer Brewed With Wind Power

Yards Brewing Co. is now brewing its beer with wind power. The company is one of Pennsylvania’s largest breweries and to fulfill its mission of “going green” the company is participating in Washington Gas Energy Services’ (WGES) 100% CleanSteps WindPower to Yards program. One reason the company chose wind power to provide renewable energy is because they said it produces no air or water pollution.

“Our green power purchase just makes sense – it fulfills our business philosophy and falls in line with our community efforts to be more environmentally sustainable,” said Yards Owner and Founder Tom Kehoe. The company hopes other Philadelphia businesses will follow suit and also switch to clean power.

For companies who participate in the WGES program, there is no installation of new equipment or wiring needed. Instead, CleanSteps (SM) WindPower customers receive one monthly bill from the local electric utility with WGES charges reflected as a separate line item. In addition, the local utility company continues to deliver electricity (aka wind energy) read meters and respond to any issues such as power outages.

Harry Warren, president of WGES added, “WGES is very excited to be able to help Yards Brewing Co. meet its environmental goal of reducing its carbon footprint. Yards Brewing Co.’s purchase of 100% WGES CleanSteps (SM) WindPower is equivalent to burning approximately 52,000 fewer gallons of gasoline or taking 91 cars off the road for one year.”

Brazil Reduces Ethanol Fuel Requirements

There has been speculation for several months that Brazil might reduce its country-wide ethanol fuel requirement. This has now become official. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has announced that in an effort to subdue inflation, the ethanol mandate will be reduced from the current blend level of 25 percent to either 18 percent or 20 percent and the final decision on the blend level will be made before the end of the month. Implementation would occur in August. The action is a direct result of rising prices for sugar that have been caused by back-to-back lower than expected sugarcane harvests.

The Vancouver Sun published a quote from an anonymous source saying, “The effect of ethanol prices has been very negative for inflation and inflation expectations … and the President has decided to act.”

Fuel accounts for 2.5 percent of the weighting within the main IPCA price index and experts predict the reduction could ease inflationary pressure.

The sugarcane harvest is currently underway and it is not yet known what the final harvest numbers will be. Should they come in higher than expected, sugar mills may produce more sugar versus ethanol, or some may decide to produce the ethanol and export it to other markets including the U.S. Energy ministry officials are expected to meet tomorrow to discuss the potential consequences of reducing the ethanol blend.

Lufthansa to Begin Commerical BioJet Fuel Flights

On Friday, July 15th, Lufthansa flew using a biofuel blend produced by Neste Oil. The NExBTL renewable aviation fuel was such a resounding success that now Airbus A321 Lufthansa-operated flights flying between Hamburg and Frankfurt will use this fuel, in both directions four times a day. One engine will run on a 50-50 NExBTL/fossil fuel blend while the other engine will be powered with fossil fuels only. This announcement makes Lufthansa the first airline in the world to incorporate biojet fuel into its operations for commercial flights.

“We are naturally very proud to be global pioneers with Neste Oil in using renewable fuel on regularly scheduled flights,” said Christoph Franz, the Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of the Lufthansa Group.

These commercial biofuel flights are now able to take place because just last month ASTM International approved the use of renewable aviation fuel.

“Lufthansa has been our customer for a long time, and we are now very pleased to be leading together the adoption of renewable fuels in aviation,” added Neste Oil’s President & CEO, Matti Lievonen. “Neste Oil’s NExBTL technology is very well-suited to producing aviation fuel. All our NExBTL plants are capable of yielding fuel that meets the aviation industry’s toughest quality standards. This is an area in which Neste Oil will look for growth in the future.”

Neste Oil’s biojet fuel is made from a blend of vegetable oils and waste fats including camelina, jatropha and waste animal fats. The fuel is compatible in all current aircraft engines with no engine modifications required.