Poll Shows Agriculture Support for Ethanol

A significant majority believe that ethanol production is a good thing. In answer to this past week’s ZimmPoll question, “Is Ethanol production good for ALL of Agriculture?” 64% said yes and 36% said no. That still shows a large group who aren’t on board the ethanol bandwagon. If you’re in the “no” group let us know why by posting a comment.

Our new ZimmPoll is now live. We’re asking the question, “What is your Christmas/Holiday entree?” The holidays are almost here and I’ll be you’ve got plans made already. We sure hope you have a happy holiday time with family and friends.

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

Biofuel and Chemicals Made from Wood Biomass

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have developed a method using microbes from wood biomass to produce butanol suitable for biofuel and other industrial chemicals. Butanol is particularly suited as a transport fuel because it is not water soluble and has higher energy content than ethanol.
Until now, starch and cane sugar have been the most commonly used raw materials in butanol production. In contrast, the Aalto University study used only lignocellulose, otherwise known as wood biomass, which does not compete with food production.

Another new breakthrough in the study is the successful combination of modern pulp and biotechnology. Finland’s advanced forest industry provides particularly good opportunities to develop this type of bioprocesses.

Wood biomass is made up of three primary substances: cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin. Of these three, cellulose and hemicellulose can be used as a source of nutrition for microbes in bioprocesses. Along with cellulose, the Kraft process that is currently used in pulping produces black liquor which already can be used as a source of energy. It is not, however, suitable for microbes. In the study, the pulping process was altered so that, in addition to cellulose, the other sugars remain unharmed and therefore can be used as raw material for microbes.

When wood biomass is boiled in a mixture of water, alcohol and sulphur dioxide, all parts of the wood – cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin – are separated into clean fractions. The cellulose can be used to make paper, nanocellulose or other products, while the hemicellulose is efficient microbe raw material for chemical production. The advantage of this new process is that no parts of the wood sugar are wasted.

In accordance with EU requirements, all fuel must contain 10 percent biofuel by 2020. A clear benefit of butanol is that a significantly large percentage – more than 20 percent of butanol – can be added to fuel without having to make any changes to existing combustion engines. The nitrogen and carbon emissions from a fuel mix including more than 20 percent butanol are significantly lower than with fossil fuels. For example, the incomplete combustion of ethanol in an engine produces volatile compounds that increase odor nuisances in the environment. Estimates indicate that combining a butanol and pulp plant into a modern biorefinery would provide significant synergy benefits in terms of energy use and biofuel production.

Solar Energy to Power Irrigation for Chilean Company

Subsole, one of Chile’s largest locally owned exporters of table fruits, is planning to use solar energy from the Atacama desert to help supply its power as the company grows.

Subsole plans to increase output 60 percent over the next four years, mostly by expanding farming in the Copiapó Valley, a region 800 kilometers north of Santiago that is surrounded by the Atacama Desert. The desert is the driest place on earth and the region has the highest solar radiation on the planet.

In order to be able to boost output competitively, Subsole plans to build a 300 kWp (kilowatts-peak) solar photovoltaic plant in the valley to power its irrigation systems. The new plant, the first ever by a Chilean fruit producer, will allow the company to pump water from underground aquifers cheaply and sustainably in a region where a thriving mining industry competes fiercely for scarce electricity. Subsole is using a $32 million loan and technical assistance from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to fund this project.

“The solar plant will allow us to reduce our carbon footprint while ensuring stable energy costs and better energy efficiency,” said Miguel Allamand, Subsole’s president, who founded the company 20 years ago.

With technical and financial support from the IDB, the company will conduct energy audits in six irrigation sites and three packaging and cold storage facilities. It also will carry out a pre-feasibility study to implement solar cooling technology, to improve irrigation and water storage methods, and to build energy-efficient storage and packaging facilities with state-of-the-art technology.

“Subsole’s investment will enhance its sustainability practices and will have a significant impact along the entire supply chain, benefitting 275 small and medium-sized producers and creating more than 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, ultimately impacting approximately 82,000 beneficiaries along the supply chain,” said Paola Bazan, the project team leader for the IDB.

The loan is a milestone in the long-term relationship between the IDB Group and Subsole. In 2002, the company was the first Chilean fruit producer and exporter to receive financing from the Inter-American Investment Corporation ( IIC ), a member of the IDB Group. In 2008 the IIC made a second loan to a company of the Subsole group. The group also benefited from a diagnostic review process under FINPYME, a program that helps small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) become more competitive and gain access to longer-term financing.

The IIC’s first loan, a $7 million facility fully repaid in 2008, enabled Subsole to finance the increase in output of thirteen of its small independent fruit suppliers. The second IIC loan to the Subsole group, which is still outstanding, was used to finance the construction of a cold storage and packing plant in Copiapó.

Nebraska Ethanol Producer to Buy Grain Elevator

The grain business subsidiary of Green Plains Renewable Energy (GPRE) is acquiring the grain elevator assets of a company in St. Edward, Nebraska.

JW Grain holds 1.9 million bushels of state-licensed grain storage and is located approximately 40 miles from the GPRE’s Central City, Nebraska ethanol production facility.

“We continue to seek out opportunities to expand our agribusiness segment that can bring additional scale to our operations,” stated Todd Becker, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Acquiring facilities to increase our grain storage and merchandising capabilities is an important part of our diversification strategy going forward. Once this acquisition and expansion is completed, Green Plains will have 40 million bushels of grain storage capacity at 15 elevator locations in Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Tennessee.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed within 30 days. Green Plains plans to expand the on-site grain storage capacity by up to one million bushels before the 2012 harvest.

Grains Council Promotes DDGS in China

usgcThe U.S. Grains Council recently held workshops in Guangzhou and Qingdao to promote the ethanol co-product distillers grains (DDGS) in China.

“The day-long sessions were designed to provide an exchange of comprehensive DDGS market information, including discussions and analysis of the value of U.S. DDGS,” said Alvaro Cordero, USGC manager of DDGS.

Cordero says they had 200 to 250 people, including buyers and USGC member companies. “This created a good opportunity for buyers and sellers to make connections,” he said.

The conferences, organized in cooperation with FoodChina Company, included presentations on DDGS use in swine, poultry and dairy rations, in addition to quality control, DDGS supply and demand, and pricing.

The United States continues to export a good volume of DDGS to China, despite an anti-dumping case initiated by the Chinese government last winter. U.S. shipments in the January-to-September period were down 49 percent from the previous year but still totaled almost one million metric tons, making China the number two export market for distillers grains.

New Ethanol Blender Pumps in Illinois

Three new pumps that can dispense a range of ethanol blended fuel were officially opened in Princeton, Illinois last week.

Growth EnergyGrowth Energy, Horizon Fuels, the American Lung Association and Marquis Energy partnered to help with the promotions and labeling for the three new Flex Fuel pumps at the Princeton Fast Stop. “It was time to upgrade our gasoline pumps, so we went with Flex Fuel pumps that will give our customers a choice between E85, E30 and E20,” said Bob Sandhu, owner of Princeton Fast stop and the CEO and President of the MGS Petro Inc. Princeton Fast Stop celebrated the opening of the pumps last Friday, December 16, with special deals on ethanol blends and other promotions. Sandhu is picture here at one of the new pumps with Mark Orr, general manager of Ag View FS in Princeton, a local farmers cooperative that is part of the GROWMARK system.

“By giving consumers more choices at the pump that include higher blends of clean, green homegrown ethanol, we’re not only helping decrease our dependence on foreign oil, but also supporting our local farmers,” said Growth Energy Market Development Vice President Mike O’Brien.

Marquis Energy has a 140 million gallon per year ethanol production facility located just southeast of Princeton in Hennepin, Illinois. “We want consumers right here at home to understand that and now they have the chance to choose for themselves. Marquis is glad people in our local community will be able to use clean burning, renewable fuel that is made just 30 miles away,” said Director of Public Relations of Marquis Energy, Dana Gustafson.

Marquis Energy has contracted with Horizon Fuels to develop opportunities to install Flex Fuel pumps at area retail gas stations and then manage the project scope, equipment installation and promotional efforts for each.

USDA Helps Install Ethanol Blender Pumps

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has used more funds to install 54 ethanol blender pumps in twelve different locations. The REAP program funded a total of 266 ethanol blender pumps in 30 states at a total cost of $4.2 million dollars in Fiscal Year 2011.

“The REAP Blender Pump program is a completely new approach to encouraging marketers to install the equipment needed to offer more ethanol blended fuel choices to consumers,” said the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Senior Vice President Ron Lamberty. “266 pumps in 30 states is especially impressive when you take into account how different this program is from the ones used by marketers in the past, and how short a timeframe USDA had to get the information out to marketers.”

Through the program, petroleum marketers were introduced to a competitive grant process that was unfamiliar to most of them, and they had a very short application window of about two months.

“The Blend Your Own (BYO) Ethanol campaign is pleased to have been involved in the planning,” Lamberty said. “Through webinars, grant writing assistance, and face-to-face meetings, we’re glad to have played a part in this program’s success. Funds will be lower in the upcoming fiscal year, so the process will be even more competitive, and ACE and BYO will continue to promote the program and assist marketers who want more information about the REAP flex fuel infrastructure program.”

Brisk Sales of E85 in Minnesota During 2011

clean air choice mnStrong sales of E85 continue across the Midwest and especially in Minnesota, according to organizations that track sales.

In the first eight months of 2011, Minnesota E85 sales increased 26 percent compared to the same period in 2010. Reports from Iowa and North Dakota also show significantly higher E85 sales this year than in 2010.

Minnesota has more than 360 E85 retail outlets, more than any other state. Plus, the state also continues to make progress to reduce gasoline consumption in state-owned vehicles. Between July 2010 and June 2011, the state fleet used more than one million gallons of E85, setting a new record for a 12-month period.

According to the Minnesota SmartFleet Committee, E85 now accounts for approximately 19 percent of their light-duty fuel purchases. State agencies used 736,885 gallons of E85 from January through September, up from the 724,827 gallons during the same period in 2010.

“This increase is all the more notable because many of the state’s 3,000 flex fuel vehicles that are capable of using E85 were not driven during a 20-day state government shutdown in July,” said Tim Morse, chair of the SmartFleet Committee and director of Fleet and Surplus Services for the Minnesota Department of Administration.

“Using these fuels not only reduces lifecycle emissions and air pollution, they also help reduce our dependence on petroleum, a majority of which is imported into Minnesota from tar sand sources,” said Kelly Marczak, director of the Clean Air Choice program of the American Lung Association in Minnesota and SmartFleet Committee member.

Researchers Find More Pollution from Sugarcane Ethanol

University researchers from California, Iowa and Chile have found that sugarcane ethanol production creates up to seven times more air pollutants than previously estimated, according to news from the University of Iowa.

The research team used agricultural survey data from Brazil to calculate emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from the entire production, distribution, and lifecycle of sugarcane ethanol from 2000 to 2008.

The estimated pollutants were 1.5 to 7.3 times higher than those from satellite-based methods, according to lead author Elliott Campbell of the University of California, Merced.

Greg Carmichael, Karl Kammermeyer Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering in the UI College of Engineering and co-director of the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER), and UI assistant professor Scott Spak note that the findings reflect continued practices and trends that are a part of the production of sugarcane ethanol. These include the practice of burning sugarcane fields before harvest, as well as the fact that sugarcane production in Brazil continues to grow.

“We found that the vast majority of emissions come from burning the sugarcane fields prior to harvesting, a practice the Brazilian government has been moving to end,” says Spak. “However, the sugarcane industry has been expanding rapidly and moving into more remote areas, which makes it much more difficult to enforce new regulations over this growing source of air pollution and greenhouse gases.

“As people try to determine how to integrate biofuels into the global economy, Brazilian sugarcane ethanol has often been considered a more environmentally friendly fuel source than U.S. corn ethanol. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers sugarcane ethanol an ‘advanced biofuel’ with fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional biofuels like corn ethanol. These new findings help us refine those estimates and move closer to making more informed comparisons between different fuel sources, and ultimately make better decisions about how to grow and use biofuels,” Spak says.

The study, titled “Increased estimates of air-pollution emissions from Brazilian sugarcane ethanol,” is featured in the Nature Highlights section and published in the Dec. 11 Advance Online Publication of the journal Nature Climate Change.