Algae Waste Water, Ag Runoff Projects Underway in Europe

OriginOil, Inc. and its French partner Ennesys have confirmed they are working with various institutions to develop two separate large-scale algae projects. Global 500 Multinational Bouygues Construction has engaged Ennesys to study the integration of waste water algae production in two building projects in the Greater Paris region both at the scale of a million square feet (80,000 m2 and 150,000 m2). The algae produced will be converted to fuel, electricity and industrial chemicals. The project, in part, was spurred by France’s RT 2020 sustainable energy law that calls for all major buildings to have a positive energy balance by the year 2020.

“Europe and France have made unconditional sustainability commitments, and this is driving fast-moving commercial algae projects for us in France,” said Riggs Eckelberry, OriginOil CEO. “We are committed to supplying our technology, know how and integrated supplier network to help Ennesys get these projects up and running quickly.”

The second project will focus on marine fuel applications. ITSASOA is collaborating with Ennesys on a plan to absorb agricultural runoff using algae that will then converted to fuel for fishing vessels. ITSASOA is an advanced biofuels program financed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the European Union.

“Algae in France has taken off with the new eco-building law that forces large developers to innovate without delay on their new projects,” added Pierre Tauzinat, Ennesys president. “Due to its many benefits, algae is more productive than solar panels, and will generate continuing jobs here in France. That’s a huge benefit over solar, which is often manufactured in other countries and generates few jobs once installed.”

KiOR Breaks Ground, Signs FedEx

KiOR has had a busy week. They recently announced a ground fuel supply agreement with FedEx. Under the agreement, KiOR will supply renewable diesel blendstocks for purchase by affiliates of FedEx Corporate Services. This is the company’s first end-user agreement. The oil will be produced at the company’s first commercial production facility in Columbus, Mississippi that is scheduled to go online in the second half of 2012. KiOR has broken ground on the plant, and when in production will convert 500 tons of biomass a day into 11 million gallons of oil.

“We are excited to be working with a premier transportation company like FedEx,” said Fred Cannon, KiOR’s President and CEO. “This agreement with the services company of direct end users is another step toward delivering our fuel blendstocks to the market.”

In addition to the agreement with FedEx, KiOR also has an agreement with the Hunt Oil Refinery in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Catchlight Energy, a joint venture between Weyerhaeuser and Chevron to provide oil. The oil can be processed at a refinery or used directly by cars, once the oil is refined into gasoline and diesel at the Columbus facility. This announcement was highlighted by Gov. Haley Barbour during a ceremonious groundbreaking ceremony.

The biorefinery has received local investments of $190 million and statewide more than $500 million. Once the first plant is complete, KiOR has plans to add four more sites, two in Mississippi and two with undetermined locations.

“This is an unbelievable accomplishment, and it’s a game changer for our country,” said Barbour.

Cannon added during the groundbreaking, “Every gallon or barrel of fuel we make in Columbus is a gallon or barrel of fuel we don’t have to import from another country, some of which don’t like America very much.”

DuPont’s Bid for Danisco Successful

It’s official. DuPont is now the owner of Danisco. The successful completion of the purchase occurred on May 15, 2011 with the tender offer for all outstanding shares of common stock for Danisco for DKK 700 cash per share. The tender offer expired on May 13, 2011, at 11 p.m. CEST (5 p.m. EDT) and DuPont estimates that at that time, Danisco shareholders had tendered approximately 92.2 percent of outstanding shares to DuPont Denmark Holding ApS. Many of you may be familiar with the DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol project (DDCE). The DDCE project currently has a 250,000 gallon demonstration plant near Vonore, Tennessee up and operating with the goal of having a commercial scale plant in operation by 2013, most likely in Iowa.

“We are delighted that the tender has been successful and we can move on to the process of integrating Danisco into DuPont,” said DuPont Chair & CEO Ellen Kullman. “Danisco’s attractive specialty food ingredients businesses and Genencor’s leading industrial enzymes complement DuPont’s own Nutrition & Health and Applied BioSciences offerings. This combination will create an industry leader in industrial biosciences and nutrition and health.”

Ellen continued, “These businesses will work together to drive sustainable growth and market-driven innovation by linking agriculture, nutrition and advanced materials through industrial biosciences. In addition, the R&D combination of DuPont, Danisco and Genencor will enable us to further respond to global megatrends and help provide for the food, energy and protection needs of a growing population.”

Danisco Chairman Jorgen Tandrup added, “We are very pleased that a vast majority of Danisco shareholders have accepted DuPont’s offer, and the two companies may now begin to move forward together. DuPont and Danisco share cultures based in exceptional science and research capabilities. Our combined strengths in biosciences and nutrition and health will deliver innovative new offerings for customers worldwide, while helping to grow these businesses in ways that will benefit employees, shareholders and the communities in which we serve. We look forward to this next exciting chapter of discovery and success for the joined companies.”

ZeaChem Secures Biorefinery Feedstock Contract

It is a wood to biofuels kinda day today. ZeaChem has announced they have signed an agreement with GreenWood Tree Farm Fund (GTFF), managed by GreenWood Resources (GWR), to supply hybrid poplar woody biomass for its first commercial cellulosic biorefinery. The woody biomass is in close proximity to the proposed plant and when the plant goes into production, ZeaChem will combine the woody biomass with other local agricultural residue for feedstock costs the company believes will be 50 percent less than Brazilian sugarcane and 80 percent less than corn. ZeaChem’s first commercial biofuels plant will be located in Boardman, Oregon and when in production, will produce 25 million gallons per year (GPY).

“This landmark feedstock agreement represents a major milestone on the road to developing ZeaChem’s first commercial production facility and to become the world leader in low cost production of advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals,” said Jim Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem.“We are proud to have GreenWood Resources, a leading supplier of economical and sustainable cellulosic feedstock, as a partner in our commercial operation. The model we have developed provides a significant strategic advantage and is something that GWR and ZeaChem will seek to replicate around the world.”

With this agreement in place, ZeaChem now has 100 percent of its feedstock needs secured for its commercial plant. Today ZeaChem is constructing a 250,000 GPY demonstration facility at the same location that is expected to be online this year and GTFF is supplying the feedstock for this project as well. The company says hybrid popular trees are an excellent cellulosic feedstock because they have a high yield per acre, short rotation and the ability to regenerate after harvest.

Jeff Nuss, President and CEO of GreenWood Resources added, “This agreement with ZeaChem is a significant step for GTFF and for GreenWood Resources into new markets and end-uses that closely align with our sustainability goals. We believe that hybrid poplars are the ideal feedstock for advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals and look forward to continuing to grow with ZeaChem.”

New Study Assesses Wood For Biofuels

Wood waste has been one of the feedstocks most studied for viability as a biofuel. Today a new study evaluates the promise of wood waste biofuels by reviewing 12 technologies and 36 projects that convert wood to fuels including ethanol, butanol, diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel. This particular area of research has garnered strong public and private investment and drop-in fuels projects even more so. Yet according to Forisk Consulting and the Schiamberg Group, the authors of the “Transportation Fuels from Wood: Investment and Market Implications of Current Projects and Technologies,” biofuels derived from wood waste will fail to substantively contribute to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) either this year or through 2022.

According to co-author Dr. Bruce Schiamberg of the Schiamberg Group, major technical hurdles will disrupt commercialization for the majority of the technologies. The study finds an on average 11 year gap between estimated commercialization and actual full-scale production. However, the report says a promising approach of note is gasification technology under development from companies such as Rentech and ClearFuels whose goal is to produce drop-in diesel or jet fuel. In addition, the report highlights technologies from INEOS New Planet, Rappaport Energy and Coskata, and Kior who are pursuing producing biofuels with a combination of gasification and microbes, and catalytic fast pyrolysis.

The report also looked at the impact of biofuel development on US timber markets and found that they would be minimal with the highest potential for wood waste coming from Alabama, California, Michigan, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

“If all projects succeed, the total impact on wood raw material markets peaks at 8.8 million dry tons per year by 2030,” said co-author Ms. Amanda Lang, Managing Editor of Wood Bioenergy US. This represents just over 3 percent incremental wood use relative to the existing forest products industry.

Co-author Dr. Brooks Mendell added, “Ultimately, investors must think hard about allocating capital to projects that require 10+ years of technological development and rely on EPA renewable fuel mandates, which are essentially moving targets.”

Nantenna to Improve Solar Capture Threefold

One of the drawbacks with solar energy is they only collect, on average, 20 percent of available sunlight. To address this problem, University of Missouri engineer Patrick Pinhero, an associate professor in the MU Chemical Engineering Department, is developing a flexible solar sheet that will capture more than 90 percent sunlight. Pinhero notes that energy generated using traditional photovoltaic methods (PV) of solar collection are inefficient and neglects a large amount of available sunlight. His team has developed a thin, moldable sheet of small antennas called nantenna that can harvest heat from industrial processes and convert it into electricity. The idea is to extend this technology to a direct solar facing nantenna device that would, in essence, collect heat and sunlight.

Along with his university research team, Pinhero is also working with Garett Moddel, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Colorado as well as his former team at the Idaho National Laboratory. Together they have developed a way to extract electricity from the collected heat and sunlight using specially designed high-speed electrical circuitry.

“Our overall goal is to collect and utilize as much solar energy as is theoretically possible and bring it to the commercial market in an inexpensive package that is accessible to everyone,” Pinhero said. “If successful, this product will put us orders of magnitudes ahead of the current solar energy technologies we have available to us today.”

While the first phase is refining the nantenna, the second phase features an energy-harvesting device for existing industrial infrastructure, including heat-process factories and solar farms. The research team believes they will have a product that complements conventional PV solar panels within five years. Since the technology is a flexible film, Pinhero believes it can be incorporated into roof shingle products, or be custom-made to power vehicles.

To help take this technology from “lab to roof,” Pinhero is in the process of securing private and public funds and has submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Energy. To learn more about this nantenna, a study on the design and manufacturing process was published in the Journal of Solar Energy Engineering.

New Study Breaks Link Between Land Use, Biofuels

In a new study released today by Michigan State University (MSU), biofuel production in the United States through 2007, “probably has not induced any indirect land use change.” The report was conducted by Seungdo Kim and Bruce Dale, both MSU scientists, and the results will be published in the next issue of the Journal of Biomass and Bioenergy. ILUC is the theory that any acre used in the production of feedstocks for biofuels in the U.S. results in a new acre coming into food or feed production somewhere else in the world.

Dale and Kim empirically tested whether indirect land use change (ILUC) occurred through 2007 as a result of the expansion of the U.S. biofuels industry, spurred in part by the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) that calls for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended in fuel supplies by 2022. The researcher’s derived their conclusion after studying historical data on U.S. croplands, commodity grain exports to specific regions and land use trends in these geographical regions.

The authors write, “Biofuel production in the United States up through the end of 2007 in all probability has not induced indirect land use change. There are two feasible dependent conclusions that might be drawn from this interpretation: 1) crop intensification may have absorbed the effects of expanding US biofuel production or 2) the effects of US biofuel production expansion may be simply negligible, and not resolvable within the accuracy of the data.”

In response to the study, Renewable Fuels President and CEO Bob Dinneen stated, “Solving America’s energy crisis must rely on the best available science. Since its inception, the notion indirect land use change has been deeply flawed and repeatedly disputed. It is refreshing to see academia using real-world data and actual market behaviors to challenge the hypothetical results and ‘what if’ scenarios that have so far dominated the ILUC discussion.”

“Biofuels like ethanol offered unparalleled environmental benefits as a renewable alternative to gasoline. Hiding behind the faux science of ILUC, some have attempted to stall and thwart the sustainable growth of biofuels across the globe and especially in the U.S. This work from MSU, coming on the heels of other recent scientific analyses, has demonstrated that ILUC as a matter of science and fact is wrong,” continued Dinneen.

This report comes on the heels of report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory that concluded ILUC resulting from corn ethanol expansion over the past decade has likely been “minimal to zero.”

Kim and Dale noted in the report that “prior ILUC studies have failed to compare their predictions to past global historical data.” Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board have used highly controversial ILUC modeling tools. The report concludes, “No arable land increases from the 1990s are observed in the United States. Furthermore, no declines in natural ecosystem lands in the United States have been observed since 1998.” In addition, the analysis suggests cropland expansion in foreign countries is not well correlated to U.S. biofuels demand for certain feedstocks.

Company Studies Tobacco for Biofuels

A start-up company, Tyton BioSciences, is looking for a new outlet for tobacco – biodiesel and ethanol. The company is developing genetically modified tobacco that will, according to their website, “produce both ethanol and biodiesel at yields that far surpass the traditional crops of corn and soy.” The company’s tobacco will also be easier to grow than those grown for smoking-grade tobacco and although still in a test phase, the company has successfully extracted sugars for ethanol and oil for biodiesel.

Founder and Managing Director, “Peter Majeranowski, said in an article in the Richmond Times Dispatch, that another benefit of using tobacco is that it is not a “food” crop and can “alleviate the complaints that food prices are rising because of demand for crops as fuel.”

According to Majeranowski, farmers will be able to plant 80,000 to 100,000 plants per acre rather than the average 6,000 plants per acre of smoking-grade tobacco. This modified crop can also be mechanically harvested and will be more “green” because it doesn’t need to be dried. In addition, he believes that the tobacco fields for biofuels can be planted and harvested two to three times per year.

“We can chop it close to the ground, and it grows back,” Majeranowski said. “We don’t have to worry about flavor, just how many green leaves and stems we can get per acre.”

The company will hear soon whether it will get a $2.2 million grant from the Tobacco Commission. Company executives have also invested $3 million of their own money and believe combined with the grant, will get their seeds closer to the production stage.

Solar to Power Volt Assembly Plant

General Motors (GM) is in full production on the Chevrolet Volt, a flex-fuel electric car (FFV-EV). Since the Volt is more “sustainable” the company is also looking at ways to produce the vehicle in more sustainable ways as well. GM is currently in the process of installing the largest photovoltaic solar (PV) array in Southeast Michigan at its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. The project is a partnership between GM and DTE Energy and will total 516-kilowatts – enough electricity to charge 150 EVs with extended-range capability each day for one year- for a total of 54,750 Volts.

The 264,000 square-foot project is expected to be completed at the end of the summer and will save an estimated $15,000 per year over the 20-year agreement. DTE Energy and GM will build the array on a six-acre tract of land located on the south side of the plant to maximize output.

“This array will significantly decrease energy consumption by combining solar power with ongoing efficiency tactics such as lighting and equipment upgrades and automating equipment shut-down,” said Bob Ferguson, vice president of GM Public Policy. “Making sustainable choices is good for both the environment and our bottom line. Obviously cost savings is critical for GM, and the ability to save $15,000 per year while being environmental serves us well.”

The Detroit-Hamtramck installation is part of DTE Energy’s SolarCurrents pilot. The goal of the program is to install 15 megawatts of electricity from solar over the next five years and as of May 5, 2011, already achieved its goal. DTE is investing $3 million in the array at the Volt assembly plant.

Our partnership with GM is another example of how our companies work to build a more energy-efficient and sustainable future,” said Trevor Lauer, Detroit Edison vice president, Marketing & Renewables. “Our SolarCurrents program was designed to increase the demand for renewable technologies in Michigan, and it is our hope that installations like this one do exactly that.”

GM is one of the leading users of renewable energy in the manufacturing sector and uses solar, hydro and landfill gas resources to generate electricity at various plants. In the U.S. 1.4 percent of GM’s energy consumption comes from renewable energy.

Ag Secretary Highlights Renewable Energy Efforts

During a visit to a Massachusetts renewable energy company on Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted USDA’s continuing efforts to invest in research and development projects that will help reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil.

Vilsack toured Agrivida, a company that is developing technologies to reduce the cost of converting biofuel feedstocks into sugar, focusing on sorghum, corn stover, and switchgrass. The Department of Energy and USDA have helped fund research in this effort through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative.

Meeting with reporters after the tour, Vilsack said biofuels hold great promise for the country if research and innovation is allowed to continue. “As we get to the point where we can make it cost-effective and cost-competitive with oil, you’re going to see an opportunity for this country to innovate itself away from fossil fuels,” he said. “We can provide farmers and opportunity to take what has been in the past, waste product and convert it into a tangible asset that can be sold to a company that would convert it into energy and fuel, creates new income opportunities for farmers.”

Vilsack said while federal spending needs to be cut, investments in this kind of research will lead to more jobs and greater energy independence. Earlier this month, Secretary Vilsack announced a total of $41 million in grants through the program to fund an additional seven research and development projects throughout the country that will help increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products.