#Ethanol Exports Rise, Imports Fizzle

Joanna Schroeder

Ethanol exports continue to rise with another record breaking October with a total of 131.6 million gallons (mg), the highest monthly volume since December 2011. The U.S. government data was analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and found that October exports were 32 percent higher than September of this year and 69 percent higher than in August of this year. The top country was Brazil with 42.7 mg, up from last month, equaling nearly a third of total exports for the month. Canada also increased its exports by 25 percent to 35.0 mg. Other exporters of note were India with 16.5 mg, China with 10.6 mg, the Philippines with 6.3 mg, Peru with 4.8 mg and Mexico with 3.87 mg. This year two-thirds of total exports gone to China, Brazil and Canada, and year-to-date- exports are at 825.5 mg, on track for an estimated total of 990.6 mg for 2016.

Sales of undenatured fuel ethanol in October expanded by 36% to a record-breaking 70.0 mg. Brazil’s purchase of 40.0 mg (57% of the U.S. export market) plus sales of 16.5 mg to India (24%) were significantly responsible for moving the needle. Larger volumes also headed to the Philippines (6.3 mg), Mexico (3.7 mg) and Saudi Arabia (2.5 mg). October exports of U.S. denatured fuel ethanol increased by 23% over the prior month to 54.2 mg. Canada (33.2 mg, or 61%), China (10.6 mg, or 19%) and Peru (4.8 mg, or 9%) were again the primary markets.Read More

Distillers Grains, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Exports, RFA

Sweden Releases Climate Roadmap 2050

Joanna Schroeder

Sweden has unveiled its Climate Roadmap – the country’s plan to help meet the EU initiative Roadmap 2050 for climate, transportation and energy. One key area to meet these goals, finds the plan, is the bio-based economy. For Sweden, its forest and forestry sector will play a major role in this emerging bio-based economy through more sustainable forest management, its ability to absorb carbon emissions, and it’s ability to be a feedstock for the creation of new biomaterials.

Linnaeus University will be launching a new initiative in January 2017, “Total carbon balance of Swedish forestry sector: Evaluate guidelines for climate roadmap 2050”. The goal of this project is to evaluate the actions and policies described in the climate roadmap and the effect on the total carbon balance of the Swedish forestry sector. Led by experts, the study will include assessments and evaluations of forest ecosystems, forest products’ carbon stock, material and energy use of forest based raw materials, waste and recycling of used forest products.

“To understand and describe the role of forests in climate benefits, it is important that the analysis includes the forestry sector as a whole. Then we can clarify not only how forestry affects the amount of carbon sequestered and stored in forests, but also how biofuels and other forest products can replace fossil fuels and energy-intensive products such as concrete and aluminum,” said Bishnu Chandra Poudel, researcher at the Department of Forestry and Wood Technology at Linnaeus University and project leader.

Chandra said the scientific challenge is to understand how different management systems and uses of biomass offer the greatest benefits to the climate. The study will also identify how the forestry industry is using its feedstocks – for example whether in use in buildings or to produce biofuels – and then assess the amount of forest products that will be required to meet all sector needs while contributing to Sweden’s climate roadmap.

The three-year project has received SEK 2,997,000 in a grant from Formas’ fund for research and development projects to research leaders of the future in 2016.

biomass, biomaterials, Climate Change, International

Study Shows People Will May More for #Biofuels

Joanna Schroeder

A new study has found that consumers are willing to pay more for second generation biofuels, in fact up to an 11 percent premium over conventional fuel. The research, “Consumer Preferences for Second-Generation Bioethanol,” was conducted by Washington State University (WSU) and published in the November issue of the journal of Energy Economics.

“We were surprised the premium was that significant,” said Jill McCluskey, WSU professor in the School of Economic Sciences. “We wanted to study people in different regions of the country, to make sure we weren’t just getting a local result, and people in all three cities we studied said they would pay more for these fuels.”

The study was in part funded from a grant from the National Science Foundation overseen by WSU professor Shulin Chen, who is housed in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. Chen researches biofuels and reached out to McCluskey to learn whether people would buy next generation biofuels. Sustainable biofuels have been in the news in the region of late with several airlines, such as Alaska Airlines, flying with aviation biofuels.

“This new biofuel doesn’t exist commercially yet, so we have to do these studies to make sure there’s a potential market for it,” McCluskey said. “And this shows there clearly is a market.”

The team conducted surveys in three markets with Portland, Oregon drivers saying they would pay up to 17 percent more for second gen biofuels, consumers in Minneapolis, Minnesota said they would pay a 9 percent premium and participants in Boston said they would pay up to an 8 percent premium.

“People in the survey were concerned that the new fuel may put their car at risk, by not running the same as conventional fuel,” McCluskey added. “But they also saw the added benefit to the environment.”

The researchers asked participants if they would be willing to pay a certain amount for the product. If they said no, researchers offered a discount and asked if participants would pay that amount. However, if respondents said yes, researchers asked if they would be willing to pay a little more for the product. Before they were surveyed, half of the participants were given information about second generation biofuels. Those participants were more willing to pay a greater premium, which suggests that marketing the benefits of the new biofuels would improve consumers’ perceptions, McCluskey said.

advance biofuels, Biodiesel, Cellulosic, Ethanol, Research

BioEnergy Bytes

Joanna Schroeder

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released its December 2016 Short-Term Energy Outlook. The forecast for renewables: “U.S. wind power capacity is expected to increase by 11% next year, while utility-scale solar power capacity is set to grow by 27%.”
  • Reuters is reporting that China is aiming to produce 4 million tonnes of ethanol by 2020, doubling output from the current level, even as it keeps tight control over the use of food grains to make the biofuel, a government plan showed on Monday. The world’s largest energy consumer plans to raise the non-fossil fuel portion of primary energy consumption to 15 percent from 12 percent by the end of its current five-year plan in 2020.
  • “The in 2015 established cap limit for biofuels from cultivated biomass in the amount of 7% must be maintained over the year 2020”. With this position, the Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants (UFOP) rejects the current European Commission proposal on the reform of biofuels policy for the period from 2020 to 2030. At the same time, the association is calling for this cut-off limit to be limited to biofuels, which also make a significant contribution to the reduction of imports of genetically modified protein feeds.
  • Clean Energy Fuels Corp has announced that it has been awarded two new fueling station construction projects, and that its Facility Modification Services (FMS) division continues to grow with multiple projects underway, including three for Cummins Inc.’s Sales and Service business.
Bioenergy Bytes

EPA Holds RFS Rule Hearing in Chicago

Cindy Zimmerman

The Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing in Chicago yesterday to hear testimony the agency’s proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) rule. The rule includes several actions that would help allow the market to introduce greater volumes of renewable fuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Among those who testified was Renewable Fuels Association senior vice president Geoff Cooper, who focused primarily on strengthening ethanol flex-fuel (EFF) provisions, telling EPA officials that the recommendations are intended to boost flexibility and allow “EFF producers, distributors, and consumers to capitalize on economic efficiencies in the marketplace.” Cooper also stressed the RFA’s opposition to EPA’s plan to establish a quality survey program (stemming from the industry’s negative experience with the E15 fuel survey) that would collect and analyze EFF samples as the costs for implementing such a program would outbalance the benefits.Geoff Cooper, RFA, EPA hearing testimony

Chris Bliley, Director of Regulatory Affairs for Growth Energy, commented on concerns regarding the impact of the REGs rule on the developing market for E15. “While the proposal doesn’t directly address E15, it would isolate E15 as the only ethanol-blended fuel that does not receive Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) relief in conventional areas. This would deny retailers and consumers the choice of cleaner, less-expensive E15 in a large portion of the country during the height of the summer driving season.” Chris Bliley, Growth Energy, EPA hearing testimony

Listen to the full hearing here: EPA REGS Rule Hearing

Audio, EPA, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Growth Energy, RFA

Nebraska Drivers Save $17M With #Ethanol

Joanna Schroeder

Ethanol-blended fuels are saving Nebraska consumers money at the pump this year – nearly $17 million. According to data analyzed by the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB), these savings are due to lower-prices for ethanol as compared to wholesale gasoline along with the state’s projected yearly fuel consumption of 900 million gallons. Today the most common ethanol blend sold across the country is E10, or a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. NEB reports that between August 2015 and August 2016 the wholesale cost of ethanol averaged 18 cents per gallon less than the minimum octane fuel legally allowed to be sold in the majority of the country.

Photo credit: Nebraska Ethanol Board

Photo credit: Nebraska Ethanol Board

In terms of national gas consumption, the Department of Energy (DOE) is projecting that national yearly fuel consumption will exceed 140 billion gallons in 2016. Thanks in part to state and federal biofuel programs, 97 percent of this fuel will be blended with ethanol, and NEB notes the cleaner-burning, octane boosting biofuel make it an indispensable component of the country’s motor fuel supply.

NEB Board Administrator Todd Sneller is anticipating that ethanol’s role in 2017 will grow due to increased biofuel volumes as required by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “Higher octane fuel reduces ‘engine knocking’ and provides better vehicle performance,” he said. “Adding ethanol to boost octane reduces the toxicity of gasoline. It’s a win-win for consumers and the environment.”

Adding ethanol to fuel blends increases octane so adding 10 percent ethanol to regular gasoline is sold as 87 octane, the minimum octane recommended by most automakers. Adding ethanol also reduces tailpipe emissions and thus helps to improve air quality. For example, EPA’s Urban Air Toxics report states that U.S. refiners often boost octane by adding refining by-products such as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. The majority of these chemicals are either known to be or suspected of being carcinogens. Plus they are more expensive than ethanol – on average petroleum-based additives range from 35 cents to a dollar more per gallon than ethanol according to a February 2016 study conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“These products of oil refining, known as aromatics, can produce cancer-causing emissions which damage the human immune, respiratory, neurological, reproductive and developmental systems,” Sneller said. “Ethanol is much less expensive and cleaner-burning than these toxic petroleum-based chemicals.” He added, “Future growth in the ethanol industry is likely tied directly to automaker efforts to meet increasingly stringent U.S. fuel economy standards. New vehicles will have more efficient, higher compression engines that require even higher octane fuels. Ethanol will continue to play a role as a high-octane, low-carbon renewable choice in the U.S. and abroad.”

biofuels, Environment, Ethanol, Octane

BETO to Issue Integrated Biorefinery Optimization Funding

Joanna Schroeder

DOE logoThe Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the intent to issue a funding opportunity announcement called, “Integrated Biorefinery Optimization.”

The funding will support R&D to increase biorefinery efficiencies that result in a continuous operation and production of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower at competitive prices to fossil-based products. Suggested methods for accomplishing these performance efficiencies include: improvements in ensuring reliable, continuous, robust handling and feeding of solid materials into reactors under various operating conditions; decreased capital and operating expenses by improved separation processes; production of higher-value products from waste or other undervalued streams; and analytical modeling of handling and feeding of solid materials into reactors.

Applications that address these challenging operations and convert woody biomass, agricultural residues, dedicated energy crops, algae, municipal solid waste, sludge from wastewater treatment plants, and wet wastes into biofuels, biochemicals, and bioproducts will be considered under this funding opportunity.

Application deadline is yet to be determined.

advance biofuels, biochemicals, Biodiesel, bioproducts, Ethanol

Queensland RFA: Gas Prices Intact With #Ethanol

Joanna Schroeder

The Queensland Renewable Fuels Association (Queensland RFA) has come out in support of ethanol after various statements from organizations claim that blending ethanol in the fuel supply will increase the price of gas. This, says Queensland RFA, is not true. The debate was heightened recently when the State of Government’s ethanol mandate passed along with a report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report that was published that found that a similar mandate in force since 2007 in NSW has reduced consumer choice at the pump and thus forced drivers to buy more expensive octane blends.

queensland-rfa-logoBeginning January 1, 2017, large retail stations will be required to offer at minimum 3 percent of their total regular and ethanol-blended gas sales each quarter be biobased. This can include blends such as E10. The mandate will increase to 4 percent in 2018. In addition, the mandate requires 0.5 percent of all diesel fuel be sold contain a biobased fuel such as biodiesel.

Larissa Rose, Managing Director for Queensland RFA, said the comparison of the Queensland and NSW mandates were misleading. “When NSW introduced its mandate in 2007, consumers were unsure about filling up with E10, which caused them to purchase premium grade fuels, therefore raising fuel sales in those categories,” said Rose. “Because there was minimal consumer education about the environmental benefits of E10 and its capacity to give consumers a safe higher-octane fuel at a lower price for their vehicles, misperceptions in the marketplace occurred, leading to a significant increase in consumers choosing the premium fuels, and therefore paying more.”

When the mandate goes into affect, 91 unleaded gas will still be available, said Rose, for drivers who don’t want to change their fuel consumption habits or expenditures.

“What we need to do is ensure there is consumer education to remove the stigmas about biofuels and help consumers make an informed and aware choice at the purchase point. But for consumers who choose to continue using the same fuel they have always used, there will be no significant price impact as a result of this mandate,” said Rose. She added, “Biofuels reduce carcinogenic tailpipe emissions as concluded by the CSIRO/Orbital Research Report (2008), that using E10 decreases the lung embedding particle PM2.5 by 33%. Further focus is supporting Queensland agriculture by investing in our grain and sugar producing regions to produce ethanol domestically. That can only be a significant benefit to this State.”

Biodiesel, Ethanol, International

#Algae Food & Fuel Can Reduce GHG Emissions

Joanna Schroeder

Bentley University research shows algae to hold potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions if used as a source of food or fuel. (PRNewsFoto/Bentley University)

Bentley University research shows algae to hold potential to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions if used as a source of food or fuel. (PRNewsFoto/Bentley University)

New research has found that using microalgae to produce food and biofuel can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The study was led by Michael J. Walsh, a research fellow in Bentley University’s Center for Integration of Science and Industry, and found that algal food and fuel coproduction can help to improve both land and water-use efficiency while reducing GHG emissions.

The project, conducted by researchers affiliated with the Marine Algal Industrialization Consortium, found that substitution of conventional crops with algae can substantially reduce the impact of current agricultural practices. These include:

  • Avoiding deforestation and promoting afforestation
  • Enabling emissions reductions from some of the hardest to mitigate emissions sources (deforestation and agriculture)
  • Saving significant amounts of freshwater water by displacing water-hungry crops
  • Enhancing food security by decoupling food production from at-risk agricultural regions

However, the study finds that using algae only for biofuel production will reduce GHG emissions but will not have the same ag offsetting benefits of producing food and fuel. “Thinking about algae as a food product opens new paths for achieving a number of sustainable development goals that are out of reach for algal biofuels,” said Walsh.

The research also looked at possible negative issues associated with using algae to produce food. One drawback, the study argues, is that algae requires a significant amount of unsustainable inputs of chemical fertilizers although this challenge could be offset by creating markets for carbon capture and nutrient recapture from waste water.

Walsh notes that if researchers can overcome these challenges we may see broader benefits. “Algae food holds the potential to open up a significant amount of land to other uses. With the benefit of available land, we can implement more emission reduction technologies such as bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS),” he says. This matters because according to the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if our ability to mitigate emissions through BECCS technology is limited, it’s likely many climate change models will not be able to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (the known target for globally impactful temperature reduction).

advance biofuels, algae, biomass, Research

When Price is Right FFV Drivers Choose #Ethanol

Joanna Schroeder

When fuel prices are competitive, drivers of flex fuel vehicles (FFV) will fill up with high-ethanol blends such as E85 according to a new article published in Energy Policy. Authors Sébastien Pouliot and, Bruce A. Babcock also found that the recently finalized RFS requirement for 2017 for 15 gallons of conventional biofuels is in fact achievable with current infrastructure and vehicles.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-3-53-11-pmLooking at particular metro areas, the study examined actual consumer response to changes in E85 prices. The research determined that E85 use could grow to 1 billion gallons in these metro areas if E85 is priced right – a 20 percent savings on fuel costs per mile. The authors write, “With 14 billion gallons of ethanol consumed as E10, and additional E85 consumption in rural areas, total ethanol consumption at current prices is likely high enough to meet a 15 billion gallon blending target.”

The study area equated to around 50 percent of the total E85 market.

The authors continue,  “The decision by EPA to propose to reduce RFS ethanol mandates in 2014, 2015, and 2016 on the basis that consumer demand for ethanol is insufficient to meet a 15-billion-gallon target was based on EPA’s belief that too few owners of FFVs will switch to E85 if is it attractively priced to save them money and/or that there is insufficient incentive in the market-based RIN trading system to facilitate expansion in the number of stations that sell E85. Our analysis provides EPA and others with improved knowledge of the proportion of urban FFV owners that will buy E85 at different price points. Our results indicate that a significant proportion of FFV owners in metro areas will buy E85 if it is priced to save them money on a cost-per-mile basis. In one metro area that has one E85 station for every 2,070 FFVs, the market share of E85 exceeded 15% when E85 saved flex motorists a small amount of money.”

In response to the study finding, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen noted,  “This research provides hard evidence that FFV drivers increasingly choose E85 when it saves them money. This may seem like an obvious conclusion, but some opponents of the RFS—and even EPA, at times—have questioned whether FFV drivers truly buy more E85 when its price falls relative to gasoline. The key takeaway from this study is that we have enough FFVs and E85 pumps already in place to easily satisfy the 15 billion gallon RFS requirement for conventional renewable fuel in 2017. And, more blender pumps are being added daily, which further increases competition and consumer access to lower-carbon, higher-octane flex fuels like E85, E20, and E30. The report serves as even more confirmation that EPA absolutely made the right decision by putting the RFS back on track in 2017.”

biofuels, E85, Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA