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Today's News

Former DuPont employee gets 42 months in prison for stealing trade secrets

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:54pm

In Iowa, Josh Harry Isler, age 55, from St. Ansgar, Iowa, was sentenced Wednesday in United States District Court in Cedar Rapids to serve 42 months’ imprisonment as a result of his July 11, 2018, pleas of guilty to one count of trade secret theft and one count of making a false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“We appreciate the excellent work done by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Federal Bureau of Investigation on this matter and are pleased to see it come to a close with today’s sentencing. We will continue to focus on serving our customers, providing innovative solutions, and upholding the highest standards of ethical conduct, to protect our proprietary technology and help safeguard a competitive environment within the industry,” said Jennifer Johnson, Associate General Counsel for the Specialty Products Division of DowDuPont.

As part of his guilty plea, Isler admitted that, during August 2013, while employed with DuPont, and after having accepted an offer of employment with a smaller competitor, he stole and misappropriated, without authorization, trade secrets of DuPont. According to admissions contained in a plea agreement and evidence presented at a prior hearing in the case, Isler was recruited by a competitor of DuPont in the ethanol fuel business to take a job with the competitor. The competitor offered Isler a new car and a significantly higher salary than Isler had been paid during his short tenure at DuPont, despite the fact that Isler had been underperforming and struggling to understand basic concepts while employed by DuPont.

On the same day Isler accepted a position with the competitor, the competitor’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) informed Isler that Isler would be servicing two particular ethanol plant customers, who had also been customers of DuPont, and asked Isler if he had seen “any baseline data” for those plants. Isler responded by stating, “let me see what I can before I can’t.” In a later message that day, the COO told Isler, “I think you made the right choice.”

Isler submitted his resignation letter to DuPont the following day. However, Isler did not leave DuPont until two weeks later. During the intervening two weeks, Isler downloaded and sent to the competitor numerous electronic files that contained proprietary and trade secret information of DuPont. This included test, yield, and pricing information for products and customers of DuPont.

A few days before leaving DuPont, Isler notified the competitor’s COO that he would be turning in his company phone to DuPont. The COO instructed Isler to “erase all texts with me before giving the phone back.”

During an exit interview with DuPont, Isler acknowledged that he understood a confidentiality agreement he signed before he started work with DuPont required that Isler keep DuPont’s intellectual property private even after he left the company.

A few months after Isler left DuPont, the FBI executed a federal search warrant at his residence and seized computers and other electronic storage devices that contained proprietary and trade secret information of DuPont. At that time, Isler falsely denied to the FBI that he had downloaded, to his DuPont or personal electronic storage devices, files containing proprietary information of DuPont.

At the sentencing hearing Wednesday, United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade emphasized that, although Isler had signed a confidentiality agreement and had been trained and counseled by DuPont concerning his obligation to protect trade secrets, he nonetheless committed several criminal violations of these obligations within about six months of being hired by DuPont. The court also expressed concern about the ethics of the competitor in receiving the stolen information.

Isler was sentenced to serve 42 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a $200 special assessment and a $5000 fine. The court also ordered Isler to serve a 3-year term of supervised release following completion of the term of imprisonment.

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Growth Energy releases new biofuels-focused high school curriculum

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:53pm

In Washington, Growth Energy, in partnership with the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE), announced the release of their new curriculum aimed at educating high school students to the world of biofuels. The curriculum is the first industry-supported biofuels curriculum that provides students a guided in-classroom experience and will offer ag educators the tools needed to provide students with an array of technical skills and historical knowledge in biofuels.

The curriculum offers agricultural educators a two-week long course with six activities. These activities not only allow students to produce their own biofuel and measure its energy content and emissions, but also give them the technological and historical background to ensure a full understanding of why science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities and biofuels are so important to agricultural innovation.

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Novozymes sees 2G as a big opportunity for India

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:52pm

In India, Novozymes’ VP for biorefining commercial told the Business Standard newspaper that the country’s push towards 2G ethanol will not only help it achieve energy independence, but it will also create jobs in rural areas that are so desperately needed. The country’s biomass surplus is enough to produce 30 billion liters per year but policy is only looking to blend up to 10 billion liters by 2030. He said that the policy put in place to support biofuels last year is ambitious and move the industry in the right direction but that stakeholders need to work together to achieve those goals.

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Indonesia’s B30 trials should be done by October

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:51pm

In Indonesia, the Jakarta Post reports that the national biodiesel associations expects road trials on B30 to be completed by October, with 40,000 kilometers of the trials already completed as of mid-April. Engine damage, tailpipe emissions and fuel efficiency are all being monitored as part of the testing program underway with Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, the national biodiesel association, Pertamina, the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, the Association of Indonesian Automotive Manufacturers and the Bandung Institute of Technology.

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Malaysia looking at opportunities for palm oil in aviation biofuel

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:50pm

In Malaysia, the palm oil board believes that palm oil could be a good feedstock for aviation biofuels and trials are currently going on with an unidentified American company in Chicago to test the possibility. The country’s palm oil industry is suffering from oversupply and is looking at ways to use the fuel while improving its energy independence. Already palm fatty acid distillate has been approved for use as an aviation biofuel feedstock but palm oil is so far proving viable in the tests.

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Ethanol stocks fall as product moves out of the Midwest and exports rise

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:49pm

In Washington, Platts reports Energy Information Administration data shows that ethanol stocks fell for the third straight week last week to 22.2676 million barrels, down more than half a million barrels on the week, despite ethanol production averaging 1.016 million b/d, 14,000 b/d higher than the week before. Demand for exports are likely the main reason for falling stocks with the Gulf Coast region losing 394,000 barrels to 4.152 million barrels, while Midwest stocks also fell sharply to 8.535 million, down 318,000 barrels on the week.

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WPI researchers develop novel process to produce isobutanol cheaper

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:48pm

In Massachusetts, taking a step closer to a “green” replacement for fossil fuels, a research team that includes a chemical engineer at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a novel process using an unusual solvent and an exotic microorganism that may make it possible to manufacture isobutanol and other biofuels more economically.

In a paper published recently in Nature Communications (Engineered Microbial Biofuel Production and Recovery Under Supercritical Carbon Dioxide), Timko and colleagues describe a novel method for producing and extracting isobutanol that uses supercritical carbon dioxide as a solvent and a bacterium that can thrive in this harsh, antimicrobial liquid. The team genetically engineered the bacterium, which was isolated from a naturally occurring reservoir of high-pressure carbon dioxide, by adding genes for the production of isobutanol. They then showed how supercritical carbon dioxide could overcome two important problems that plague conventional biofuel production methods: low yields and bacterial contamination.

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Minnesota state legislature closer to investing in Crookston biodiesel facility

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:47pm

In Minnesota, funding for a soybean crush and biodiesel facility in Crookston has passed a key hurdle in the Minnesota legislature. The proposed Soy Innovation Campus at the University of Minnesota Crookston will receive $5 million in funding as part of a bill authored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Finance Committee.

Throughout the 2019 legislative session, farmer leaders from the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) have been pounding the pavement in St. Paul, meeting with legislators and Gov. Tim Walz’s administration to highlight the education and economic benefits of placing the SI Campus in northwest Minnesota.

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Circular economies, from California to Sweden: Neste’s wheeling, rolling, moving, flowing

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:44pm

In California, waste feedstock from the city of Oakland is now being converted to Neste MY Renewable Diesel and fuels the city’s fleet.

The city, Neste, fuel distributor Western States Oil and local collectors for used cooking oil joined forces to gather waste cooking oils from restaurants and other businesses in the Oakland metropolitan area and convert it to fuel the city’s fleet. By making waste more valuable and supporting jobs that collect and treat it, this concept helps the local economy in the city while the cleaner-burning Neste MY Renewable Diesel improves the lives of its residents by reducing local emissions from the city’s fleet.

More renewable diesel for trucks in California’s Central Valley

Meanwhile, renewable diesel fuel is soon to be much more accessible to fleet drivers looking to fuel up in central California, thanks to the opening of Neste-branded pumps at Van De Pol card-lock at 5675 7th Street, Keyes, dispensing Neste MY Renewable Diesel.

We reported on the story in Keyes and at three other California locations here.

Card-lock locations are unstaffed fueling stations designed to accommodate fleet vehicles, including 18-wheel trucks. Drivers can fill up with Neste MY Renewable Diesel, a low-carbon fuel produced from 100 percent renewable and sustainable raw materials that cuts greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent compared to petroleum diesel.

“Since launching in California in 2011, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from drivers and fleet managers using Neste MY,” Baines said. “And those who haven’t tried it yet keep asking where they can get it. We’re proud to offer Neste MY Renewable Diesel at these card-lock locations to further expand its accessibility and lead the renewable fuel revolution.”

Over to Sweden for jet fuel with Neste and Air BP

Over to Scandinavia for more Neste action. Neste, and Air BP, have entered into an agreement to deliver sustainable aviation fuel to airline and airport customers in Sweden in 2019.

Air BP has supplied sustainable aviation fuel in the Nordics since 2014 at around 10 airports, including most recently at Kalmar airport in Sweden and Oslo airport where they were the first to supply sustainable aviation fuel produced by Neste through the existing airport fueling infrastructure, in collaboration with other key industry stakeholders.

As backstory, Neste and Air BP announced in 2018 their plans to explore and develop supply chain solutions for delivering sustainable aviation fuel to airports and airlines. As a next step in their collaboration Neste will combine its expertise in the production and blending of sustainable low-carbon aviation fuel with Air BP’s recognized excellence in safe, efficient and effective aviation fuel distribution solutions to jointly develop a viable supply-chain solution for sustainable aviation fuel to the Swedish market.

What’s significant here.

First of all, let’s think about the expansion of distribution in California: note that this renewable diesel is being sold under the Neste brand, something we’ve seen in Finland but it’s a first for the US.

The second takeaway is a little more subtle, that’s the volume of these card-lock refueling stations that specialize in fleets. The Keyes facility alone supports 6 million road miles per year of fueling, and this is hauling something like 80,000 pounds per mile.

It would take 80,000 fully-loaded Tesla Model 3s to haul that same load. 4 stations provide more greenhouse gas reduction in the Big Heavy sector than you could achieve with all the electric cars sold in the U.S. last year put together. Which is not to say “don’t consider an electric” – please look carefully at the EV option where there is renewable electricity generation available to support EVs and where the range and cost meets your vehicle budget. What this is meant to show is that the Big Heavy is important and the impact of renewable diesel can be huge.

Third and fourth takeaway. The fuels are competitively-priced and all you have to do to use them is choose a different pump. No new vehicle, no modifications, no limit on blends, no hidden switching costs, no hassles, no kidding.

Fifth takeaway. Consider the positive local impact. Less NOx, lower particulars, and a lot more pleasant than the fossil diesel smell.

Some caveats to keep in mind

Neste is ramping up production, they have a big expansion of capacity in Singapore supporting this market that will come online in 2022, but it won’t be tomorrow and there may be some limits on supply if the fuels become as popular as they might. Neste will be able to expand quite a bit using existing production, but there will be some limits between now and 2022.

Feedstock acquisition will also be key to ensure that the supply chain continues to provide raw materials that are more and more sustainable, affordable, reliable and available — building up the supply network will be key. Neste is adamant that they don’t want to get into a market and then have trouble meeting the demand.

To that end, consider the Oakland program — that’s a very tight example of circular economies. Neste collects waste oils from Oakland’s sewers and makes renewable diesel, and sells fuel back to Oakland. There, a waste is eliminated in the form of a fuel that helps keep petroleum in the ground.

In some ways, this all started with ham in Finland, the traditional Christmas meal, and Neste started a program to have locals donate their Christmas waste oils, which Neste collects and processes into fuel. A great way for the ordinary person to take positive action, and a great way to help make renewable fuels affordable.

As Neste VP Jeremy Baines told The Digest, “More and more people are looking at the climate change discussion and saying, ‘I don’t know if I agree with everything people are saying, but this is happening’…I see the early springs, the forest fires and I know this is not normal — and here’s a small way in which the private citizen can do something about it.”

The Neste backstory

Renewables Take the Lead: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Neste is here.

Neste MY Renewable Diesel is a low-carbon fuel produced from 100 percent renewable and sustainable raw materials, primarily wastes and residues. It cuts engine-out emissions of nitrogen oxides by 9%, those of carbon monoxide by 24 % and fine particulates by 33 %, all while enhancing fleet performance. The concept by the city of Oakland and Neste saves greenhouse gas emissions by 74% compared to conventional, fossil diesel. Neste MY Renewable Diesel is a direct replacement fuel that requires no blending and is compatible with all diesel engines.

Recently, we reported that Neste’s growing Renewable Products business area will be divided into three business units and one operational platform each of which has its own Executive Vice President responsible in Neste’s Executive Committee: Renewable Road Transportation, Renewable Aviation, Renewable Polymers & Chemicals, and the Renewables Platform. More on that story here.

In December, we reported that Neste took the plunge and decided to invest EUR1.4 billion in tripling renewable production in Singapore. More on that here.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“Oakland is a proud leader in protecting our environment and practicing the highest levels of sustainability,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said. “This bold move will give our residents cleaner air, and it takes us one important step forward in our work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

“We are excited to partner with the city of Oakland to make ‘from city waste to city fuel’ a reality and do our part to improve the lives of the people in the city,” said

Jeremy Baines, vice president of sales, Neste US, Inc. “Oakland’s choice for a more sustainable diesel fuel and their support for making local waste part of their energy solution sets an example for the Bay Area, for all of California and beyond.”

“Switching from petroleum diesel to renewable diesel automatically converts the City’s oldest and dirtiest polluting vehicles into alternative fuel vehicles – overnight and with no additional costs,” Oakland Public Works Director Jason Mitchell said.

“Demand for cleaner fuels is on the rise globally, and California is a leader in the movement toward an emissions-free future,” said Jeremy Baines, vice president of sales for Neste. “Neste MY Renewable Diesel helps meet environmental needs without compromising performance or cost.”

“I am very happy to announce that our collaboration with Air BP has taken its first concrete step, as aviation is one of our strategic growth areas. Sweden is becoming a leading country in decarbonizing aviation with its proposal to introduce a greenhouse gas reduction mandate for aviation fuel sold in Sweden. Together with Air BP we are able to support air transport in Sweden in their efforts, and this collaboration gives both of us valuable insight into developing similar supply chains to decarbonize aviation in other markets,” says Neste’s President and CEO Peter Vanacker.

Jon Platt, Air BP Chief Executive Officer added: “I am pleased that through our collaboration with Neste we will be able to offer our Swedish customers sustainable aviation fuel at a number of airports across the country in 2019. We are committed to supporting our customers, through initiatives such as this, as they work towards reducing their emissions and realizing their low carbon ambitions.”

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Putting CO₂ Emissions to Work: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Opus 12

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:41pm

Opus 12 has developed a device that recycles CO₂ into cost-competitive chemicals and fuels. Their technology bolts onto any source of CO₂ emissions, and with only water and electricity as inputs, transforms that CO₂ into some of the world’s most critical chemical products. Opus 12 was one of six clean energy startups selected from around the country to be incubated in the first cohort of the prestigious Cyclotron Road program at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Today, their

commercial operations are in Berkeley, CA.

Etosha Cave, CSO, Nicholas Flanders, CEO, and Kendra Kuhl, CTO, all from Opus 12, gave this illuminating overview of their technology that recycles CO2 back into a carbon feedstock, their work with LanzaTech, White Dog Labs, NREL, Industrial Microbes, and others, how their electrolyzer could double the methane production of any biogas plant, their work with ethylene and ethanol, energy and mass balance for major products, and more, at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco

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Sumitomo Chemical partners with Zymergen on new multi-year specialty materials deal

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 6:06pm

In California, Sumitomo Chemical and Zymergen announced they have signed a multi-year partnership to bring new specialty materials to the market. This collaboration between the two companies will enable the development of new materials to meet consumer trends in high-tech industries.

Today, electronics makers and consumers seek devices that are lighter, smaller, more battery efficient, have optimized displays, and new functionality– all at a lower cost. Electronics manufacturers are increasingly demanding next-generation materials for these next-generation electronics because the current petrochemical toolbox is limited, expensive, and difficult to manufacture.

In order to better meet these demands, Sumitomo Chemical has decided to partner with Zymergen, whose mission is to build a sustainable future through biology, to discover novel and improved molecules to bring to market competitive, high-performance, specialty materials to better serve the electronics industry and more. This partnership will leverage Zymergen’s proprietary platform which combines advances in artificial intelligence, robotic lab automation, and cutting-edge genomics, to unlock previously inaccessible sources of molecular diversity based on sustainable and renewable resources.

Sumitomo Chemical is a leading supplier to major electronics companies, with approximately 20 percent of the company’s sales revenue in IT-related chemicals. The company’s industry insight will ensure that materials meet application requirements that will drive the next generation of electronics products. Sumitomo Chemical brings access to key markets, a reputation for quality and excellence, and the applications knowledge to connect new materials to the best products.

Sumitomo Chemical and Zymergen will develop specialty materials that may include optical films for displays, hard coatings that won’t scratch, flexible electronics circuits and adhesive materials. These new materials can help make next-generation, high tech products a reality for consumers.

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Enerkem closed another C$76.3 million in equity financing including Suncor Energy

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 6:05pm

In Canada, Enerkem Inc. announced the closing of a new round of financing totalling C$76.3 million. The financing comes from Enerkem’s existing investors, as well as a new investor, Suncor Energy Inc.

This injection of additional capital will help foster the company’s growth by continuing the development of its other projects, including in Varennes, Québec, and Rotterdam, Holland.

Suncor, one of Canada’s largest energy companies, is joining Enerkem’s shareholders, comprising Braemar Energy Ventures, Cycle Capital, Fondaction, Fonds de solidarité FTQ, Investissement Québec, National Bank of Canada, Rho Ventures, Sunkem, the Westly Group and Waste Management of Canada. In addition to its equity interest, Suncor will share technical resources to support acceleration of Enerkem’s growth.

Similarly, as part of this financing, the Government of Québec has increased its equity ownership in Enerkem by C$13.3 million through the Fonds du développement économique.

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Toyota’s hybrid ethanol Corolla to hit the Brazilian market in Q4

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 6:04pm

In Brazil, Toyota confirmed the new Brazilian Corolla will be the first vehicle in the world equipped with flex hybrid propulsion. Studies involving Toyota’s hybrid flex technology were announced by the manufacturer in March last year, while production confirmation came in December of the same year. Driving a new cycle of technological evolution in Brazil, the announcement is in line with the purposes of the Rota 2030 Program, which seeks, among other things, to stimulate the production of more efficient vehicles.

The only vehicle to have an electric motor and another of flexfuel technology, the New Corolla, with this motorization, will be the most efficient ethanol-powered car in Brazil and the cleanest hybrid in the world.

The model will be mounted on the Toyota Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, which already equips brand vehicles such as the Prius, the compact C-HR SUV and the large Camry sedan.

The new generation of Corolla is expected to arrive in Brazil in the last quarter of 2019. Toyota intends to sell its vehicles in the Latin American markets where the vehicle is exported – Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Peru and Colombia during the first half of 2020.

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US Forest Service announces opening of tribal biomass demonstration projects program

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 6:03pm

In Washington, the US Forest Service announced programming for biomass demonstration projects on tribal lands. Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017 amends the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004 to direct the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA), to enter into contracts or agreements with Indian tribes, and, in Alaska, tribal organizations to carry out demonstration projects to promote biomass energy production on Indian forest land and in nearby communities by providing reliable supplies of woody biomass from federal lands.

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Philippine ethanol producers seek molasses imports to battle rising feedstock costs

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 6:02pm

In the Philippines, the Sun Star newspaper reports that ethanol producers are seeking permission to import molasses for feedstock due to the high prices of domestic molasses supplies. El Niño is expected to boost sugarcane yields for the next crop but this season was poor, leaving less molasses availability that has pushed up prices beyond what’s viable for the cost of production. The country has an E10 policy but only a fraction of that is supplied by domestic production due to high feedstock prices.

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Brazilian biodiesel auction sources of 928.51 million liters at 58 cents/liter average

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 6:01pm

In Brazil, Renewables Now reports that the most recent ANP biodiesel auction saw a total of 928.51 million liters of biodiesel contracted at an average of 58 cents per liter for a total of $545 million. Nearly 40 producers offered more than 1 billion liters of biodiesel at the auction that will supply the B10 blending mandate for May and June. Of the total fuel offered, 99.73% had the social seal, meaning that feedstock was supplied from smallholder farmers.

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NUI Galway launches new waste-based biofuels research lab

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 6:00pm

In Ireland, NUI Galway has officially launched a new research laboratory, featuring the latest analytical equipment to characterize biofuels produced from organic waste as well as the microbial communities which produce these fuels.

Professor Piet Lens will lead a team of 25 PhD and post-doctoral researchers in the Department of Microbiology at NUI Galway, which includes almost EUR1 million of advanced analytical equipment, funded through an investment under the Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship Program, ‘Innovative Energy Technologies for Bioenergy, Biofuels and a Sustainable Irish Bioeconomy’.

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Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia call for support of biofuels as part of RED II

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 5:59pm

In Belgium, taking into account the commitments of the EU on climate change emerging from various binding documents, which have already been adopted such as the Paris Agreement, Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources (RED II) as well as the proposed new greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments, set out in the “Clean Planet for All”, the Ministers of Agriculture of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia agreed on the need to express their support for the initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy share in the transport mix, in which farmers are directly involved.

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Ethanol CO2 by-product is critically important to merchant CO2 industry

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 5:57pm

By Sam A. Rushing, President, Advanced Cryogenics, Ltd.
Special to The Digest

A Significant Source Type Which Endures

CO2 by-product sources from ethanol dominate the source – map v. other source types, where next in line include sources from ammonia and natural /pipeline facilities. I am pleased to see that new sources continue to arise from existing corn and grain-based fermentation sources; given the almost absolute absence of other available CO2 industry feedstocks. For example, over the last year or two, new merchant CO2 sources from ethanol have developed in the U.S west / northwest.

CO2 from fermentation, is felt will thrive, despite politics. That being the case, it is felt since the lion’s share of CO2 plants are in the Midwest, the industry and political clout is in favor of legislation favoring the RFS. Many of the nation’s ethanol plants, which tally over 200 such operations, are supporting the RFS; and most of the possible CO2 sources from ethanol are untapped, however highly concentrated in a super-saturated Midwestern region. The US ethanol – based sources number over approximately 40 locations now.

Other source types, such as ammonia, reformer, natural, other chemical, are highly unavailable to the gas companies, since most of the existing locations have already been tapped for the CO2 by-product or product (the latter from natural and pipeline operations, not by-product).

Ethanol Provides Assurance of Supply to the Overall CO2 Supply Network

Ethanol is the only source type which has a long way to go, before it is highly commercialized for CO2 by-product usage v. other source types. As a product of cheap natural gas made available from fracking and horizontal drilling, several proposed and planned new ammonia and ethylene oxide operations were announced over the last few years. From these announcements and plans, only a few viable projects have been consummated. Thus, the challenge to bring more world class ammonia plants online and more successful ethylene oxide projects forward has not occurred, as the developers hoped.

The relatively recent northern California and Oregon CO2 source additions are logical, in terms of regions which need the product, and have CO2 market growth opportunities. Other ethanol sources have considered selling their CO2 product to the markets in other regions, and in some cases, where existing sources are a considerable distance away, and merchant market prices are high, the interest by most of the gas companies has been rather impressive. Ethanol is well thought of as a secure, long term source of product. Most of this discussion surrounds grain – based fermentation, where much of growth in the future we hope will come from cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels projects. What few cellulosic ethanol plants have been built are in the heart of the Midwest and are not to offer a specific strategic CO2 sourcing advantage; and these are very few. I feel the lack of significant cellulosic capacity since the significant run during the development of traditional grain-based projects some years ago, was a function of the need for tax credits, economic incentives, and a predominance of unwilling investors. Further there has been the need to develop and refine technologies; and further integrate and prove various technologies which are planned to perform well when scaled up. Perhaps this lag in cellulosic projects has now gained traction with respect to more plants being scaled up and constructed. I feel the small California project announced last year is significant, which will supplement this specific market which could perhaps host a small CO2 plant, and readily blend the ethanol into the large gasoline demand in California. To take materials such as switchgrass and produce a renewable fuel, is one of the long-term goals of advanced biofuels; and truly represents goals behind renewable fuels.

Within the recent term, several new CO2 sources have been sought, including from the refining sector; and by-product from gas processing, and ethanol. As to the other by-product or natural product sources outside of ethanol, there are very few, if any such source opportunities available in most markets which the gas companies commercialize. Further, in some cases, to make sources viable in economic terms from possible alternative source types, this has become ever more difficult. Although, there are a few exceptions where viable sources have developed from non-ethanol by-product. As often perceived by the gas companies, there are few to no source opportunities available domestically, beyond ethanol, as function of the almost sheer lack of new or existing, strategically viable alternate by-product opportunities. Historically, many of the new CO2 plants have been derived from either new projects as new construction of by-product sources, or when an existing source is lost to a competitor.

In the end, assuming the RFS remains in place, thus protecting the use of a renewable fuel in gasoline, the industry will remain a reliable source type, and even flourish, with more E-15 ethanol blends into gasoline. When other non – ethanol sources become unavailable, and the need for further capacity becomes essential, more ethanol plants will become opportunities for the merchant market network. Even though the industry always is seeking the lowest cost of production associated with their source, where reliability and quality are a given; ethanol will fulfill this need, should other sources become unavailable, or exhausted. Of course, the down side to this equation is added freight; however, the industry has become a master at managing distribution and reducing the cost of freight, even when options are challenged.

Evolving CO2 Applications and Market Growth

As I have written many times in the past, the industry is constantly evolving, via the use of new and improved applications for the product. For example, the applications which have a ‘green’ take, including photosynthesis enhancement, blast cleaning, supercritical extraction, concrete sequestration; and those which are not fully scaled up, such as developing platforms whereby CO2 is said to become the basis of future biofuel production opportunities; and replacement material for hydrocarbons in the plastics industry; both cases require a carbon rich base, where perhaps someday this will be rather common place, and a truly substantial means of sequestering and recycling carbon.

Beyond organic market growth, the addition of new and improved applications can lead to a significant amount of growth. I have witnessed very significant boons in the CO2 industry over the years, for example, when CO2 usage in frac work, as an ‘energized fluid’, the demand exploded, during an oil and gas boon of the past (of course this market has become very small since the explosion of hydraulic fracturing). Also, when the poultry industry became more familiar with all the applications for the commodity, this market grew almost geometrically over a pervious term, as the demand for a cheaper form of protein became very popular.

Other applications can also become as popular as these over time, where the key to such success if for numerous processors or customers to experience the benefits of the application. Within most industries, what is taking place among colleagues and often competitors, becomes well known, and expands rapidly, as I have found.

Ethanol based Carbon Dioxide Opportunities Expand

In the not too distant past, there was a shortage of corn which was used for fermentation, caused in part by the drought. This caused some of the gas companies to scramble for replacement sources, which they handled well. This is not unlike some years earlier, when natural gas spiked, and numerous ammonia plants were idled; which in turn precipitated some bankruptcies and subsequent acquisitions in the ammonia industry. The dislocation of CO2 plants was much more severe with the ammonia crisis v. that of the more recent ethanol incident. As with most of the gas companies today, their forte is to diversify source types as much as possible, thus reduce the risk when an industry experiences problems. However, ethanol has been the means to an end for most of the new sources domestically.

Ethanol plants should evaluate CO2 revenue and tax credit opportunities as a means of both monetizing the product, and in some cases, turn a greenhouse gas into a usable product in industry, or even reduce emissions via various sequestration schemes which offer tax credits for the ethanol producer. There are various means of making the most of the CO2 product from fermentation, which can supply a very diverse market, via monetizing the product. The other possibility, once again, is the potential for various sequestration markets which would receive a tax credit. Further on the state of the merchant CO2 industry today, the industry has changed radically, thus reducing the number of suppliers in the market today, where these companies have merged and acquisitions have occurred, thus creating new opportunities for new CO2 players. There could be direct of JV opportunities available, or sequestration targets subsidized with tax credits.

CO2 is an opportunity for more of the ethanol producers today, and all options should be considered.

About the author:

Sam A. Rushing, is president of Advanced Cryogenics, Ltd., a domestic and international CO2 and cryogenic consulting firm with decades of expertise and experience available to support your projects. Rushing can be contacted at Tel: 305 852 2597, email: rushing@terranova.net, web: www.carbondioxideconsultants.com

Categories: Today's News

India’s Ethanol Scenario: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Praj

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 5:55pm

Praj Americas, Inc., subsidiary of Praj industries ltd,  is a unique technology and engineering company in the ethanol arena in the Americas. What started off as an entrepreneurial venture three decades ago, the parent company, Praj Industries, is today a leader in India in the field of bio-based technologies and engineering with presence all over the world.

Jayant Godbole, President & Director at PRAJ Americas, Inc., gave this illuminating overview of the ethanol supply and demand in India, updates on India’s biofuel program and policies, Praj’s recent actions, and more, at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco

Categories: Today's News

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