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Feedstock for the Advanced Bioeconomy: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Cellana

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 4:21pm

Cellana uses the most productive plants on earth—marine microalgae—to photosynthetically produce its ReNew line of Omega-3 EPA and DHA oils, animal feed, and biofuel feedstocks. Cellana’s patented ALDUO system, a series of photobioreactors coupled with open ponds, enables low-cost, continuous production of diverse strains of microalgae. Since 2009, Cellana has operated its Kona Demonstration Facility, a 6-acre, state-of-the-art production and research facility in Hawaii.

Martin Sabarsky gave this illuminating update on the company’s prospects and progress at ABLC 2017 in Washington DC.


Categories: Today's News

Make Ready: Decision time at the bioeconomy’s Gettysburg

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 08/01/2017 - 4:04pm


Above: Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts

Two GOP state governors hitting the phones and airwaves hard to restrain federal government over-reach is a common sight, but not when the Administration in question is the Trump Administration.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts are the headliners in a battle in and about Washington DC this week. You can call it what you want: it’s Gettysburg.

As Reynolds put it, “I urge the EPA to raise the advanced biofuel, biodiesel and cellulosic volumes. The RFS is a bold policy, and Iowans and the industry as a whole have always risen to the challenge.” Meanwhile, Ricketts pointed urgently to “the President’s statements of support for the corn ethanol industry and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s commitment to implement the program in a way that honors Congressional intent.”

Like the celebrated battle of 1863 — we are seeing a clash between two powerful sectional forces over the fate of two competing economic systems — one based in digging stuff out of the ground, and one based in raising stuff from the ground.  Ag pivoted to energy to find a new market — and now it’s Oil Patch vs Farm Patch, over access to energy markets and the resulting good times for commodity prices, state revenues, and jobs. The outcome could be a downward spiral point for farm states that are seeing state tax revenues under severe pressure — just when taxpayers in these states had been hoping for some tax relief.

So, the stakes are high. The Administration is aiming for the power to reset Renewable Fuel Volumes — and farm states, facing painful recessions, are ready for battle over the biggest available value-add they have — the energy markets.

Why the crisis atmosphere?

The Omaha World-Herald put it best:

“Nebraska’s economic output in the first quarter this year was 4 percent less than the same period a year ago. This was the worst first-quarter figure of any U.S. state…Households, businesses and governments all need to be prepared for possible belt-tightening beyond what’s already been done…With a statewide ballot measure on property tax relief possible for November 2018, Nebraskans need to consider carefully how to balance practical tax relief with adequate funding for schools and other needs.”

Yes, the US farm sector is spiraling dow, fast — falling crop prices are driving down land values — which affects everything from farm credit to state tax revenues.

Why is land value important? With a value of $2.40 trillion in 2015, the value of farm real estate (land and structures) accounted for over four-fifths of the total value of U.S. farm sector total assets, according to USDA.

Why should everyone, everywhere watch this battle?

Agricultural production accounts “for around 51 percent of the U.S. land base”, says USDA. “Land use and land-use changes have important economic and environmental implications for commodity production and trade, open space, soil and water conservation, air quality and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, and other areas of interest.”

Here’s the hard data on land values, and farm income.

What’s the fix to falling farm-state revenues?

Without a rise in farm commodity prices no one is expecting and no-one outside of farm states is desiring — you’re going to hear “exports” from the Administration.

However, agricultural exports are in decline, and with the strong dollar, that’s not likely to change. Here’s USDA chart on that.

The fix? They see it in US transportation fuel markets — where demand is up, renewables have a strong value proposition, and US farm sector energy production capacity is over 21 billion (ethanol-equivalent) gallons.

However, distribution is controlled by the petroleum industry — hence the market-forcing mechanism of the Renewable Fuel Standard as set by Congress in 2005 and revised in 2007. The EPA oversees the annual volumes and is holding hearings this week on a controversial reverse on renewable fuel volumes — and that’s why the battle for the future of the farm sector is in DC, why EPA is at the heart of it, and why GOP farm-sector governors are on the hustings to protect their economies and tax bases.

As Rob Walther, Vice President of Federal Advocacy, POET, puts it:

“At a time that the agricultural crisis, noted by the Wall Street Journal, is picking up momentum and rural America is in serious jeopardy of mass farm bankruptcies, we can ill afford regressions in the federal government’s commitment to the heartland. … The cellulosic and advanced numbers do not take into account significant gains being realized by both hemi-cellulose and corn fiber technologies not just at POET, but around the industry.”

The 2017 volumes, EPA’s 2018 proposal at a glance

Corn ethanol

In 2017: 15 billion gallons.
EPA proposes for 2018: 15 billion gallons.
Industry says: Thank you!
Spotlight comment – Bob Dinneen, CEO, RFA: “We believe EPA is well-justified in that decision, given the overwhelming evidence that more than sufficient D6 RINs [conventional ethanol renewable identification numbers] will be available for compliance this year and next.”

Biomass-based diesel

In 2017:  2.1 billion gallons.
EPA proposes for 2018 and 2019: 2.1 billion gallons.
Industry says: Too low!
Spotlight commentDoug Whitehead, chief operating officer at the National Biodiesel Board: “Domestic production capacity is significantly underutilized, with 4.2 billion gallons of registered capacity according to EPA’s own assessment. This doesn’t even include non-registered plants or foreign production we expect will continue to reach our shores.

Advanced biofuel

In 2017: 4.28 billion gallons.
EPA proposes for 2018: 4.24 billion gallons.
Industry says: Too low!
Spotlight commentGrant Kimberley, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board and director of market development for the Iowa Soybean Association: “EPA’s current proposed volumes would stall biodiesel, an important Iowa manufacturing sector, at a time when it is already operating below its capacity. The U.S. can meet production demand, and has substantial room for growth, which EPA’s proposal does not acknowledge.”

Cellulosic ethanol

In 2017:  301 million gallons.
EPA proposes for 2018: 238 million gallons.
Industry says: Too low!
Spotlight comment – Jan Koninckx, Global Business Director for Advanced Biofuels at DuPont Industrial Biosciences: “For cellulosic ethanol, there is no question that the task for forecasting volumes for the next calendar year is difficult. However, in 2016 and 2017, EPA did a much better job of forecasting the cellulosic volume than for any of the prior years AND this past Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed upholding EPA’s process and the outcome. Given this result, there should be no question that EPA must revisit the process used in the current proposal for cellulosic ethanol and follow its own guidance and process used for the 2016 and 2017 cellulosic RVOs.”

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, this is not a regulatory battle, nor a skirmish that will end up as a battle in the courts. Though skirmish over regulations they will, and to the courts they might decamp.

This is a sectional political battle, this is a weighing of democratic might and will. Both sides are vying for the support of the Border States — one with a Copperhead appeal to lower prices and less regulation, the other with a Whig appeal to the broad national benefits of expanded domestic production through national investment.

Why does the bioeconomy base care so much? They fear a market lock-out without the RFS, and they fear the loss of financing without policy stability.

But there’s one thing the industry can work harder on, and that’s technology risk.

Policy can be technology-forcing, but nothing is market-forcing like technology, and the industry needs to get behind the technologies that are working, and get the technologies that aren’t working over the line. Policymakers, financiers, the public — everyone likes a winner.  The era of “build, commission, and pray” has got to end. Gettysburg wasn’t won with rifles that wouldn’t shoot.

We’re The Digest, we get it — the complexity of advanced fuels, $45 oil, the problems, the smart people working real hard. But the hour for delivery is now. The brave legions now making the rounds of Washington DC in the cause of defending the RFS are lining up just about the same way that General James Longstreet laid out the forces who made the 1863’s Pickett’s Charge.

Now, now and now. The forces are on the field. The battle is about to be joined. As they say in the business of war: make ready.

Categories: Today's News

Strobel Energy designs and builds commercial scale ethanol-to-ethanol acetate facility in Nebraska

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 6:37pm

In Nebraska, Strobel Energy Group announced that it has executed an EPC agreement with Prairie Catalytic, LLC, a subsidiary of Greenyug, LLC, to design and construct its commercial scale Bio-Ethanol to Ethyl Acetate facility in Nebraska. Ethyl Acetate is a specialty solvent used extensively in products such as paints, coatings, pharmaceuticals, adhesives and a variety of consumer goods.

The Prairie Catalytic production facility will be located adjacent to the Archer Daniels Midland Company’s Corn Processing Plant in Columbus, Nebraska which will supply the project with Bio-Ethanol feedstock and other services. Strobel has initiated the detailed engineering design and will begin construction of the facility in Q3 2017 with commissioning and production expected within approximately one year. HELM AG, based in Hamburg, Germany and Piscataway, NJ, is one of the world’s largest chemical marketing companies, has executed an off-take agreement for 100% of the Ethyl Acetate produced at the Prairie Catalytic facility.

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EU agri commissioner says Mercosur must lower ethanol demands to reach trade deal

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 6:36pm

In Belgium, the European Commissioner for agriculture believes an agreement on a free trade agreement with Mercosur can realistically be achieved by the end of this year but only if the Latin American countries are more modest in their agricultural market access demands, especially for ethanol, sugar and beef. Europe’s sugar and ethanol industries have been vocal about their concerns that additional market access for Mercosur countries, especially for Brazil, could negatively impact their viability.

Categories: Today's News

Environmentalists and auto manufacturers worried about E10 in Mexico

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 6:34pm

In Mexico, despite the opportunities to export more ethanol from the Midwest in response to the new 10% ethanol-blending mandate, local environmentalists are concerned that increased ethanol blending will boost the amount of ozone in the air along with other challenges such as the greenhouse gases associated with the production of ethanol. They are especially concerned about high altitude cities, though the US Grains Council assures that other high altitude cities such as Denver and Bogota have found E10 to not increase ozone levels. The Mexican auto manufacturers’ association are also concerned that the older vehicle fleet compared to the US will cause challenges at the pump with more vehicles not able to use higher blends.

Categories: Today's News

KiOR under fire for “bait and switch” scam detailed in emails

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 6:33pm

In Mississippi, a local newspaper is alleging that KiOR executives pulled off a “bait and switch” scam securing by an offtake for refined crude oil rather than to refine crude bio-oil as required by the state to secure a $75 million loan in taxpayer money. Emails seen by the newspaper show concerns began as far back as 2010 as to whether the project would really take off or if it would backfire as had happened another state investment in the beef industry.

Categories: Today's News

Brazil lowers PIS/Cofins tax on ethanol after raising it July 20

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 6:32pm

In Brazil, the government decided to lower the PIS/Cofins on ethanol to make it more competitive against gasoline after a decision July 20 to raise the tax for gasoline, diesel and ethanol. The ethanol industry complained that the increase on ethanol was higher than the 9.25% of the retail price allowed, so the government cut it back slightly. The tax of BRL0.24 per liter is much lower than the BRL0.79 applied to gasoline and BRL0.46 applied to diesel.

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Indian transport minister seeks lower GST for alternative fuels

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 6:26pm

In India, the transport minister has written to his finance counterpart to ask for a reduction of the 18% goods and services tax recently applied to biofuels in an effort to promote their use and reduce fossil fuel imports by 10%. Though biodiesel, for example, wasn’t subject to excise tax or in some states even VAT, the additional 18% GST is seen as a barrier to consumption. He also asked for a GST reduction on hybrid vehicles.

Categories: Today's News

Russian scientists determine composition of microalgae biofuel

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 6:24pm

In Russia, scientists have used high-resolution mass spectrometry to determine the composition of a biofuel obtained from the microalgae Spirulina platensis. The researchers studied two biofuel fractions obtained using a special algal mass treatment method. The researchers also proved that biofuel has little to do with oil in terms of its composition. However, it is similar to the “brilliant green” antiseptic commonly sold in Eastern Europe. The results of the study were published in the European Journal of Mass Spectrometry.

The research project was conducted by a group of scientists from Skoltech, the Joint Institute of High Temperatures of RAS, the V. L. Talrose Institute of Energy Problems of Chemical Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), the N. M. Emanuel Institute of Biochemical Physics of RAS, Lomonosov Moscow State University, and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

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Malaysia to send six MPs to Europe to fight for palm oil

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 07/31/2017 - 6:23pm

In Malaysia, the country is sending a delegation of six MPs to Europe in late September in an effort to try and stir up support for palm oil following trends in both the European Union and Norway to move away from using the oil due to sustainability challenges. The mission had been delayed from July due to most members of European Parliament already having left for summer holidays. Malaysia believes it is a strong proponent of environmental protection, especially of its forests.

Categories: Today's News

Strength through choice: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to the US Navy’s military biofuels program

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 7:43pm

To explain the Navy’s marine and aviation biofuels program, Chris Tindal gave the following presentation at ABLC 2017 — focusing on efforts to internationalize the supply. As we described it earlier, “They’re here. $2.05 per gallon, at-scale, domestically produced advanced renewable fuels — utilizing non-food feedstocks and based on next-generation technology. The Navy’s 7-year quest to diversify its fuel supply without paying more or changing its fuel spec reaches a key milestone.”

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US Court of Appeals bodyslams EPA in Renewable Fuel Standard battle

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 7:31pm

As DuPont’s Jan Koninckx put it in his understated way, Friday was “a good day for biofuels.”

But it was the biggest victory in the courts for biofuels, ever.

Specifically, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of Americans for Clean Energy and other renewable fuels advocates, agreeing with the petitioners that the Environmental Protection Agency erred in how it interpreted and used the “inadequate domestic supply” waiver in the Renewable Fuel Standard law in setting low renewable fuel volumes for 2014-2016.

In Americans for Clean Energy et al v. Environmental Protection Agency, the Court vacated EPA’s decision to reduce the total renewable fuel volume requirement in 2016 and remanded the rule to EPA for further consideration.

It’s here.

The background

In late May 2015, the EPA weighed in with staggeringly weak RFS volumetric proposals for 2014 through 2016, based on an arcane theory of “supply” vs. “demand” that the Court of Appeals found ridiculous. At the time, the industry was aghast, and responded with more than 200,000 comments. Among them, dire remarks like “POET expects to stop all future U.S. cellulosic investments if EPA’s proposed base renewable fuel requirements are not strengthened.”

And BIO’s Brent Erickson warned:

“EPA continues to assert authority under the general waiver provision to reduce biofuel volumes based on available infrastructure. This is a point that will have to be litigated. It goes against Congressional intent. EPA has proposed higher volumes for advanced biofuels, still below the statutory volumes, but maintained a methodology that discourages investment in the industry. That will likely undercut future production, requiring additional cuts to volumes in future.”

And so, industry sued. And now, as Judge Kavanaugh writes in his unanimous opinion:

EPA noted that the Renewable Fuel Program’s requirements were “readily achieved” in the few years after Congress created the program in 2005 and amended it in 2007. Id. That was due in large part to the fact that the industry had the capacity to produce – and the market had the capacity to consume – increasing quantities of ethanol. Id. But by 2014, ready compliance with the statutory volume requirements was no longer possible. That is because the industry hit the “E10 blendwall”: an “infrastructure and market-related constraint on ethanol demand” that “arises because most U.S. vehicle engines were not designed to handle gasoline consisting of more than 10 percent ethanol.” Put differently, a few years into the amended Renewable Fuel Program, the supply of ethanol was much greater than the demand in the market. 

Now, you may ask yourself, why would the distribution industry (controlled by, ahem, you can guess who) ever embrace E15. E30, or E85 if they could, by refusing to put in infrastructure, they could get ethanol volumes waived down — volumes that would have to be replaced by more gasoline (made by, ahem, you can guess who).

Think of it this way. All a petroleum marketer would have to do to squash competition is to make sure that no pump in the United States could handle E10 ethanol, or any ethanol content whatsoever. Presto! The E0.00000001 blendwall, and we’re right back to the gasoline dependency we started with.

Congress debated this very problem in the 2007 EISA Act. As Judge Kavanaugh observed:

The drafting history of the “inadequate domestic supply” provision, to the extent it is relevant, counts as yet another strike against EPA’s interpretation. The version of the Energy Policy Act passed by the House would have allowed EPA to reduce the statutory volume requirements “based on a determination by the Administrator, after public notice and opportunity for comment, that there is an inadequate domestic supply or distribution capacity to meet the requirement.” The latter portion of the waiver provision – which would have allowed EPA to consider “distribution capacity” – was dropped in the version of the bill passed by the Senate.As relevant here, the House agreed to the Senate’s amendment to the bill. The “distribution capacity” language does not appear in the final version of the Act. Congress’s decision to drop the “distribution capacity” language counsels against EPA’s reading in this case, which in effect would add that kind of language back into the waiver.

Nevertheless, the EPA went ahead with its interpretation. Industry headed for the courts for justice. And justice they won.

Why is this so big?

If you’ve been asking where all the cellulosic biofuels are, the obvious answer is that very little has been made, but why? One primary reason — not the only one, but a completely major factor — has been the EPA’s insistence that the content standard for US gasoline can be limited in terms of ethanol should anyone in the oil or automobile industry decide not to build distribution capacity.

It struck us as absurd from the get-go. We noted that, by he same logic, that any obligated party could avoid mandates for safe drinking water by not building any distribution for anything but filthy water. Or a cruise ship could avoid rules for minimum lifeboat count by simply not installing the davits to hold them.

Everyone knows that this is not so. A mandate to provide something puts the responsibility on the obligated party to figure out how to distribute it. And in the case of the Renewable Fuel Standard, if parties feel they cannot afford the burden of blending and distributing fuels, or the exercise in innovation of figuring out how to lower the cost — they can simply purchase RIN credits in the open market and they are done.

The problem is that common sense evaded the EPA in this case. Not only did they release the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard some 2 years late — in fact, after 2014 had expired — they got the math very, very wrong.

So decided Circuit judges Brett Kavanaugh, Janice Rogers Brown and Patricia Millett — the first two being Bush-era nominees — in a stinging decision penned by Kavanaugh.

Highlights from the decision

Importantly, whether a thing is “available” to someone has nothing to do with whether he or she decides to use it. (The fact that a person is on a diet does not mean that there is an inadequate supply of food in the refrigerator.) So too here: Whether there is an adequate amount of renewable fuel available to allow refiners, blenders, and importers to meet the statutory volume requirements has little to do with how much renewable fuel that refiners, blenders, and importers – much less consumers at the pump – ultimately decide to use. 

The Renewable Fuel Program’s increasing requirements are designed to force the market to create ways to produce and use greater and greater volumes of renewable fuel each year. EPA’s interpretation of the “inadequate domestic supply” provision flouts that statutory design: Instead of the statute’s volume requirements forcing demand up, the lack of demand allows EPA to bring the volume requirements down. “No argument” that EPA has “offered here supports that goal- defying (much less that text-defying) statutory construction.” 

We reject EPA’s attempt to bootstrap the definition of “renewable fuel” into a boundless general waiver authority. Contrary to EPA’s contention, the phrase “that is used” in the definition of “renewable fuel” does not mean that biofuel transforms into renewable fuel only when it is actually pumped into gas tanks. 

Second, EPA contends that interpreting “supply” to refer to the amount of renewable fuel available to refiners, blenders, and importers in effect reads “supply” to mean “production.” That interpretation is not correct, according to EPA, because “other fuel related provisions of the Clean Air Act” distinguish between “capacity to produce” and “capacity to supply” fuel. 

EPA has not explained why Congress would have established the severe-harm waiver standard “only to allow waiver under the inadequate-supply” provision based on “lesser degrees” of economic harm. 

We are not convinced that EPA’s strained interpretation of “inadequate domestic supply” is necessary to avoid the parade of horribles that EPA identifies. 

Taking a step back, moreover, we reject EPA’s purposive argument on its own terms. That is because EPA’s proposed interpretation of the “inadequate domestic supply” waiver provision – in which the demand for renewable fuel largely dictates the volume requirements – turns the Renewable Fuel Program’s “market forcing” provisions on their head. Final Rule, 80 Fed. Reg. at 77,423. To be sure, EPA and obligated parties have raised serious concerns that the Renewable Fuel Program is not actually functioning as intended and that, as a result, the statute’s requirements will only become more and more impractical to meet. But the fact that EPA thinks a statute would work better if tweaked does not give EPA the right to amend the statute. Cf. Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, 134 S. Ct. 2427, 2445, slip op. at 21 (2014) (“An agency has no power to ‘tailor’ legislation to bureaucratic policy goals by rewriting unambiguous statutory terms. Agencies exercise discretion only in the interstices created by statutory silence or ambiguity; they must always give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress.”) (internal quotation marks omitted). 

Reaction from the stakeholders

Jan Koninckx, DuPont:

“We look forward to working with EPA as the agency re-examines the renewable volume obligation rules on biofuels and translates the Court’s decision into regulatory action. Consistent and long-term biofuels policy is critical to continued growth and investment in renewable fuels.

National Corn Growers Association

“Today’s Court decision is a win for farmers, the biofuels industry, and consumers. We appreciate the Court honoring Congress’ intent. Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard to help increase American energy independence and provide cleaner fuel choices for consumers by opening a closed fuel market and forcing the oil industry to allow competition in. Whether there is an adequate supply of renewable fuel to meet volume standards is not the same as how much fuel is used. Or, in the Court’s own words, ‘The fact that a person is on a diet does not mean there is an inadequate supply of food in the refrigerator.’

“Corn farmers have done our part to help expand the supply of renewable fuel, as well as help support use of renewable fuels with retailers and consumers. We look forward to working with the EPA to ensure that going forward, the Agency follows the law when implementing the RFS.”

POET CEO Jeff Broin 

“Today’s decision is a victory for U.S. drivers and everyone who supports clean, American-made fuel. Congress clearly laid out its vision for increasing our nation’s use of American-made biofuels, and the biofuels industry has worked tirelessly to make that vision a reality. We must use every available gallon of clean, domestic biofuels in lieu of importing more oil. It’s environmentally responsible; it’s economically responsible; it’s common sense; and it’s the law. We hope this decision will help us move past the unjustified resistance to year-round use of E15 by those protecting oil markets and pave the way to the expansion of higher biofuel blends across the United States.

Donnell Rehagen, CEO, National Biodiesel Board

“Today’s decision from the D.C. Circuit is welcome reassurance that EPA has the authority to increase volumes of biomass-based diesel. We must do so to advance the goals of the law. And as co-petitioners to the general waiver authority argument, we were pleased to see the court agreeing with our arguments. Biofuels today replace toxic chemicals linked to cancer, developmental disorders and other health issues. Biofuels lower greenhouse gas emissions by at least 43 percent. Today’s decision will help to increase those benefits while lowering costs for consumers at the pump.”

BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood

“BIO and its members are pleased that the Court agreed with us that EPA’s flawed methodology would have allowed the oil industry to control the volumes of renewable fuels offered to consumers. BIO has consistently said that the RFS statute does not allow EPA to rely on demand-side factors under the oil industry’s control as a basis for setting annual volumes.

“We are equally pleased that EPA abandoned its legally flawed reliance on general waiver authority in subsequent rules. We will continue to work with the agency as it reconsiders the 2015 and 2016 RFS volumes. EPA can send a strong signal that it will support the biofuels industry and grow advanced and cellulosic biofuel production.

“BIO’s members rely on the RFS to open the U.S. transportation fuel market to new, cleaner technologies. Stability in this program enables our member companies to secure investment for the development and commercialization of new advanced biofuel technologies.”

The Bottom Line

This issue looks settled for all time — there’s just nothing for the Supreme Court to look at here until President Trump gets five justices on the bench from Oklahoma, and there’s nothing for the Court of Appeals here to go for an en banc review of the three-member panel. There no controversy between warring circuit courts, and the decision is a model of judiciary knocking down zealous Obama-era bureaucrats.

If there are issues with the RFS, the Circuit Court is very clear:

If the regime is indeed flawed, it is up to Congress and the President to “reenter the field” and fix it. 

ABFA president Mike McAdams recently penned this column on that topic and we anticipate and encourage a healthy and vigorous debate on the RFS’ legislative future. Now, let the noisy, fractious, democratic debate begin.

Categories: Today's News

Hitting a new high – Hemp industry and innovations continue to grow like weeds

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 10:25am

In Florida, former Dell executive Bruce Dietzen created a car made from hemp that runs on biofuel and is touted as carbon neutral. Industrial hemp grows as Vermont registers more than 80 new hemp growers so far this year alone.

It’s been busy lately for the hemp industry. News of the latest biobased hemp car, called Renew, and Vermont’s latest statistics on their state’s hemp industry’s growth made Biofuels Digest wonder what is it about hemp that is so hip? Will we be wearing our hemp shirt and eating our hemp snack bar while driving in our hemp car that runs on hemp biofuel, on our way to our office building built with hemp construction materials?

No, we aren’t high. We just see a growing trend in innovation and hemp based products that make us wonder why is it making a comeback? What new crazy things are innovators coming up with using this material from nature? How are governments supporting hemp around the world? And what does the future hold for hemp?

Let’s start with the car

Apparently, Henry Ford created the first hemp car back in 1941 with a prototype made from soybean, hemp and other agricultural fibers as a way to integrate agriculture with the emerging auto industry and as a way to manage steel shortages during World War II. Ford didn’t get a chance to mass produce the car, however, with the oil industry pressuring government to lower gasoline prices and increase alcohol taxes which helped to quickly shut down Ford’s vision of his biofuel driven biobased car.

So why are we so enamored with the Renew car made by Dietzen? It seems to be one of the greenest cars out there today. Let’s compare hemp to trees: Trees take about 20 years to grow, but hemp only takes about 3 or 4 months and often can be replanted several times throughout the year. The fast-growing feedstock means it can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere quickly and help make it a carbon neutral option.

Another reason is the strength of hemp fibers. Hemp fibers have been used for many years in ropes and textiles because of their strength, making it a perfect material for something that needs to be strong yet lightweight, like a car. In fact, Jay Leno test drove a Renew recently and he and Dietzen demonstrated in a video how strong the car was by pounding on the hood and showing no indents from the force impact.

What else can we make with hemp?

Look around you right now. Whatever you see around you, it probably can be made with hemp. The options are endless and hemp innovation goes from things we’ve heard of like medicinal use, paper, clothing, and biofuels to things you probably never imagined like eyeglasses, buildings, and airplanes.

In April, NUU reported that 25-year-old designer Sam Whitten launched Hemp Eyewear in Scotland, a glasses brand using industrial-grade hemp imported from Eastern Europe. The hemp undergoes a compression-molding process, and the glasses are sealed with resin. So far, Hemp Eyewear has five styles. “Hemp is a leading-edge sustainable technology that turns organic plant fiber into solid material that is lighter and stronger than carbon fiber. ” Whitten told the Scotsman. Hemp is easy to grow, even in poor soil; does not require weed killers; and uses relatively low amounts of water. “The applications for this are almost limitless, but more importantly it is made from a renewable resource,” he said.

As reported in NUU in January, Hempearth Group in North Carolina is planning to order a four-seater aircraft composed of 75% industrial hemp. The company was performing structural testing on industrial hemp with the hopes of replacing fiberglass with plant-based composites made up of hemp and plastics. Hemp, which is naturally flame retardant, will be used in several components, including the wings, outer shell, and seats. The greener, light-weighted aircraft could also use hemp-based biofuel if approval by aviation regulators is achieved in time. The plane will be designed and built by small-plane maker Velocity Inc., which did some of its own testing on the material’s strength and durability before agreeing to the build. Wingspan is expected to be 36-feet. Hempearth hopes to hold the plane’s inaugural flight in Kitty Hawk, Virginia in 2018.

Hemp is gaining ground as a building and construction material as well. In December, NUU reported that researchers and builders in six different EU countries are finding that using textiles, hemp, straw and other plant-based biomaterials absorb moisture, prevent mold, improve building acoustics, and offer energy savings better than conventional building material. Applications range from roofing to insulation using biomaterials such as recycled and leftover textile scraps and waste, hemp, straw, and other natural fibers that breathe and thus are great at absorbing moisture. The project is headed up by ISOBIO which includes 11 partners across Europe, and includes companies like Rooflys and researchers at the Technical University of Madrid in Spain, and the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.

Government support for hemp

Now that we know we can make all sorts of things with hemp, it’s nice to see governments getting behind the idea.

As reported in Biofuels Digest earlier this month, the Nebraska governor has competition for the Republican primary election next year in a young woman who is putting the focus on strengthening agriculture with a platform that heavily supports hemp production for biofuels, aiming to making the state the national leader in hemp-based biofuel manufacturing. She wants to bring young people into farming as well as improve education and healthcare in addition to legalizing marijuana.

We reported in May that Florida state legislators are looking to ease restrictions on industrial hemp research. According to the Florida State Senate, house bill 1217 that “authorizes specified universities in state to engage in industrial hemp research projects” has been “pending review of CS under Rule 7.18(c)”. Representative Ralph Massullo, sponsor of the bill, said industrial hemp is a viable crop option for industry-starved rural areas and may “even surpass oranges”. The proposed Florida house bill states:

Industrial hemp is a suitable crop for this state, and its production will contribute positively to the future of agriculture in the state. The infrastructure needed to process industrial hemp will increase business opportunities and new jobs in communities throughout the state. As a food crop, industrial hemp seeds and oil produced from the seeds have high nutritional value, including healthy fats and proteins. As a fiber crop, industrial hemp can be used in the manufacture of products such as clothing, building supplies, and animal bedding.

Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc. commented, “Florida has been cautious when it comes to hemp since the government banned it alongside marijuana. This is why we continually educate the public on the difference between hemp and marijuana. Industrial hemp has absolutely no recreational applications. It only has medical and industrial applications. You can’t get high on hemp if you wanted to. It is impossible. While the plants are closely related, hemp has only very small traces of THC.”

Also in May, NUU reported that hemp is gaining traction as an agricultural crop now that South Carolina state legislature and Governor Henry McMaster have passed a bill allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp. More than 30 other states like Kentucky and Tennessee have already allowed industrial hemp farming, but South Carolina’s bill is somewhat limited as it is only issuing 20 farming permits in the coming year, each one only allowing up to 20 acres of industrial hemp farming. Over the next two years, the numbers increase to 50 permits with up to 50 acres each. South Carolina’s weather bodes well for hemp farmers as they can get three and possibly four crop harvests each year, making it a profitable pursuit.

Pennsylvania wants to get in on the hemp action too. As reported in Biofuels Digest in March, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture approved 16 research proposals that seek to demonstrate the value and viability of industrial hemp cultivation in the state. The projects were approved under the new Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program, which the department launched in December after Governor Tom Wolf and the General Assembly enacted Act 92 of 2016. Most projects intend to build on existing knowledge of how to optimize industrial hemp production in Pennsylvania, including a better understanding of what varieties will grow well in the state and what farming practices are best for industrial hemp growth. Several explore novel characteristics of hemp growth, evaluating its potential as a cover crop to inhibit weed growth and its potential to remediate contaminated soils by absorbing contaminants, along with water and nutrition. Many of the projects include research on potential uses of the harvested stalks and seeds for biofuels, animal bedding, feed, human food products, or manufactured goods.

Hemp has government support internationally as well, not just in the U.S. Biofuels Digest reported in May that in North Korea, the government is pushing farmers to grow hemp instead of soybeans, not to produce cooking oil as claimed but instead to produce biofuel to power drones. The country relies entirely on fuel imports from China and has recently been exposed to spiking prices in light of a possible fuel embargo as tensions between the two countries increase. Hemp has been grown for cooking fuel in the country since the 1980s.

As reported in Biofuels Digest in February, the South Australian government will back a plan to allow hemp growing for industrial uses including for biofuel. Victoria was the first state to allow hemp production in 1998, followed but all other states except for South Australia and the Northern Territory. Though the industry acknowledged that it will take some time to get it up and running, following in the footsteps of Canada and the U.S., that should the policy be implemented soon, then crop trials could already be started this year.

Bottom Line

We could have written about many other states and countries that are supporting industrial hemp, and countless of other new hemp products coming out every week, and that’s the point. There’s much to write about because hemp is hot. It’s a renewable, greener alternative for many current products out there, it’s quick to grow and removes carbon dioxide from the air helping efforts to curb climate change, it’s something that helps farmers and agriculture around the world, it’s super strong and lightweight making it an amazing biomaterial for so many uses. The future looks lit up with hemp paving the way for better sustainable products in many industries.

Categories: Today's News

Pressure is on for Fiberight plant opening in Maine

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 10:04am

In Maine, Fiberight told a Maine community nonprofit group concerned about trash disposal that the current under-construction plant should start taking in trash as planned in April 2018. However, the trash may be shipped to a landfill temporarily and biofuels may not be produced from the trash right away as the biofuel processor isn’t scheduled for completion until June and a completely functional plant won’t be ready until March 2019. The pressure is now on for Fiberight as a new master waste supply agreement says if Fiberight isn’t ready to at least accept trash by April 2018, then it will be responsible for liquidated damages.

Fiberight’s plant will convert organic waste into biofuels like biomethane and separate recyclables to be sent off to recycling facilities.

Categories: Today's News

CVR Refining hits record $106m biofuel bill in second quarter

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 10:02am

In Texas, CVR Refining told investors on an earnings call that it paid $106 million to meet the U.S. biofuel regulations during the second quarter, spending much more than the previous record of $65.5 million back in 2013. CVR plans on paying a total of anywhere from $200 million to $250 million in biofuels costs for 2017, higher than its original forecast of $170 million. They had a record $205.9 million outstanding from last year but deferred much of it to this year hoping that credit prices would decrease and lower their total amount. Obviously, that didn’t happen and now CVR is literally paying for it.

When asked for more information on CVR’s current credit short position, Jack Lipinski, the chief executive of CVR told Reuters that he would answer that question “when Chevron, Exxon and when the traders that are manipulating the RINs market open up their books and say what they’re doing.”


Categories: Today's News

EU postpones vote on biodiesel import duties for Argentina and Indonesia

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 10:01am

In Belgium, the European Union held off on a vote that was supposed to lower duties on biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia in response to Argentina’s challenge to the EU’s anti-dumping duties placed on biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia. The vote was postponed for their next meeting on September 7.

In 2013, the EU set duties for five years of 20.5 percent for biodiesel from Indonesia and between 22 and 25.7 percent for Argentine biodiesel. The complaint filed with the World Trade Organization was upheld in 2016 with Argentina saying the EU duties were protectionist and cost Argentina $1.6 billion each year it was in place.

Categories: Today's News

Biofuels from wood waste increasing in Arctic region

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 9:59am

In Russia, scientists are looking at biofuels as another alternative energy source for Arctic regions, in addition to the existing wind power that takes advantage of the high wind speeds. The switch from oil and coal is already being made to biofuel from wood processing waste in some areas. There are already 10 biofuel producers and two new plants will be in operation by the end of 2017. They have 37 boiling stations already using biofuel, and another 18 will start using biofuel by the end of this year. Their hope is to decrease deliveries of coal from afar and instead use the locally available wood waste.

Categories: Today's News

Second largest soybean harvest on record worldwide but is it real?

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 9:57am

In Germany, UFOP reports that in the running marketing year, farmers are expected to bring in the second largest soybean harvest on record worldwide. This suggests ample supply – but reality is arguably different. Stocks are even projected to decline slightly at the end of 2017/18. Large harvest amounts lead to lower price levels and boost demand. Current estimates see global demand for soybeans rising to 345.3 million tonnes (up 14 million tonnes from 2016/17).

According to Agrarmarkt Informationsgesellschaft (AMI), this figure would only just exceed the anticipated production of 345 million tonnes and, consequently, lead to a reduction in stocks. Demand could lower stocks by more than 1 million tonnes to 93.5 million tonnes. In purely arithmetic terms, the projected 2017/18 soybean ending stocks would cover demand for 99 days. A year ago, ending stocks would have lasted one week longer. These prospects limit the scope for downward movement in prices.


Categories: Today's News

After 9 week high, ethanol production down this week

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 9:52am

In Washington, DC, according to EIA data, ethanol production averaged 1.012 million barrels per day (b/d)—or 42.50 million gallons daily. That is down 14,000 b/d from the week before. The four-week average for ethanol production decreased to 1.015 million b/d for an annualized rate of 15.56 billion gallons.

Stocks of ethanol were 21.5 million barrels. That is a 2.7% decrease from last week. There were zero imports recorded for the eleventh week in a row.

Average weekly gasoline demand increased 2.4% to 412.5 million gallons (9.821 million barrels) daily–just 42,000 gallons/day shy of the all-time weekly record broken two months prior. Gasoline demand is equivalent to 150.6 billion gallons annualized. Refiner/blender input of ethanol increased 2.6% to 945,000 b/d, equivalent to 14.49 billion gallons annualized. Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production decreased to 10.30%.

Categories: Today's News

TERRA-MEPP agricultural robot available by end of this year

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 07/30/2017 - 9:48am

In Illinois, the TERRA-MEPP robot collects useful information for plant breeders, such as emergence, height, biomass and canopy temperature. It has been tested by several companies, but will now be available to seed companies by the end of this year. Created by University of Illinois scientists, this robot treks along soil and crop rows to collect data that is easily downloaded and used to help seed companies evaluate their products.

Their goal is to expand and sell TERRA-MEPP, which stands for “Transportation Energy Resource from Renewable Agriculture-Mobile Energy Crop Phenotyping Platform,” to large farms in 2018. The robot can even work through the night in the dark to analyze biofuel crops to find desirable yields and traits. The smaller version of the robot is 3D printed making it lower in cost, about $5,000, whereas the larger version has sensors and cameras that alone cost $30,000.

Categories: Today's News


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