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Today's News

Argentina boosts ethanol prices again

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:14pm

In Argentina, the government raised the price of sugarcane-based ethanol for June that oil refiners must pay by the maximum 5% allowed to $1 per liter. Corn-based ethanol was also raised slightly by 0.7% to 80.5 cents per liter. The ethanol is used to supply the 12% mandatory ethanol blending policy. The government has been steadily increasing the prices, especially for sugarcane-based ethanol, on a monthly basis in order to support industry development like neighboring Brazil.

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REG DeForest suffers $1 million in fire damage

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:13pm

In Wisconsin, the former Sanimax biodiesel plant in DeForest suffered about $1 million in damage from a fire on Thursday morning. The cause of the fire at the 20 million gallon facility currently owned by the Renewable Energy Group is unknown and still under investigation. REG bought the facility in February 2016 for about $11 million and 500,000 REG shares. The company announced shortly after that it would invest about $7 million upgrading the facility.

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Lower sugar prices could see Brazil return to compete with US on ethanol

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:12pm

In Brazil, with global sugar prices falling that will see mills begin to shift towards more ethanol production, additional supplies are likely to compete directly with US-produced ethanol in the global market. US corn-based ethanol is currently seeing a lot of export demand, taking advantage of being the lone exporter of volumes above 1 billion gallons. As production continues to increase but demand remains steady due to policy restrictions such as the Reid Vapor Pressure rule, US ethanol must find other markets to supply. Brazilian competition will reduce the returns US exporters have been enjoying for the past several months.

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Dutch MEP wants to promote algae and waste-based biofuels investment

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:11pm

In Belgium, Dutch member of the European Parliament Bas Eckhout is calling for a complete phase-out of support for crop-based biofuel while supporting investment for algae and waste-based biofuel investment. In the post-2020 proposals waste oil-based biofuels are also capped like conventional biofuels. He says key to the continued inclusion of biofuels in the European market is ensuring the fuels provide high enough greenhouse gas emissions savings while also being socially and otherwise environmentally sustainable. He is pushing for a 45% renewable energy target for 2030.

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Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission comes out swinging against biofuels again

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:10pm

In Canada, the Ecofiscal Commission has come out with another scathing report against biofuels subsidies and blending mandates, this time favoring carbon taxes over other policy measures to achieve decarbonization in transportation. Its report last year estimated CO2 reduction costs C$180 to C$185 per metric ton using ethanol and C$128 to C$165 per ton using biodiesel but the new report says in addition to the carbon prices being expensive without clear benefits, that aligning carbon reduction with rural development does not really make sense and is a stretch under the “two birds with one stone” principle.

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Texas A&M researchers look at DDGS feeding supplements for cattle

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:08pm

In Texas, researchers at Texas A&M AgriLife Research are interested in how seasons affect how well cattle can digest a type of Bermuda grass, Tifton 85. In a recent study, they found that as seasons progress, the grass becomes harder to digest. However, by supplementing with the dried distillers’ grains, this effect can be minimized.

The results of this study point to a potential two-season grazing strategy, based on animal size, weight, and age. For example, lightweight animals could graze in the early summer without the grain supplement because the grass is able to give them the needed nutrients to thrive.

In the later part of the summer, the matured animals could graze with the distillers’ grain supplement. The grain would add back some of the nutrients the cattle lose out on when the grass is further into season.

This research allows the scientists to determine the most effective and efficient way to use distillers’ grains as a supplement. They can learn how much is best to give, when is best to give it, and how much return it can provide a rancher.

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Argentina could get back into US biodiesel market but only if speeds up seed approvals

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 8:04pm

In Argentina, the US government has offered to resume biodiesel imports in exchange for the country’s quicker approval of seeds developed by American companies. A law was proposed in the Argentine legislature last year that would speed up the regulatory approval process while also allowing for fines to be lobbed against farmers who store seeds for the following season without paying royalty fees to the companies supplying the original seed. The US commerce secretary and Argentine production minister are expected to meet soon to hammer out the deal.

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Biomass Pyrolysis Comes of Age

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 12:21pm

By Lorenz Bauer, Ph.D., Lee Enterprises Consulting, Inc.
Special to The Digest

After many years of development biomass pyrolysis is finally maturing as a commercial technology. Pyrolysis is not incineration. The goal is to use heat in the absence of oxygen to convert the biomass to a more useful form while preserving as much of the carbon as possible. The water and oxygen associated with the carbon is reduced.  In concept, pyrolysis is the simplest and lowest cost option for converting biomass to fuels, chemicals, and other useful products. Markets for the products from biomass pyrolysis are emerging and more technology providers are moving from the demonstration to the commercial scale. The current and future market sizes and prices for the biogas, biooil, biocoal, biochar and wood vinegar products from commercial plants can be more clearly estimated.

A wide variety of materials can be processed using pyrolysis. There many sources of low value materials like agricultural waste, forestry by-products, and burned trees. Pyrolysis is particularly suited for converting high lignin content materials that do not compete with food production. Recently there has been renewed interest in cofeeding mixed plastic and animal wastes. Currently available products include syngas, liquid bio oil, char, and wood alcohol.  Power production is the main application but agricultural uses and chemical production are growing in importance. The interest in pyrolysis is demonstrated by the over 1,000 projects of various sizes that have been reported in the last 15 years. While many of these are no longer active there is a large number of projects still operating. Interest in new plants and technologies continues, and there are many groups with opportunity feeds they want to convert via pyrolysis.

Technologies and Economics

Pyrolysis is use in several different processes.   The most common are referred to as fast pyrolysis, slow pyrolysis and gasification. Products include liquid hydrocarbons, char, biogas and an aqueous phase that contains organic acids.   The product distribution depends on the temperature, residency time, feed pretreatment, and the equipment used.

The economics of pyrolysis technologies are highly variable. Production costs depend heavily on local feed availability and costs. This makes smaller scale mobile units particularly attractive. Areas with reliable sources of feed within a close radius of a potential plant location are preferred. Biomass pyrolysis can provide an economic stimulus to rural areas. Locations with an existing forestry industry are very attractive.   Waste handling sites near large population centers are considering pyrolysis for their mixed agricultural and other wastes. The European Union and California have severely restrictive landfill policies that make the adoption of economically marginal processes practical due to reduced tipping costs.   Countries that want to preserve foreign currency and promote the use of local resources in Asia and Africa have also shown interest.   The pyrolysis plants also provide the opportunity for local power generation for areas without the grid infrastructure to support centralized power production.   These factors can make biomass pyrolysis plants viable even at the current low prices for the competitive fossil fuels. However, the primary source of interest in the technology is related to reduction of the use of fossil carbon.  Establishing regulations requiring the use of renewable carbons and the availability of carbon credits can tip the economics in favor of pyrolysis.

Bio Oil and Fast Pyrolysis

Fast pyrolysis came to the attention of the biofuel community because it produces high yields of liquid product called bio oil.  The process relies on high temperatures and short residency times. There are close to 100 fast pyrolysis projects in progress, and there have been 10 commercial scale plants either built or under construction.

The goal of the development effort is to use this hydrocarbon rich biooil to produce a fuel that could replace crude oil as starting material for transportation use.   The yields and properties of biooil are highly variable and depend on process conditions. Some of the initially produced materials were very unstable and corrosive with very high organic oxygen contents. It was difficult to separate the biooil from the aqueous phase produced in the process.   Development efforts have focused on producing biooil with oxygen contents of less than 25 wt% of the oil. This allows easier separation and improves the the quality of the oil.   Unfortunately this improvement comes at the expense of lower yields of useful carbon.

As produced biooil, without upgrading, is becoming a commodity product with a clear set of specifications. The ASTM has published a standard method D7544 that includes heat value, density and solids contents for two separate grades.   Commercial sized plants are operating and more are planned to start production in the next two years. By 2018 the pyrolysis oil production will exceed 500,000 tons per year. The price of biooil is comparable to that of industrial wood chips on an energy per dollar basis.   However, biooil has a clear advantage in ease of handling and reduced storage costs. Bio-oil is competitively price with fuel oil in many markets.    The price of Canadian pyrolysis oil delivered to Rotterdam in 2014, ~$13 per GJ, was comparable to that of heating oil in most markets (~$2 per gallon) without any environmental credits. However, current oil prices would need to rise above $55 barrel for the pyrolysis oil to have price advantage over fuel oil.  The biooil will first be used in industrial applications. It requires some modifications to equipment to allow its use in smaller generators and combustion engines. It can be potentially blended with biodiesels and other fuels.

The biooil produced from fast pyrolysis can be stabilized and upgraded by a variety of techniques including separation, derivatization, hydroprocessing, and other techniques to fuels more compatible with current equipment and infrastructure.   The U.S. government’s NREL lab estimates the minimum selling price per gallon of a drop-in fuel made from current fast pyrolysis oil is about $2.53 per gallon.

Adding a catalyst to the pyrolysis process produces a higher quality product that can be more easily upgraded to drop in fuels that contain only molecules found in current hydrocarbon fuels. This process was demonstrated on a commercial scale by KiOR. There is a continued effort by many groups to develop more carbon efficient and lower cost catalysts.   NREL estimated the minimum selling price of a gallon of gasoline derived from catalytic pyrolysis could eventually be as low as $1.28 per gallon. Promising approaches to lower costs, more selective catalysts have been identified and are being pursued by several groups.

Biooil can also be used as a source of useful chemicals.   The biooil contains valuable substituted phenols and aromatics that can potentially be separated and sold at a significant premium over fuel. There are several groups pursuing this option include Ensyn, UOP, Anellotech, and others.

Char, Wood Vinegar and Slow Pyrolysis

There are over 380 slow pyrolysis projects at various stages of implementation.   Slow pyrolysis produces two major products, a solid char or biocoal and an aqueous liquid called wood vinegar. The properties of the products are highly dependent on the feedstocks and process conditions so it is difficult to clearly define the market and potential price.

Humans have been making charcoal by pyrolysis for 1000’s of years. The charcoal making process was the precursor of continuous slow pyrolysis process.   Depending on the temperature and the residency time the products are primarily solids which are called either biocoal or char depending on the severity of the process.

Biocoal is a direct replacement for coal in power applications. It can be used in combustion boilers or as a feed for gasifiers.   Making biocoal in a 50 ton per day plant costs about $230 per ton. Coal prices have been depressed and have been at about $55 per ton in 2017.   Substituting biocoal only makes economic sense in markets where there are economic or regulatory benefits to replacing fossil carbon.

Biochar differs from biocoal in its absorption capacity and moisture content. It is prepared under more severe conditions.   Currently, a significant amount of biochar that is produced is used as feeds to produce syngas.

A potentially more valuable market for biochar as a soil amendment agent is emerging. Currently the market is primarily for high value crops like nuts and fruits. It is considered highly desirable by organic farmers.   According to one source, 280 kilotons of biochar were produced in 2015.   The market was predicted to grow to over 800 kilotons in 2025.

The costs and benefits of biochar are still uncertain. Current prices are about $1,000 per ton. The production costs should be similar to the $230 ton cost of biocoal.   Many analyst believe the market price will drop to closer to production costs as supplies increase.   The benefits of biochar to agriculture are still being proved scientifically.   The organic farmers strongly believe in the benefit and are willing to pay a premium price of between $200-400 per acre.   The high cost for use is due to large amounts of biochar that need to be added to the soil to see a significant benefit. Home gardeners are paying up to $4 per pound.

Part of the reason for this interest is that biochar is marketed as a natural product. The carbon in the biochar is locked in the soil so the char can qualify for environmental credits since carbon is derived from atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is possible to produce similar products from other “chemical” carbon sources at lower production costs. However, these would not qualify for environmental credits.

Slow pyrolysis produces a significant amount of an aqueous fraction containing organic acids that has been called wood vinegar. Wood vinegar has been used in Asia for several decades as an agricultural chemical. There are numerous reports that it improves plant growth and is a “natural” method for insect control. It is of interest to organic farmers.

The wood vinegar is decanted from a multiphase mixture of the vinegar, bio-oil, and tar and contains some of these latter materials. These minor components include phenolic compounds, ester, acetals, ketones, formic acid, and many others. These minor components in the wood vinegar may be critical to many of the applications of the material. They also can present problems because of their potential toxicity.

Wood vinegar has not reached the status of a commodity chemical anywhere in the world.   Countries that produce wood vinegar commercially include China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, and Chile.   A recent market study reported that wood vinegar market value would reach $6.7 Million USD by 2022. However this market is likely understated.   There is a significant effort by agricultural groups in Asia and Australia to promote the use of wood vinegar. Similarly, a few small companies in the U.S., Europe and Canada are working on market development. The current wholesale price of wood vinegar on the Asian market is about $4 per gallon. It is likely this price would drop significantly if the supply of wood vinegar increased, and wood vinegar would find other industrial uses.

Gasification and Biogas

Gasification is the most commonly deployed biomass pyrolysis process with over 450 projects reported; however, a recent study reported that only about 100 are still operating. The primary product is biogas that can be used for power and heat generation. The solids and water soluble carbon species generated can be sent to a thermal oxidizer to produce steam for additional power generation. Small-scale direct biomass to electricity plants have installed costs of $3,000 to $4,000 per kw and a cost of energy of $0.08 to $0.15 per kilowatt hour (kWh).

Gasification is more economical where combined heat and power applications are possible. However, pyrolysis gasification is significantly more expensive than natural gas plants in the absence of subsidies as long as natural gas is available. The gasifiers are also more difficult to operate because of the higher production of tar and other by-products.

Gasification is attractive for waste to energy projects because it can be very tolerant of mixed feed sources. It also produces very low volumes of residue. Thus, it can capture the value of the tipping fees. Much of the research involving gasification is aimed at increased it efficiency and operability. There are a number of projects that are targeting treating mixed agricultural and municipal wastes. Post conversion product cleanup and particular tar removal are a significant amount of the cost of gasification. Advanced gasification technologies are in the development phase and moving towards commercialization.

Gasification is highly capital intensive and benefits greatly from economy of scale. Designing economical units that can be located close to agricultural production has been challenging. The relatively poor track record of initial gasification commercialization has made getting approvals difficult. Gasification also presents significant barriers in terms of local regulations that were designed to control incineration, electrical generation and chemical producers that have separate permitting processes.

Some of the more active providers of biomass gasification to energy technology in Europe and North America include Babcock & Wilcox Vølund, Agnion Energy Neterra, PRM Energy Systems, PureEnergy Prime Energy, Taylor Energy, and Zeropoint Energy. Many of these provide pyrolysis systems for plastic, tire and mixed waste conversion.

There are continuing efforts to produce liquid hydrocarbons from the syngas produced by gasification. via small scale Fischer Tropsch. methanation, methanol to olefin and other processes. As yet, none of these have been convincingly demonstrated at a scale appropriated for biomass processing. However, there are several companies that are reportedly close to commercial scale demonstration.

Future of Pyrolysis

When the price of oil rises to over $60 per barrel, advanced pyrolysis technologies may make more economic sense and may be more widely adopted. Cost reduction and higher carbon yields are the main targets of continued research efforts. However, these are coming at the price of increased complexity that may make operation difficult. Development for improved methods for upgrading the pyrolysis products to chemicals may also help pyrolysis process economics; however, it will be difficult to justify these costs for smaller plants.

The use of centralized upgrading plants, like refineries, is the obvious solution. There has been a continuing effort to integrate biooil upgrading into current fossil fuel refineries. So far these efforts have not been successful for both technical reasons and concerns with risk management. Recently there has been a successful pilot study coprocessing gas oil and biooil in commercial style FCC reactors that may open a route to processing biooil in a hydrocarbon refinery.

Biomass pyrolysis can replace a significant amount of fossil carbon. However, at current fossil carbon prices, the pyrolysis products are significantly more expensive. Some credit for the environmental benefits are needed to justify the expense of the developing and implementing the technologies. These credits can either be a direct subsidy, a carbon tax, government regulation, or preferably a willingness by end users to pay higher prices for environmentally beneficial products. Restrictions on landfills and other waste disposal methods can also drive the pyrolysis market.

There are economic benefits to rural industry and agriculture for the implementation of distributed plants that can process biomass. Markets for biomass pyrolysis products are emerging, particularly in Asia, Europe, Canada, and California. However, it is unclear if the size of the markets and the rate of growth will be enough to drive widespread adoption of pyrolysis technology.

About the Author

Dr. Lorenz Bauer is a member of Lee Enterprises Consulting, the world’s premier bioeconomy consulting group, with more than 100 consultants and experts worldwide who collaborate on interdisciplinary projects, including the types discussed in this article.  He is a catalysis, platform chemicals, oil refining, and biomass conversion expert with over 30 years of experience with UOP and KiOR.   He earned his Ph.D. at Washington University working with phenolic resins.   He is an inventor on 25 patents and author of over 20 publications. His projects have ranged from food additives, off gas treatment, upgrading unconventional feeds and waste recycling.   Several of these technologies were commercialized. Most recently he worked on developing fuels and chemicals from renewable. He is Six-sigma black belt trained in project management. He is based in Houston evaluating new technologies in biomass conversion, renewable chemicals, catalysis and material science. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily express the views of Lee Enterprises Consulting.

Categories: Today's News

Algae, algae, algae: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Global Algae Innovations

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 12:15pm

Global Algae Innovations designs innovative technology to make algae production more efficient and consistent.  They are accelerate the commercialization of algal biofuels and other products through development of an integrated, photosynthetic, open raceway pond system to produce algal oil. Their approach is to combine best-in-class cultivation and pre-processing technologies with some of the world’s leading strain development laboratories.

Here’s an illuminating look at Global Algae Innovations in a presentation given by CEO Dave Hazlebeck at ABLC 2017 in Washington DC.

 

Categories: Today's News

$45B annual windfall for US consumers with a gasoline-engine overhaul? EPA is getting a patent worth knowing about

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/08/2017 - 11:57am

In Washington, the US Patent & Trademark Office has just issued a “notice of allowance” for a patent by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency for a high efficiency, high compression engine that would reduce the cost per mile for the American driver by 26.2 percent, compared to using straight gasoline and a conventional engine.

That would create a savings of $45.79 billion per year for US drivers compared to using conventional fuels and engines, according to the Digest’s analysis of fuel economy, gas prices and miles driven.

Overall, the savings is 13.5 percent compared to current US spending, because drivers are already reducing their fuel costs by 14.66 percent through the use of 10 percent ethanol blends, which create 2% lowered fuel economy compared to E0 gasoline (“straight gasoline”) but is priced 50 cents per gallon less than E0 fuels, according to the data at E85prices.com.

The EPA researchers at the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory found that “combined with an optimized conventional drivetrain, the efficiency gain…for E30 should yield an estimated 10% to 12% gain in fuel economy, and thus more than compensate for the approximately 8% loss in fuel energy density compared to gasoline.”

The savings data

Here’s the Digest table of gas prices, fuel economy and market sizing.

The engine and technical backstory

It’s been known for more than a decade that vehicles can utilize low-cost port-fuel-injection, spark-ignition technology with neat alcohol fuels (that is, alcohol levels above 85%) to reach peak brake thermal efficiency levels of over 40%, comparable to state-of-the-art diesel engines. Yes, that means getting diesel efficiency, but without diesel. Here’s the data stream on that.

As the researchers noted in their findings:

“Neat alcohol fuels have been shown in numerous works to offer some significant benefits over gasoline. Their high octane number gives the ability to operate at higher compression ratio without preignition; its greater latent heat of vaporization gives a higher charge density; and its higher laminar flame speed allows it to be run with leaner, or more dilute, air/fuel mixtures. In addition, alcohol fuels generally yield lower criteria pollutant emissions than gasoline lower evaporative emissions due to somewhat lower vapor pressures and, when renewable feedstocks are used, lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions.”

But there were technical challenges.

The research team stated:

“These design programs had faced a persistent challenge with hydrocarbon emissions during cold starting, as is typically seen with dedicated alcohol fuel engines using a high compression ratio. Such challenges may be mitigated somewhat through secondary air injection or with more volatile fuel additives such as gasoline.”

Just as important to drivers, there were fuel economy challenges. The team said that similar work performed with E85 had yielding up to 20% fuel economy improvement over baseline gasoline engines, but observed that “nearly a 25% increase in fuel economy is needed to operate economically with E85”, and they also noted the limited availability of flex-fuel engines that can run E85 blends, and the supply constraints that applied.

So, the R&D began with a goal of “focusing on alcohol-gasoline blends in the range of 10% to 50% alcohol content, in which startup emissions can be addressed effectively with conventional oxidation catalysts,” and they found that “High efficiency was demonstrated with fuel blends down to 30% alcohol content. Such fuels may present a more economical and efficient means of utilizing alcohol fuels, and provide a path toward their more widespread, long-term use.”

The technical break-through in compression and fuel tolerance

The most important thing you need to know is that, essentially, the researchers modified a 19.5:1 compression diesel engine for spark ignition (diesel engines use compression, rather than spark).

Now, if you ever ran straight gasoline at that compression, using engine designs we know today, you’d do serious damage, because the highly volatile gasoline fuel wouldn’t wait for the spark and would auto-ignite. Essentially you’d have a series of uncontrolled explosions going off in your engine, causing “engine knock” and the potential for catastrophic engine failure.

So, why is high-compression tempting for engine designers? Well, higher compression means more work efficiency — the fuel’s energy is channeled more efficiently into moving the vehicle down the road. That’s why you get the fuel economy with diesel, that’s why it matters. And, that’s where the properties of alcohols really shine.

As the researchers noted:

“With E30, auto-ignition is avoided, despite the high compression ratio, through the use of a dilute combustion mixture with reduced intake oxygen concentration (e.g., using substantial EGR), reduction of the final compression temperature (T.sub.2) of the fuel/air mixture (through cooling of the intake air and latent cooling caused by vaporization of the alcohol fuel, e.g., during the compression stroke), through the use of a compact combustion chamber to reduce the distance of flame travel, and by retarding the spark timing sufficiently to avoid knocking while having sufficient spark authority to maintain efficient combustion phasing.”

That’s getting technical; if you’re still hungry for more hard data and a dive into the weeds, you are definitely a Gear-Head (wear your badge with pride), and you can do your reverse 4½ in pike position into all the technical goo right here and here and here.

Before we complete our exit from Geekworld, here’s the design they’ve disclosed in the patent app.

And here is the data stream on the engine’s efficiency.

The takeaways

For the rest of us, back to Planet Earth, and your takeaways are these:

1. E30 engines allow for higher engine compression without the negative consequences, and you get 26.2% better fuel economy on a cost-per-mile basis.

2. Yep, that takes into account engine efficiency, fuel energy content and price.

3. Nope, you can’t buy a vehicle with that engine design today. The USPTO is just in the process of issuing the patent — we’ll have to see who licenses, and develops an engine.

4. But yep, that $46 billion in annual savings for consumers is not a made-up number, it’s the real outcome of deploying that fuel and that engine across the US gasoline-powered fleet. If diesel-based drivers crossed back over to gasoline-based engines, or electric drivers traded in to get that kind of savings and environmental performance, the savings to the US economy will be higher.

5. It’s all subject to fuel prices, of course, but given that they are at very low price levels right now, the savings would be even higher.

6. What can you do to get these engines into the market? Talk them up, ask about them.

Reaction from stakeholders

The afore-mentioned Urban Air Initiative is leading the cheering section and the pep rally.

David VanderGriend, President of the Urban Air Initiative:

This action supports and validates years of UAI research and data analysis that high octane ethanol blends are superior motor fuels to gasoline, if engines are designed to take advantage of ethanol’s properties. Here we have EPA agreeing that higher ethanol blends can reduce emissions and acknowledging that engines and fuels must be looked at as an integrated system. Adjusting compression to address the slightly lower energy content of ethanol while taking advantage of the octane is something automakers can do. But the inconsistencies with these findings and the actions of the regulators is maddening. The reason we have not seen these engines coming out of the auto industry is the roadblocks EPA has created keeping ethanol out of the market.

The cautionary note

VanderGriend adds:

“In the Tier 3 Rulemaking of 2016 EPA officials declined to provide a pathway for certifying E30 as an approved fuel after asking for comments on doing so. They have declined to lift unnecessary vapor pressure restrictions on higher blends. They have failed to update lifecycle and emission models that validate ethanol’s positive impact on emissions. And they have eliminated GHG and mileage credits for automakers who have clearly stated they would be able to take advantage of these higher ethanol blends if some credits, which are disproportionately applied to electric vehicles, were available to them. Under the current system automakers are essentially mandated to produce electric vehicles despite the higher cost and lack of consumer acceptance.”

The Bottom Line: Watch out for BAUBO

It’s great news, and we wonder, really, how many inventions come along with a real-world $46B benefit to the US economy that you can take to the bank by simply swapping conventional products for the new and improved one.

So, be of good cheer.

But watch this space for the reaction from incumbents. Someone has to make the car, approve the pathway and blend the fuel. Those parties may not feel they are participating in the same economic windfall as consumers, and may gird their loins accordingly. So watch this space for the the BAUBO, the business-as-usual brush-off.

Categories: Today's News

Alliance BioEnergy sublicences technology to Earth’s Renewable Energy

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 6:26pm

In California, Alliance BioEnergy Plus Inc. recently announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, AMG Energy Group, has entered into a sublicensing agreement with Earth’s Renewable Energy LLC of Newport Beach, California. The sublicense agreement permits Earth’s Renewable Energy to use the company’s patented cellulose to sugar (CTS) technology at a soon-to-be-built plant in Bakersfield, California.

The single process train will be capable of processing 250 tons per day of biomass, such as almond and pistachio trees and their hulls, which will be supplied under contract by a $4 billion private agricultural conglomerate in California. The plant also has an offtake agreement with Chem-Energy Corp., who will utilize the C5/C6 sugar mix and pure lignin to create fine chemicals and other high value bioproducts. As additional feedstocks become available, the plant will expand processing to 1,000 tons per day.

The sublicense fee paid to AMG Energy Group is $1.25M plus 5 percent of ongoing gross revenue derived from the CTS process. The cash portion of the fee will be paid in installments, with the initial payment made within the next 30 days, providing the company with an immediate capital infusion and a longer-term revenue source.

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Abengoa finalizes sale of European biofuel plants to Trilantic Europe

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 6:25pm

In Spain, Abengoa has finalized its deal with Trilantic Europe to sell the ailing company’s remaining four ethanol plants in Europe and a company marketing DDGS and buying grain. The total installed capacity for the three Spanish plants is 145 million gallons per year and another 66 million gallons at a facility in Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France. Following the company’s bankruptcy procedures and following restructuring, it sold of its US-based ethanol facilities along with other assets around the world last year in an effort to cover nearly EUR1 billion in debt.

Abengoa: The Digest’s 2015 5 Minute Guide

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Arunachal Pradesh signs agreement with NRL for bamboo-based biofuel project

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 6:24pm

In India, Arunachal Pradesh has signed an agreement with the Numaligarh Refinery (NRL) in Assam to develop a bamboo-based second-generation ethanol facility. The plant will use 300,000 metric tons of bamboo annually, supplementing current demand by the state’s paper and furniture manufacturing that only use about 10% of the state’s resources. To support job development among unemployed youth in the region, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister suggested setting up bamboo processing centers in villages to support the feedstock supply.

Categories: Today's News

German Aerospace Center teams with Lufthansa on testing biofuel properties

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 6:22pm

In Germany, researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), together with Lufthansa Technik and the Bundeswehr Research Institute for Materials, Fuels and Lubricants, investigated the chemical and physical properties of particularly promising biofuels. The European Union-funded ‘High Biofuel Blends in Aviation’ (HBBA) study focused on blends, i.e. mixtures of conventional kerosene with biofuels. The study analyzed particularly promising biofuels, according to source, production process and approval status.

For the first time, scientists at the DLR Institute of Combustion Technology now have the opportunity to investigate biofuels on a special test rig at Lufthansa Technik in Hamburg, where a dismounted aero-engine is available especially for research purposes. Using this engine, the scientists examined and compared three different fuels: pure biofuel, a blend consisting of 50 percent biofuel and 50 percent conventional fuel, as well as conventional kerosene as a reference.

Categories: Today's News

Siouxland Energy receives EPA approval for D3 RINs using Edeniq technology

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 6:21pm

In California, Edeniq Inc., a cellulosic technology company, and Siouxland Energy Cooperative recently announced that the U.S. EPA approved Siouxland Energy’s registration of its 60 MMgy corn ethanol plant for generation of D3 RINs from cellulosic ethanol.

Siouxland Energy is the fourth plant to receive a cellulosic ethanol registration from the EPA after deploying Edeniq’s Pathway Technology. Edeniq’s registered customers now total 400 MGPY of nameplate ethanol capacity and are averaging 1 percent cellulosic ethanol. Over the next year, Edeniq expects to significantly increase average customer cellulosic ethanol production through ongoing technology enhancements that are being refined and introduced to customers as early as the third quarter of 2017.

Edeniq: The Digest’s 2015 5 Minute guide

Categories: Today's News

Avril sees higher fossil diesel prices supporting biodiesel prices

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 6:20pm

In France, Avril said biodiesel prices are likely to improve following higher fossil diesel prices which allowed it to keep two of its five biodiesel plants to continue operating, rather than shut down all of them as had been expected when prices were too low. As a result, it expects to produce similar amounts of fuel this year as last year, as long as oil prices stay above $50 per barrel. The European Commission’s proposals to cap first generation biofuels to 3.8% by 2030 concerns the company however about its future viability.

Categories: Today's News

UC Santa Barbara researcher lead work on enzymes from fungi

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 6:19pm

In California, in findings published in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara and more than 20 co-investigators describe a new complex of enzymes discovered in herbivore gut fungi that may have applications in sustainable fuels and chemicals. The paper is titled “A Parts List for Fungal Cellulosomes Revealed by Comparative Genomics.”

Enzymes are the powerhouses behind biological chemistry, and the fungi discovered by O’Malley’s group — like Anaeromyces robustus (named after the gray whale, partially based on how it looks under the microscope) — have unusual and desirable characteristics, particularly the ability to transform lignocellulose from plants into sugars.

In the unique structure of A. robustus, individual enzymes are arrayed as a kind of large protein mass or scaffold, called a cellulosome, so that they stick to each other and accumulate, somewhat as Legos do. A structure on the enzymes — a dockerin — allows the enzyme to plug into the scaffolding mechanism. The result, O’Malley explained, is that the entire structure “kind of glues the enzymes together for maximum impact to break down the non-food parts of plants.” This process stands in stark contrast to how industry accomplishes the same thing, by relying on free-floating enzyme mixtures to break down biomass.

Categories: Today's News

Five Democratic senators demand answers from EPA on Icahn’s RIN influence

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 6:18pm

In Washington, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Elizabeth Warren, Debbie Stabenow, Jeff Merkley and Tammy Duckworth wrote a letter to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency requesting that he hand over any reports, data and briefings exchanged between the agency, Carl Icahn and/or CVR Energy. The Senators and others have voiced concerns over the past months regarding Icahn’s influence on the RIN market, the debate over the point of obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard and his role as advisor in general.

Categories: Today's News

For jet reset via renewable fuel, think carinata

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 3:50pm

The US ethanol industry is working hard on E15 deployment right now — from market deployment to regulatory relief, there’s action on every front aimed at making E15 a widely-available, lower-cost source of octane that can replace mid-grade 89-octane fossil fuels at US pumps. Those fossil fuels generally cost the consumer 10-20 cents per gallon more than conventional 87-octane E10 regular unleaded, but E15 generally prices at around 10 cents less.

It’s a noble effort, and would open up expanded opportunities for cellulosic ethanol production, for example.

Carinata and jet fuel

If here at the Digest we could snap our fingers and hand a market expansion to growers, we’d point them at carinata and jet fuel.

Here’s our math. Carinata starch can produce up to 140 gallons of jet fuel per acre and there’s not much income in the meal just yet, there are some mitigating factors.  First, it’s considered a non-food source, so no headaches with airline sustainability officers, and it is RSB-certified. Second, no need to do a second-step conversion from alcohol to jet fuel.

(Note to readers: there is nothing but good things to say about the costs and blessings of jet fuels sourced from MSW — but we’re thinking about very large-scale deployments in a hurry, here, and energy crops are quite scalable).

Carinata is reaching as high as 200 gallons per acre in trials, typical yields have been in the 1500-2000 lbs per acre range (according to this source). We’re using 140 gallons per acre as the model yield here — although we note the higher yields and the lower yields from various trials.

We think there’s a market price in there of $1.70 for the airline flying in and out of the California market, once jet fuel can be included under the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

That’s because carinata fuels could be eligible for support via the LCFS and the US Renewable Fuel Standard — up to $0.80 due to the LCFS and another $1.50 in advanced biofuels RINs.  (Yes, advanced biofuel RINs are priced around $1.00 — but consider that jet fuels have 1.5 times the energy density of ethanol, so they get added RINs)

That provides $4.00 to the value chain – growers, oil crushers and hydrotreaters.

Here’s what they say at MIT

According to this analysis from MIT in 2011, a 6500 barrel per day project, using a hydrotreating process and veggie oils,  could provide sustainable investor returns, producing $3.50 per gallon distillate fuels with a vegetable oil price of $2.78 per gallon. That’s right around 35 cents per pound, and that’s in the real-world market price range for vegetable oils — though they generally also have markets for the meal, and that will present problems for carinata except on acreage considered low-performing for conventional oilseeds, unless valuable markets are found for the non-oil fraction. It translates to around $389 per acre for the grower; that’s not great for Iowa corn farmers, but it’s not terrible in marginal production country where land costs are low.

Bigger plants, too

And, we’d like to think that someone could build a 20000 barrels per day plant if the location was right, or larger. After all, the Neste renewable diesel plant in Singapore is already 20000 BPD.

And carinata yields are still rising, and that’s with exactly one company and its partners shouldering the burden.

Those new billions of gallons

What that gives us is an added market of 140 million gallons of jet fuel for every 1 million acres planted. California’s jet fuel market would likely become saturated at something like 15 percent of US demand, or around 3 billion gallons, and there’s a 50 percent blend limit using the UOP process. So, the realistic California limit for now would be something like 1.5 billion gallons of added fuel into the marketplace.

So, think that there’s a new market for the production from 10 million acres currently idle.

And consider Canada, and Oregon. Put those together and they are together about 70% of the California economy. So, with the Oregon LCFS and the Canada LCFS, there might be similar levels of support for up to another billion gallons of jet fuel. Consider those outside of the scope for now, while we await details of Canada’s LCFS, its implementation timelines, and the market prices for carbon reduction it generates. But keep it in mind.

Other considerations

There are a host of other considerations — crop rotations, available arable land, competing uses, the impact on price, and the list goes on and on.

But it’s the market we’d be corralling everyone around. Consider that E15, if deployed to 50 percent of the market, which would be a complete near-term earthquake of market adoption –  would add around 7 billion RINs into the system. Jet fuel on the relatively modest scale we’ve indicated – just limited to a handful of LCFS markets, could add a gallonage equivalent to 4.25 billion RINs.

The Bottom Line

And, it’s added income for growers from a new market. No miserable oil companies fighting every step of the way. Airlines begging for fuels at these prices. Using well-established technology. Add farmer know-how. Add soil.

Categories: Today's News

The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Fulcrum BioEnergy

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/07/2017 - 3:15pm

Fulcrum BioEnergy has developed a “game-changing process for converting municipal solid waste that would otherwise be landfilled, into renewable transportation fuels including syncrude, jet fuel and diesel”. The company has successfully proven and demonstrated this process for converting MSW to fuels utilizing its proprietary, innovative, clean and efficient thermochemical process. Fulcrum has secured long-term, zero-cost MSW feedstock agreements with two waste services partners and has entered into fuel and product offtake agreements with Cathay Pacific Airways and a large oil refining company.

Fulcrum’s innovative business model combines large volume MSW feedstock agreements with a demonstrated thermochemical process to produce jet fuel and diesel at an estimated production cost of less than $1.00 per gallon.

Bruno Miller gave this illuminating overview of Fulcrum at ABLC 2017 in Washington DC, with slides below.

Categories: Today's News

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