Business & People

By | May 04, 2009
›The Biotechnology Industry Organization recognized Sen. Chuck Grassley, D-Iowa, as a BIO Legislator of the Year during its annual Wasthington D.C. lobby trip. Grassley received the honor for his work in supporting the development of renewable fuels. BIO president and CEO Jim Greenwood said Grassley has played an instrumental role in renewable fuels development, particularly in the area of corn-based ethanol.

›National Farmers Union delegates elected North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson as president of the organization during its annual convention in March. Johnson is replacing Tom Buis, who earlier this year accepted the CEO position of ethanol industry group Growth Energy. Johnson, a third-generation North Dakota farmer, is a lifelong Farmers Union participant and said he plans to make the organization's 2009 policy positions a priority on Capitol Hill.

›The U.S. EPA awarded the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission an Energy Star combined heat and power award for a combustion turbine-based system at the Poet Biorefining-Laddonia, Mo. ethanol plant. The system became operational in September 2007 and is estimated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 31,000 tons annually. Waste heat recovered from the turbine exhaust is used to produce up to 63,000 pounds of steam per hour to support ethanol production.

›Montreal-based Enerkem Inc. plans to build and operate its first U.S. cellulosic ethanol facility in Pontotoc, Miss.. The 20 MMgy production plant will utilize locally obtained forest wood residue, MSW, construction and demolition debris and treated wood as feedstocks. Plans for the property also include an upstream MSW recycling and pre-treatment center.

Total costs are expected to reach $250 million.

The company currently operates a pilot-scale facility in Quebec and is in the start-up phase on its first commercial-scale facility, also located in Quebec. Construction is also expected to begin soon for an additional facility in Alberta.

›Dry fractionation specialist Cereal Process Technologies Inc. has introduced a new application to its dry milling technology that allows ethanol producers to capture up to 96 percent of corn kernel starch. The company said its adjustable MarketFlex system enables producers to capture more starch and produce more ethanol when corn oil prices are low and increase corn oil production when prices rise. Renew Energy was the first production facility to install the system and used it at its 130 MMgy Jefferson, Miss. facility for more than one year.

›Indiana-based bioengineering firm Xylogenics Inc. recently named two officers to its board of directors. Butch Mercer, CEO of biotechnology consulting firm BioMark, was named chairman of the board, and Nick Mathioudakis will serve as legal and business advisor.

The company acquired a patent in February for technology to use yeast strains to boost fermentation yields in the production of ethanol. Xylogenics CEO. Mike Neibler said the technology can be used by cellulosic producers as well as traditional corn ethanol producers.

›Colorado-based PureVision Technology Inc. is scaling up its fractionation technology with an eye towards future collocation at ethanol production facilities. The company plans to deploy a 20-ton per day fractionation reactor at a research facility next year and predicts it will be capable of installing a reactor at a demonstration-scale ethanol facility in 2011.

PureVision is testing various feedstocks to be used in its reactors including corn residues and wood.

›Omaha, Neb.-based Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc. has appointed Wayne Hoovestol as its Chief Strategy Officer. Hoovestal joined GPRE in 2006 as the company's director and chairman of the board and has also served as the chief operating officer and CEO. Current CEO Todd Becker said Hoovestol's experience and industry knowledge is invaluable and he will assist in driving strategic initiatives across the company. In addition to the new strategy position, Hoovestol will also retain his seat as chairman of the company's board.

›Nearly $6 million in equity was put forth by Show Me Ethanol LLC stakeholders after the company announced it needed an influx of cash to avoid defaulting on loans. In March, the company said that with the help of necessary additional capital from stakeholders, additional cash flow would be sufficient to comply with debt notes.

Cash problems likely stemmed from an extensive amount of corn supply contracts entered into last summer with the company's sole corn supplier, Ray-Carroll Country Grain Growers Inc. The two companies have since reorganized their supply agreement, fixing the rate at which outstanding contracts will be honored.

›Houston-based alternative energy technology developer Gulf Ethanol Corp. has changed its name to Gulf Alternative Energy Corp. The company said the change was made to reflect its efforts to advance biomass processing technology beyond the ethanol industry.

The company has been developing a system that processes biomass into a fine powder that can then be used to produce cellulosic ethanol.

›Potential cellulosic ethanol producer AE Biofuels Inc. has partnered with engineering firm Merrick & Co. to commercially implement AE Biofuels' technology through the design of new facilities or the conversion of existing biofuels facilities. Merrick most recently led the process design and construction support at NREL's cellulosic ethanol research and development facility in Golden, Colo. AE Biofuels is working to commercialize its patent-pending cellulosic ethanol technology. Its subsidiary, Universal Biofuels, owns a 50 MMgy biodiesel facility in India.

›Merrick & Co. has expanded its fuels and energy group with the addition of two senior technical specialists. Bart Carpenter was most recently employed with ConocoPhillips in Houston and has more than 25 years of engineering and management experience in the downstream petroleum industry. Greg Heuer has worked for 28 years in the biofuels industry. Prior to joining Merrick, Heuer served as vice president of process engineering for Cilion Inc. and was a process consultant to the ethanol industry.

›Qteros, formerly SunEthanol Inc., has moved its headquarters from Hadley, Mass. to Marlborough, Mass. According to company CEO Bill Frey, the company relocated to take advantage of local industrial facilities that will be required for Qteros' expansion plans.

The company has been working to commercialize its QMicrobe technology for cellulosic ethanol production and plans to begin operating a pilot plant in Springfield, Mass. in 2010.

›The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council elected its officers for 2009 during a March 19 board meeting.

David Fremark was elected president of the council. He has been a SDCUC board member since 2006 and also serves as a public policy action team member for the National Corn Growers Assoc.

Keith Alverson was elected to a second term as the council's vice president. He also serves on the NCGA Ethanol Committee.

›British Petroleum plc chief scientist Dr. Steven Koonin has been nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as Under Secretary for Science at the U.S. DOE. Koonin joined BP after working as professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology for 29 years.

Cathy Zoi has been nominated by the president to serve as the assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the DOE. Zoi served as chief of staff in the White House office on environmental policy during the Clinton administration.

›Massachusetts-based Verenium Corp. has consolidated its research and development organization. Operations will now be led by Gregory Powers, executive vice president of R&D.

The company said its new organizational structure provides a unique set of R&D assets from the laboratory through its demonstration-scale facility in Jennings, La. and will allow for more efficient development, implementation and testing of its cellulosic ethanol technologies.

In addition to the organization changes, Verenium announced that John Malloy, executive vice president of biofuels, has left the company to pursue other opportunities.

›Stabilized chlorine dioxide manufacturer Bio-Cide International Inc. has appointed Bob Picek to be the company's special projects manager for the ethanol industry. Picek has more than 30 years of experience developing fluid purification and treatment programs and will apply his experience toward assisting ethanol producers to increase their product yield and maintain biological control through the application of fermentation, propagation technology.

›David Blume's best-selling book, "Alcohol Can Be A Gas," has been selected as course text for a biofuels program at Richland Community College in Decatur, Ill. The college launched a new biofuels course for the spring semester as a way to retrain and supplement victims of recent area industrial market layoffs.

Richland's biofuels course currently consists of three lectures and two lab classes and provides course graduates with three credits toward their elected degree program and a certification of completion.

›Illinois-based biofuels technology developer Coskata Inc. plans to begin working on projects in Australia and Thailand to utilize its flexible feedstock technology for the production of cellulosic ethanol. Negotiations are also pending between Coskata and Florida-based U.S. Sugar for an agreement which would ultimately result in a 100 MMgy cellulosic ethanol production facility in Clewiston, Fla.

Before an agreement can be reached with Coskata, U.S. Sugar must complete a land sale and use agreement with the state of Florida. The state proposed purchasing more than 72,000 acres from the company for an Everglades restoration project.

›The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition has formed a foundation to increase awareness of the benefits of using ethanol as a form of transportation fuel. The NEVC is seeking donations for the National Ethanol Vehicle Foundation; all contributions are tax deductible and can be made through the NEVC's website at

The NEVC was created in 1996 as a nonprofit organization to serve as the nation's primary advocacy group promoting the use of E85 as a fuel source. The coalition is comprised of individuals and organizations who have pledged to ensure that E85 has a place in America's fuel supply.

›Phibro Animal Health Corp. has filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve its trademarked brand of the antibiotic virginiamycin as an animal feed additive. Phibro's Ethanol Performance Group has been marketing its version of virginiamycin, Lactrol, to ethanol producers for years but because the FDA now holds jurisdiction over the production of ethanol, petitions must be filed for any antibiotics that could remain in distillers grains after ethanol is produced.

›Purdue University professor Michael Ladisch received the Charles Scott award at the 2009 Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals held in San Francisco in May. The professor of agricultural, biological and biomedical engineering was acknowledged for his work in the use of biotechnology to produce fuels and chemicals. Ladisch is the director of Purdue's Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering and is currently focused on the conversion of wood to ethanol.

›Cellulosic ethanol producer Mascoma Corp. has announced plans to relocate its company headquarters from Boston to Lebanon, N.H. in August. The company currently operates a research and development facility in Lebanon and the majority of its employees are also based in Lebanon. The company said the move will allow R&D, engineering and commercial development staff to work together under one roof and will provide for the smooth transfer of technology from the lab to operating facilities.

›Poet Biorefining-Preston, Minn., production facility has received a "Meritorious Achievement" honor from the Minnesota Safety Council for having a low injury incidence. The council grants Governor's Safety Awards such as the meritorious honor to businesses that have above average performance in incident rates. Award applicants are required to submit injury information, which is compared with state and national data. Ongoing safety programs and activities are also considered.

As of April 16, the Preston facility had gone 1,124 days without a lost time accident.