BIO, cellulosic producers call for EPA to issue 2013 RFS volumes

By Erin Voegele | January 17, 2013

The Biotechnology Industry Organization hosted a conference call on Jan. 17 that addressed the need for the U.S. EPA to finalize 2013 volumetric mandates under the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO, opened the call by noting that the advanced biofuels industry is waiting for the EPA to release the 2013 volume obligations. “We don’t know when exactly that will happen, but it should happen fairly soon,” he said.

Erickson stressed that the yearly RFS volume rulemaking is vitally important to biofuel companies and their investors. He also commended the industry for recent strides towards commercialization, as numerous companies are breaking ground, making construction progress, and even entering the commissioning phase at commercial-scale biorefineries.

“The visible progress of these companies represents not just years of research and development and millions of dollars in investment, but also future opportunities for economic growth, investment, and most importantly, employment opportunities, job creation, and economic growth for our country,” Erickson said.

The accomplishments of the industry cannot be overstated, he continued, noting that the sector has moved from the drawing board to pilot- and demonstration- and commercial-scale production within a decade. “To do so during a severe economic downturn is all the more amazing,” he said.

The RFS is working as it was designed to do, Erickson said. It needs to keep working consistently and with timely rulemakings to provide assurance to those investing in the industry, he continued.

Representatives of Abengoa Bioenergy, Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels, and DuPont Industrial Biosciences were also on hand to discuss progress made with their cellulosic biofuel projects. Chris Standlee, executive vice president of Abengoa Bioenergy spoke about the 25 MMgy facility his company is constructing in Hugoton, Kan. Much of the construction work on the plant is already complete, including the installation of four 1.5 million gallons fermentation tanks, two 6 million gallon waste water treatment tanks, distillation columns, and other structures. Virtually all the equipment required for the project is either onsite, installed or ordered. “Frankly, startup is just a few months away,” he continued. Standlee also spoke about the economic impact of the plant, noting that it is supporting 300 construction jobs, 65 permanent jobs with a combined payroll of approximately $5 million, and providing $17 million in payments to local farmers for feedstock.

Wade Robey, a board member at Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels, spoke about the cellulosic ethanol plant under development by his company in Emmetsburg, Iowa. The project is moving ahead on schedule he said, with completion scheduled for the end of 2013.

Finally, Jan Koninckx, global business director for biorefineries at DuPont Industrial Biosciences, provided an update of the 30 MMgy facility his company is developing in central Iowa. We plan to start-up the plant during the second half of 2014, he said. Once operational, the facility will employ 60 people onsite, with an additional 150 employed in feedstock collection activities.