July 2007

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Business Briefs

BioFuel Energy goes public



Mike Bryan

The Way I See It

By Mike Bryan

View From The Hill

By Bob Dinneen

EERC Update

By Chris J. Zygarlicke

Tom Bryan

Editor's Note

By Tom Bryan

NBB In Sight

By Joe Jobe


The "Billion Ton" biomass assessment conducted in 2005 was instrumental in accelerating the president's renewable fuels policies and ultimately spurring biomass research efforts, such as the U.S. DOE's "30x'30" initiative. With solid government backing, the report remains an integral reference point for policy-makers and industry leaders to base sound business decisions.

Pacific Ethanol's 35 MMgy plant in Medera County, Calif., is the first zero liquid discharge facility in the United States. U.S. Water Services provided the water systems technology.

Making Water Work

By Michael Shirek

It may be a dry-grind process, but ethanol production requires water. U.S. Water Services works to ensure the growing industry isn't left high and dry.

Well before corn became the preferred feedstock for making fuel ethanol, food and beverage manufacturers were producing the renewable fuel from plant waste. EPM talks to industry pioneers about the economics of converting those production left-overs.

Capturing Carbon Opportunities

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy

It is likely that a cap-and-trade program to regulate carbon emissions will be instituted on a federal level within the United States in the near future. Such a system may make carbon the next big value proposition for the ethanol industry.

Using biomass for heat has long intrigued ethanol producers, who like the idea of getting away from using fossil fuels entirely. In response to wildly fluctuating natural gas prices, more producers are considering wood chips, stover, manure and even stillage syrup as economical fuel sources for process heat. Making ethanol even more beneficial to the environment is just the icing on the cake.

Barriers To Building

By Nicholas Zeman

As the EPM staff writers compiled last month's Proposed Ethanol Plant List 2007, it became clear that there was an interesting story behind the plants that didn't make the list—the projects that "weren't going forward" or had been cancelled for various reasons. Here's a look at some of the factors making it harder for start-ups.

Concerns are mounting that E85 vehicle production and infrastructure growth aren't expanding quickly enough to keep up with the growing U.S. ethanol supply. E10 is already blended in more than half of all U.S. gasoline, which has caused some in the industry to wonder if that we're moving towards an E10 wall, and if E20 could help scale that obstacle.

Blaine Gomer

Power Pairings

By Susanne Retka Schill

Power plants use high-pressure, high-temperature steam to spin the turbines that generate electricity, yet two-thirds of the total energy combusted in the process is wasted. Ethanol plants use steam energy to power evaporators, distillers and dryers. To take advantage of those synergies, some have found it beneficial to collocate ethanol plants and power plants.

An on-site grain elevator holds dry corn used to produce ethanol, wet distillers grains, and thin stillage that's used for biogas. On the right, are two elevator legs.

Cow Power

By Craig A. Johnson

The cows inhabiting the Mead Cattle Co.'s feedlot earn their keep by supplying a valuable resource besides beef—manure. E3 Biofuels LLC uses what would otherwise be spread on farmers' fields and turns it into a power source for an on-site ethanol plant.

The baling of straw is a well-developed system, but the need for efficient biomass harvesting is likely to stimulate modifications.

Laying the Groundwork

By Susanne Retka Schill

Supplying feedstocks for a cellulosic ethanol production facility will require long-term commitments from hundreds of growers. As efforts to commercialize the process are refined an outline of a biomass agricultural system is beginning to take shape.

An ICM dryer cushing is staged.

Dryer Innovations

By Ron Kotrba

Dryer manufacturers serving U.S. ethanol producers talk to EPM about changes in their technologies over the years and advances yet to come.

Todd Potas

Redefining Emissions

By Jessica Ebert

The U.S. EPA ruling that would allow ethanol plants to emit up to 250 tons per year while staying "minor" emitters may sound like honeyed tones to those wishing to ramp up production but implementation may not be so sweet. Some states will have to initiate a legislative process to amend current laws to reflect the change. In addition, clean air advocates may inspire litigation potentially forcing the ruling to fall flat.

Groenewold, director of EERC, told conference attendees that there were a lot of excellent opportunities in the biomass industry, but that a lot of money is being invested in questionable schemes.

Biomass: Opportunities Abound

By Jerry W. Kram and Bryan Sims

If the presenters at Biomass '07 are any indication, the biomass industry is past taking baby steps and is ready to boldly move toward a bright and prosperous future.

Fibrominn LLC recently fired up its 55-megawatt power plant in west central Minnesota and it's one like no other in the United States. Fueled by poultry litter, this plant feeds renewable electricity back to the grid, enhances local economies, and mitigates a few environmental concerns along the way.

Academic entities are also finding auto applications for research projects, such as the natural rubber made from dandelions that is being developed at Ohio State University's OARDC.

All Natural Mobility

By Lindsey Irwin

More biobased materials are working their way into the automobile industry's new designs as consumers increasingly desire "green" features in their vehicles. Everything from the tires and windshields to the interior carpeting and seat foam are becoming biobased rather than petroleum-based.

Left to right, Baskerville and Rhone were instrumental in bringing their companies' joint venture together in Heffley Creek, British Columbia.

Wood Residue-to-Fuel

By Michael Shirek

The lumber industry has transformed the material that used to be swept off the woodshop floors and discarded, from a byproduct to a coproduct. Biomass Magazine takes a look at how Tolko Industries Ltd. and Nexterra Energy Corp. are turning wood residue from a plywood mill into a fuel to help power the milling process.

Although soybean oil stocks are at near-record highs, prices are increasing because the market is reacting to anticipated demand based on the number of biodiesel plants that are set to go on line.

A Hard Row to Hoe

By Jerry W. Kram

Despite near-record soybean stocks, biodiesel producers are being pinched by high feedstock prices while diesel fuel remains relatively affordable. Projected demand from the biodiesel industry is sending the cost of raw materials through the roof.

Recycling for Renewables

By Nicholas Zeman

Rendering is not a topic generally discussed around the dinner table or over cocktails, but the industry is an important component of animal processing, recycling billions of pounds of material that would otherwise have no home. It also has a growing role in supplying low-cost feedstocks for renewable fuels.

Russ Read

Clearly Biodiesel

By Susanne Retka Schill

Sanimax's double distillation technique reportedly produces a super-clean biodiesel. The feedstock-neutral process allows the company to use everything from soy oil to low-cost animal fat and restaurant grease.

As the early wave of small, independent biodiesel producers is eclipsed by a deluge of bigger plants, leaders in the biodiesel industry, insurance companies and other invested parties are working to bring safety concerns-in particular, concerns for the safe handling, transport, and storage of methanol-to the forefront.

Biodiesel is moving into the world of posh consumer sport utility vehicles thanks to diesel engine conversion specialist Jonathan Goodwin. His fuel economy- and horsepower-enhanced vehicles have been featured on MTV's Pimp My Ride, sold on eBay and have now caught the attention of some high-profile figures, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Refined from low-cost animal fats through thermal depolymerization, renewable diesel is said to possess superior fuel properties and logistical advantages over methyl esters. Large-scale production of renewable diesel will soon be run by Big Oil, its profitability ensured at least for now by a credit originally intended for biodiesel. These issues have producers lobbying hard to keep the blender's credit in the methyl ester realm.

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