December 2007

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Business Briefs

Mascoma hires CFO



White Energy's ethanol plant in Russell, Kan.

Cross-Section of a Tested Industry

By Jerry W. Kram and Ron Kotrba

EPM spoke with a sampling of U.S. ethanol producers to garner information on how economic adversity—higher corn and low ethanol prices—may have impacted business-as-usual at their plants over the past year. Trade secrets are tough to get out of companies though, and understandably so. After all, who wants to tell the competition the secrets to their success?

Darrel Good

Strong Corn Prices Persist in '07

By Susanne Retka Schill

In 2007, corn growers proved they could keep up with a growing demand for their crop. The question now is will they step up to the plate again in 2008 or take advantage of higher wheat and soybean prices.

The Truth About Imports

By Nicholas Zeman

It may seem counterproductive for companies to import ethanol when the United States seemingly has an oversupply and the price is right. The relationship between ethanol producers and oil refiners can all be understood with greater insight when seen through the lens of fuel importers.

Rick Tolman

Competing in a Climate-Driven Economy

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy

As the world moves toward a more climate-conscious society where carbon is rationed and traded, the ethanol industry must adapt or fall behind.

Clearly Canadian

By Khalila Sawyer

Husky Energy Ltd.'s roots are in Cody, Wyo., yet there is something distinctly Canadian about it––maybe because it was started by a Canadian. In 1938, rancher Glenn Neilson from Cardston, Alberta, convinced a farm supply cooperative and a Montana contractor to join him in purchasing two heavy oil refineries. That was only the beginning of a series of business moves that eventually made Husky one of Canada's largest energy companies.

Administrative priorities, congressional legislation and internal priorities of individual agencies continue to escalate government funding for biofuels research and development. One agency in particular, the U.S. DOE, helped make this a banner year for monetary support to advance the biofuels industry, especially the cellulosic ethanol industry.

Christian Dobrauc

Elusive Equity

By Bryan Sims

Tight margins for ethanol producers in the latter half of 2007 forced project developers to take a more calculated approach to raising money. EPM talks with financial analysts to discover what trends can be expected heading into 2008.

In 2007, market forces squeezed ethanol profit margins. Production records were set month after month without a similar spike in demand resulting in low prices. How far did ethanol prices fall, where will prices go in 2008 and what does that mean for the profitability of ethanol production?

Construction Pace Slows

By Craig A. Johnson

In December 2006, EPM reported 64 plants under construction representing 4.2 billion gallons of capacity. In June 2007, new construction peaked at 5.94 billion gallons and started to fall. New plants and expansions are still expected to be built in 2008 but at a more manageable pace.

Recent mergers and acquisitions activity in the ethanol industry have some wondering if consolidation is a trend that will continue into 2008.

In 2004, as a follow-up to the development of the pyrolysis process, University Professor Christian Roy and his student Richard Cranford began to explore the possibilities of creating a unique membrane for the purification of syngas. Their efforts evolved into Quebec-based Vaperma Inc. a company specializing in the development and commercialization of advanced gas solutions for the production of ethanol, biodiesel and natural gas. Now, with its innovative membrane technology in hand, Vaperma looks to revolutionize the biofuels industry.

Scientists have known for nearly a century that certain bacteria can convert organic material into electricity. Only recently though, have microbiologists and engineers worked to exploit this phenomenon in the development of microbial fuel cells for powering environmental monitoring devices and treating wastewater.

The future of wastewater treatment is being designed in Pennsylvania, where the Milton Regional Sewer Authority's plant plans to upgrade its antiquated aerobic water treatment process. The technologies penciled into this design of tomorrow aren't new, but the designers are billing it as the world's first wastewater-to-energy project.

Cuphea produces an oil quite different from other U.S. oilseeds that is high in low- and medium-chain fatty acids.

Taming the Wild Cuphea

By Susanne Retka Schill

Cuphea has been in development as an industrial crop for a number of years. Once the oilseed reaches commercial viability it could replace imported oils and petroleum as a source for capric and lauric acids used in the production of manufacturing surfactants, detergents, lubricants, personal care products and other specialty chemicals.

Kertz demonstrates the microscopy station in the state-of-the-art lab he created to discover and analyze varieties of algae for biomass production.

Biomass in a Tube

By Jerry W. Kram

Biomass will play an increasing role in filling the world's demand for energy and chemicals. Producing enough biomass will take land and lots of it. As Will Rogers said when advising people to buy land, "They ain't making more of the stuff." Harvesting more biomass per acre for food and fuel to feed and run a growing world population is the key, and microscopic algae may be a major player.

Straw gives the composite fence slats strength and a natural, grainy appearance.

Adding Value to Wheat Straw

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy

Wyoming-based Heartland BioComposites LLC makes composite fencing from wheat straw and recyclable plastic. Though the manufacturing facility is located in an arid region of the country biomass sourcing has been easy.

Alterra Bioenergy Resources Corp. owns a 15 MMgy methyl ester conversion facility in Gordon, Ga.

Divided We Fall

By Ron Kotrba

Those fighting for one renewable fuel may be wasting energy and creating a no-win situation. Representatives from all sides of the renewable diesel issue speak with Biodiesel Magazine about perceptions shaping the future coexistence of alternative diesel fuels.

The Bigger, the Better?

By Jessica Ebert

According to Biodiesel Magazine's plant construction list, 148 biodiesel plants are operating in the United States with an annual capacity of 1.75 billion gallons per year. The plants produce an average 11.8 MMgy. In contrast, the average size of the 28 plants under construction and three existing plants being expanded is 26 MMgy. As feedstock prices rise, will a trend toward bigger plants continue?

Glen Kertz

Feedstock Frenzy

By Susanne Retka Schill and Jerry W. Kram

Jatropha and algae show promise as alternative biodiesel feedstocks because they don't compete with crop acres and are purportedly high yielding. The "gold rush" mentality developing around them raises questions about when and if they will be ready for commercial production.

Jobe spoke about the importance of governmental policy at the National Biodiesel Conference in February.

Industry Pins Hopes on Policy

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy

In 2007, the biodiesel industry identified policy as the key to industry longevity. After months of lobbying and still no resolution from Congress on the Energy Bill and the Farm Bill, the industry will likely need to maintain its focus on policy.

In 2007, Europe and the United States were the leading biodiesel producers. Heading into 2008, Biodiesel Magazine takes a look at which countries are struggling and which show potential.

Research Reveals New Biofuels Link

By Anduin Kirkbride McElroy

Crude glycerin is a low-value byproduct of the growing biodiesel industry. But one company, Glycos Biotechnologies Inc., sees potential for the product as a feedstock for ethanol production.

U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

Biofuels on the Hill

By Jessica Sobolik

U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is part of a growing group in Congress that is interested in and excited about the potential benefits of renewable fuels in the United States. Here, he shares some of his ideas and plans with Biodiesel Magazine.


Weimer, center, discusses tests of a new biobased glue with chemist Chuck Frihart, left, and technician Brice Dally of the USDA Forest Service's Forest Products Laboratory.

Breaking Down Walls

By Erin K. Peabody

Basic research on plant cell walls promises to boost not only dairy efficiency, but biofuels production as well. USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists may be on the edge of a breakthrough.

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