Fly Green: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to SkyNRG

SkyNRG is the global market leader for sustainable jet fuel, supplying more than 20 carriers across 5 continents in the world. SkyNRG’s sustainable jet fuel can offer CO2 emission reductions up to 80% compared to fossil jet fuel.

SkyNRG’s Oskar Meijerink gave this illuminating overview of the company’s promise and progress at ABLC 2018 in Washington DC.

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Gevo to install Shockwave’s Thermodynamic Corn Fractionation Process at Luverne facility

In Colorado, Gevo, Inc. announced that it has entered into two separate operating leases and service agreements with Shockwave LLC to install Shockwave’s Thermodynamic Corn Fractionation Process as well as related technology and equipment at Gevo’s production facility in Luverne, MN whereby Shockwave is financing its equipment required for this multi-million dollar project and is providing certain performance guarantees for the Shockwave Process. The Shockwave Process is expected to improve profitability of Gevo’s Luverne Facility by lowering the cost of ethanol and isobutanol production, increasing the number and value of feed and protein products, producing corn oil for food use, and helping to lower the overall carbon footprint for the facility.

The Shockwave Process is expected to be operational during the first quarter of 2019.  Gevo’s deployment of this process is an important step of its previously announced strategy to deploy capital at its Luverne Facility, and to make certain changes and improvements to produce low-carbon ethanol side-by-side with low-carbon isobutanol.  In addition to the Shockwave Process, Gevo also plans to debottleneck production and optimize the Luverne Facility’s energy and equipment infrastructure to use lower amounts of fossil-based energy sources to fully implement its strategy to produce low-carbon intensity ethanol.

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Brazilian company to launch patented vinasse transportation tank

In Brazil, Engcom will launch its patented vinasse transportation tank at a sugar industry trade fair in Sao Paulo state next week, demonstrating faster, safer and more efficient transportation of vinasse at the mills. Compared to other products in the market for transportation of vinasse, the use of composite materials makes the tank 500kg lighter than the competition while its center of gravity also sits lower, reducing the chances of tipping over, and can hold denser vinasse as well.

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South Korean ethanol imports fall 41% from June to July

In South Korea, Platts reports that July ethanol imports fell more than 41% from June at 22,668 metric tons. Nearly 70% of the 10,335 tons of undenatured ethanol imported in July came from Pakistan, followed by Brazil, pushing out Australia who has been the top origin so far this year. Nearly all of the denatured ethanol came from the US, but the 12,312 tons it imported was still more than 43% lower than in June.

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Scania closes up ethanol bus service in India

In India, Scania notified the Nagpur Municipal Corporation that it would no longer be operating its green ethanol bus fleet as of August 13 after first indicating in June that the project would come to an end. The company began winding up operations for its alternative buses earlier this year, with its Karnataka bus manufacturing facility already closed as of early June while the project to demonstrate ethanol and biogas buses in Goa was cut short as well.

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European waste-based biodiesel squeezed due to high stocks and falling euro

In the Netherlands, Platts reports that growing stocks of biodiesel made from both UCO and tallow, considered second generation fuels in Europe because they are produced from waste feedstock, prices have fallen and the market expects UCOME and TME to remain bearish throughout the rest of the year. With waste feedstocks primarily imported in dollars but biodiesel sold in euros, currency shifts have more of an impact on waste-based biodiesel than conventional, and with the euro the weakest in a year against the dollar, the economics are looking tight for the market.

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RFA launches ad campaign targeting EPA administrator while in Iowa

In Washington, coinciding with EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s visit to Iowa this week, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is launching a week-long ad campaign in the state, urging the agency to follow the direction of President Trump by maintaining a strong Renewable Fuel Standard and approving year-round access to 15% ethanol (E15) blends. These actions would significantly benefit consumers and farmers in Iowa and throughout the country.

The ads are set to run on two top Des Moines radio stations this week, WHO-AM and KIOA-FM.

For the RFS-related ad, listeners are reminded that as presidential candidate, Donald Trump said EPA should ensure biofuel blend levels under the RFS match the statutory levels set by Congress. ”Iowans agree…but Trump’s EPA has fallen short,” the ad states. “The EPA let oil refiners blend 2 billion fewer gallons of ethanol. That’s not fair,” the ad notes. “…[T]ell President Trump it’s time for the EPA to support Iowa farmers,” the ad concludes.

The E15-related ad highlights that presidential candidate Donald Trump supported removing regulatory barriers that are keeping higher ethanol blends like E15 out of the market. A few weeks ago in Iowa, the president said his administration was “very close” to approving year-round E15. “The EPA is dragging its feet. Tell Administrator Wheeler: It’s time to deliver on E15,” the ad concludes.

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DOE researchers using new methods to identify genes in biofuel and biomaterial feedstocks

In Washington, to improve biofuel production, scientists must understand the fundamental interactions that lead to the expression of key traits in plants and microbes. To understand these interactions, Department of Energy scientists are using different layers of information (about the relationships between genes, and between genes and phenotypes) combined with new computational approaches to integrate vast amounts of data in a modeling framework. Researchers can now identify genes controlling important traits to target biofuel and bioproduct production. The algorithm used in this work has been used to break the supercomputing exascale barrier for the first time anywhere in the world.

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Vancouver (Canada!) to transition all diesel vehicles to 100% biodiesel

In Canada, the City of Vancouver has taken a significant step towards achieving its goal of using 100 percent renewable energy sources by entering into a new fuel contract with Suncor. With this new contract, all of the City’s diesel vehicles will transition to 100 percent renewable diesel, reducing emissions to 50 percent below 2007 levels by the end of next year.

Shifting diesel to a 100 percent renewable energy source also enables the City to achieve ambitious goals from the Renewable City Strategy and Greenest City Action Plan.

The Renewable City Strategy encourages the City to elevate its purchasing power to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy and recognizes that, due to its large fleet, a shift in fuel provider will result in a significant emissions reduction.

The Greenest City Action Plan sets a 2030 target of a 50 per cent reduction in emission from City operations over 2007 levels. With the planned implementation of 100 per cent renewable fuel in the diesel fleet, this target will be achieved next year.

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Strategic Advance: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to DSM’s Q2

Royal DSM is a global science-based company active in health, nutrition and materials. By connecting its unique competences in Life Sciences and Materials Sciences, DSM is driving economic prosperity, environmental progress and social advances to create sustainable value for all stakeholders. DSM delivers innovative solutions that nourish, protect and improve performance in global markets such as food and dietary supplements, personal care, feed, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive, paints, electrical and electronics, life protection, alternative energy and bio-based materials.

DSM is a frontrunner in creating bio-based and environmentally sound solutions within its Bio-based unit as well as through DSM Nutrition. The company focuses on enabling technology in biofuels and bio-based chemicals and materials made from renewable biomass, and demonstrating the commercial viability of these technologies in collaboration with strategic partners along the value chain.

DSM gave this illuminating update as a part of its Q2 earnings report on the company’s progress, technologies, investments and direction.

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Strategic Intent: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to DowDuPont

DuPont has developed a multi-part strategy to deliver new technologies to the growing biofuels and chemicals markets market. The strategy includes:

(1) improving existing ethanol production through differentiated agriculture seed products and crop protection solutions as well as through improved bioprocessing aids and enzymes that allow animals to get the most out of valuable ethanol co-products;

(2) developing and supplying advanced biofuels, such as biobutanol, a performance drop-in fuel easily integrated with the existing liquid fuel system.

(3) Bringing advanced biomaterials to market such as advanced PDO.

(4) advanced, performance-advantaged chemicals such as FDME

Recently, DowDuPont gave this illiuminating update on its strategy going ahead and progress to date as part of its Q2 earnings announce.

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Andeavor’s petroleum refinery switch-over to renewables, in the heart of Bakken shale: what are the drivers?

News arrived this week from Dickinson, North Dakota that Andeavor is proposing to switch its refinery there over from petroleum refining to the production of renewable diesel.The timing will be 2020, the feedstock is waste and crop-based oils, the capacity will be 12,000 barrels a day (183 million gallons per year), and the technology is Haldor Topsoe’s hydrotreating tech which removes the oxygen from organic oils and converts them to hydrocarbons.

The Pope might have declared himself a Buddhist and that would be a smaller event, compared to a refiner of petroleum — a business unit of Marathon — converting an entire refinery over to renewables. 

Where in the world is Dickinson?

One of the reasons that the event did not lead the coverage this week in major media — and they certainly covered Tesla’s proposed privitization in copious detail — is that probably that most people have never heard of Dickinson, North Dakota. For many people, it seems like an awfully out-of-the-way outpost. 

So let me offer this map and place upon it the small town of Dickinson and something you certainly heard of, which is the massive Bakken Shale play, one of the largest oil developments in the United States in decades. After the Bakken boom came the Bakken bust, but as Bloomberg reports here, the Bakken has been bustling again, though prospects are slightly dimmer than back in the days when the radio airwaves were running ads scouring the region for drivers and operators for crude oil production. Last time I drove through Dickinson, a giant billboard sat outside of town seeking workers for oil shale jobs and all the industries that rose with the Bakken play.

So, that’s where Andeavor is switching over its refinery to renewable fuel. And if you have ever heard the reaction when Bob Dylan “went electric” with a rock-and-roll set at the Newport Folk Festival, you might have a good model for Andeavor’s striking move. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Mandela could make peace in South Africa. Only companies like Andeavor (and its new parent Marathon) can switch petroleum refineries over to renewables. Others can build, but incumbents can switch, and when public companies shift, you know the calculators have been whirring and teams have been burning the midnight renewable oil to ensure that the project pencils out.

U-L-S is A-O-K

It’s the search for ultra-low sulphur diesel, primarily, that’s found at the heart of this. Other issues may be motivating Andeavor — but we know that the world’s marine fleets are switching over to ULS marine diesel in two years, and the world is short on refining capacity. We’ve highlighted Phil Verleger’s prediction that oil prices — not because of a crude oil shortage but because of a refining capacity shortage — could spike as high as $200, here. But you don’t have to go all the way with Verleger to develop concern. Meanwhile, renewable diesel is bereft of sulphur and it comes with a low-carbon profile that means it is liquid gold in any market that has a low carbon fuel standard in place.  As we highlighted here.

Like, ahem. neighboring Canada is planning to deploy shortly. That Oregon, British Columbia and California already have. 

So, it’s economic opportunity rather than do-goodness that is driving Andeavor — the regulatory regime is in place to support companies that want to do well by doing good, and Andeavor has done its homework. Meanwhile, eastern North Dakota is replete with soybeans and sunflowers. As many know, the world can use just about as much soybean meal as can be produced, primarily for animal feed and especially for China — but there’s never quite enough uses and markets for soybean oil, and this is a primary driver of the biodiesel and renewable diesel industries.

The Ho-Hum

Sometimes, the human race is defined not by its understanding of significant events but by the way it overlooks them.

When ENI took its Venice (Italy) petroleum refinery and converted it to a biorefinery for the production of renewable diesel a few years back, it was remarkable how little the world took notice. 

Then, Alon USA and its then subsidiary AltAir Fuels converted the Paramount (California) oil refinery from petroleum refining to the production of renewable diesel and jet fuel and began supplying, for example, the US Navy with big orders for marine diesel and military JP-8 aviation fuel. At the time there was some attention generated by the Navy for its Great Green Fleet efforts, but there was a lot of criticism over (wacky) perceptions about cost and about whether the US Navy should be an innovator in propulsion at all. There was almost no attention paid to the switch-over of the Alon refinery, even when it was sold to World Energy, primarily known as a biodiesel producer.

What’s next?

More demand for low-sulphur diesel refining capacity, that’s what. The crunch won’t last forever — the world will respond to the ULS marine switch-over by finding an equilibrium. But for now there’s a rush for large capacity diesel projects — and in the renewables sector, that’s the opportunity of a lifetime. And refineries that can produce hydrocarbon diesel from renewable feedstocks can generally produce jet fuel — and jet fuel at affordable prices that come from large scale refining — the world can use a lot of that, too.

There are other ways to produce low-sulphur diesel and ships can install (though expensively and not simply) scrubbers to remove sulphur from the fuel before it combusts. So, opportunity does not equate to victory, but opportunity it is. And Andeavor’s move sums up that sharp operators who have looked at the forward demand picture are seeing the kind of returns that energy investors demand. 

Hydrocarbon diesel from renewables. Affordable, available, at scale. As they used to say in the Virginia Slims ads of many years ago, “You’ve come a long ways, baby.”

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Bharat Petroleum Corp gets environmental permission for 2G Odisha plant

In India, the Press Trust of India reports that Bharat Petroleum Corp has received environmental clearance from the environment ministry’s Environment Assessment Committee, the next stage in the approval process for its proposed $106.5 million, 100,000 liter per day cellulosic ethanol plant in Odisha. The clearance was given on a conditional basis but those conditions weren’t outlined in the article. In June, it was reported that construction of the project was expected to begin in July or August but was several approvals including the environmental permission were still required.

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State to hold air quality permit hearing for POET’s planned Indiana biorefinery

In Indiana, although POET has already started earthmoving at its proposed biorefinery in Shelbyville, the state’s Department of Environmental Management has convened a public meeting on Tuesday to discuss primarily issues related to air quality in relation to the application for a Part 70 Operating Permit. Local press reports that some public comments received regarding the application provoked the department to call the meeting. The agency made clear however it would only deal with issues related to laws associated with air quality and not odors or zoning.

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FDA approves Brazilian GMO sugarcane

In Washington, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded recently that raw and refined sugar produced from Brazil’s first genetically-modified sugarcane variety, called CTC20BT and developed by the CTC, is safe. The US FDA focused its safety assessment on sugar because it is the main sugarcane-derived product imported to the US from Brazil. In addition to sugar refining, the Brazilian sugarcane sector uses sugarcane by products domestically to produce ethanol fuel for vehicles and to burn to generate electricity.

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SIMEC Atlantis converting Welsh power plant to run on biomass and waste

In the UK, SIMEC Atlantis took over the Uskmouth, Wales power plant in June and is converting it to run on biomass and waste. Post conversion, the station will export 220MW of baseload power to the grid using an end-of-waste energy pellet with an average calorific value of 20 mega joules per kg. The conversion is expected to take 18 months post completion of front end engineering and design (“FEED”) with a target of first production in Q4 2020 and the converted station will have an operational life of 20 years.

Successful milling trials have been conducted on the N+P Subcoal® pellets using vertical spindle roller mills in Germany. Subcoal® pellets, which are made from a combination of biogenic waste and non-recyclable plastic, will replace coal-fired generation at SAE’s Uskmouth facility in Wales. The promising results of the milling trials will inform the final design of the combustion system which will be retrofitted to the existing power station.

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First cargo of 290 million liters of ethanol booked into the US set to land next week

In California, Platts reports that the first import of ethanol in the US is set to arrive on August 20 into the Port of San Francisco, carrying 40 million liters of ethanol from the Port of Santos, Brazil at $540/cu m FOB Santos but it’s far from the last. Another 250 million liters of ethanol have been booked and will be on their way to the Californian market over the next few months.  Platts reports that anhydrous ethanol has fallen since then at $479/cu m last Thursday.

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Indian standalone ethanol distilleries seen coming online in October

In India, the sugar millers association expects much of the newly installed 250 million liters of ethanol production capacity at standalone distilleries to come online in October, well ahead of when sugar mills typically start producing ethanol two or three months after the crush begins in October. The additional production capacity will use sugarcane as feedstock rather than molasses as has traditionally been the case thanks to the government recently deregulating feedstock use. Total ethanol production should reach 2.75 billion liters this year.

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University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers tweak yeast genes to better tolerate pretreatment

In Wisconsin, researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and several Department of Energy laboratories have identified two changes to a single gene that can make the yeast tolerate the pretreatment chemicals. They published their findings recently in the journal Genetics.

The researchers used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to alter a strain of an ionic liquid-susceptible yeast, introducing the two single-nucleotide changes and successfully producing a yeast that can survive — and ferment — alongside amounts of ionic liquid that are normally toxic.

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Thailand to boost renewable energy ambitions to 50%

In Thailand, the Bangkok Post reports that in conjunction with the local launch of Shell’s Sky Scenario initiative, the government announced it would increase its ambitions for renewable energy consumption by setting its target at 50% in the next 40 years. Currently plans aim for 30% by 2036 but the national alternative energy development plan will be updated to take the new goals into account. This year’s programs to promote renewables include producing energy from waste biomass in the southern part of the state and a rooftop solar program.

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