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Ethanol Industry News: January 2010

U.S. EPA: Greenhouse gases threaten public health and the environment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last month that greenhouse gases (GHG) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people. EPA also finds that GHG emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to that threat. The announcement came on December 7, as world leaders were meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“GHGs are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that threaten the health of the sick, poor or elderly; increases in ground-level ozone pollution linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; as well as other threats to the health and welfare of Americans,” according to the EPA press statement.

“These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States Government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens, and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse gas pollution that is causing climate change. This continues our work towards clean energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy.”

EPA says its final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not in and of themselves impose any emission reduction requirements, but rather allow EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation.

On-road vehicles contribute more than 23 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. EPA’s proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles, a subset of on-road vehicles, would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012-2016 vehicles.

EPA’s endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of scrutiny and intense analysis for decades by scientists in the United States and around the world.

According to EPA, scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record high levels and data shows that the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades. The evidence of human-induced climate change goes beyond observed increases in average surface temperatures; it includes melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans due to excess carbon dioxide, changing precipitation patterns, and changing patterns of ecosystems and wildlife.

President Obama and Administrator Jackson have publicly stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. However, EPA says climate change is threatening public health and welfare, and it is critical that it fulfill its obligation to respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that determined that greenhouse gases fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants.

Iogen produces cellulosic E85 for 25-hour endurance race

For the third consecutive year, Iogen Corporation of Ottawa Canada was the sole cellulosic ethanol company able to fuel the Green Alternative Motorsports (GAM) car for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race in Willows, California. Iogen manufactured and provided 300 gallons of cellulosic ethanol for GAM LeMans Prototype (LMP3) car #88 for the 25-hour endurance race.

Formed in 2007, Green Alternative Motorsports developed two LMP3 cars for competition in endurance auto racing, specifically to run on cellulosic ethanol. Iogen has been producing cellulosic ethanol at its Ottawa demonstration plant since 2004.

Biodiesel plant auction on January 20

The Tri-City Energy biodiesel plant and real estate auction originally set for December 16 is rescheduled for Wednesday, January 20 at 10 a.m. in Keokuk, Iowa. In addition to the biodiesel plant, real estate, and lab assets, the auction will now include a 51 percent membership interest in the associated glycerin plant. Interested parties may contact the auction company for specific details on this purchase possibility. A detailed listing is available by contacting the auction company at 507-285-1444 or visiting its website, www.maascompanies.com.

Platinum Ethanol receives “outstanding business” award

The Iowa Area Development Group (IADG), on behalf of Iowa’s rural electric cooperatives and member municipal electric systems, recently honored eight distinguished Iowa companies with the Iowa Venture Award. The 2009 “Outstanding Business of the Year” Venture Award was presented to Platinum Ethanol, a 110 million gallon per year ethanol plant in Arthur, Iowa.

Platinum employs 50 people and is an end market for more than 36 million bushels of locally grown corn. The plant began operation in September of 2008 and since then has continued to expand its facility with corn oil extract, a 1.2 million bushel grain bin, a one million plus bushel flat storage pad, and other process enhancements. Platinum Ethanol was nominated by North West Rural Electric Cooperative.

The Iowa Venture Award ceremony began in 1988 and is among the most enduring and prestigious business recognition events in Iowa. Iowa Area Development Group has recognized and honored over 170 of Iowa’s finest business leaders and companies with the prestigious Iowa Venture Award.


Climate Summit fleet powered by ethanol made from straw

The fleet of VIP limousines at the United Nations Climate Change Conference traveled around Copenhagen last month on ethanol made from straw. Danish company Inbicon produced the E85 ethanol, which cuts emissions of CO2 by 84 percent compared to conventional gasoline.

The climate-friendly fill-up came about as a collaboration between Danisco's enzyme division Genencor, Inbicon Biomass Refinery Technology, Novozymes, and Statoil, assisted by the Partnership for Biofuels. Beginning this year, Statoil's Danish customers will also be able to fill up with this fuel. The ethanol is produced by Inbicon, a technology subsidiary of DONG Energy, one of Denmark's largest energy groups. Novozymes and Danisco's enzyme division Genencor are supplying the enzymes for the biofuel production, and Statoil is providing the distribution facilities.

Inbicon’s technology produces fuel ethanol, solid lignin biofuel, and livestock feed from soft biomass. Since 2003 Inbicon has perfected its process at a pilot plant in Skaerbaek at Fredericia, Denmark, and in November the company inaugurated its first Inbicon Biomass Refinery in Kalundborg, which was open for tours during the climate summit. Commercial-scale production is planned for the U.S. beginning in 2010. Inbicon is a subsidiary of DONG Energy A/S.

Researchers sequence the corn genome

The completion of a high-quality sequence of the maize (corn) genome was announced in the cover story of the November 20, 2009 issue of Science. This new genome sequence reports the sequence of genes in maize and provides a detailed physical map of the maize genome. This map identifies the order in which genes are located along each of maize's 10 chromosomes and the physical distances between those genes.

This new genome sequence represents a major watershed in genetics because it promises to: 1) advance basic research of maize and other grains, and 2) help scientists and breeders improve maize crops, which are economically important and serve as globally important sources of food, fuel, and fiber.

The new maize sequence was produced by a consortium of researchers that was led by the Genome Sequencing Center (GSC) at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and included the University of Arizona, Iowa State University, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. This sequencing project was part of a joint DOE/USDA/ National Science Foundation (NSF) effort that was funded by NSF under the auspices of the National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI).

The NPGI, which began in 1998, is an ongoing effort to understand the structure and function of all plant genes at levels from the molecular and organismal to interactions within ecosystems. The NPGI focuses on plants of economic importance and plant processes of potential economic value.

"Production of a high quality maize genome sequence was a high priority for the NPGI from the beginning," said Jane Silverthorne of NSF. "This accomplishment builds on technological advances and basic research into maize biology that were essential to the design of the most cost-effective strategy to assemble and anchor the genes onto the genetic and physical maps."

DOE, USDA select projects for more than $24 million in biomass R&D grants

On November 12, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy announced several projects that were selected for grants to research and develop technologies to produce biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products.

Of the $24.4 million announced, DOE plans to invest up to $4.9 million with USDA contributing up to $19.5 million. Advanced biofuels produced through this funding are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent.

"The selected projects will help make bioenergy production from renewable resources more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "These advancements will benefit rural economies through creation of new processing plants and profitable crops for U.S. farmers and foresters."

"Innovation is crucial to the advancement of alternative, renewable energy sources, and these awards will spur the research needed to make significant progress in bioenergy development," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Projects announced today must contribute a minimum of 20 percent of matching funds for research and development projects and 50 percent of matching funds for demonstration projects. Funding is provided through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and DOE's Biomass Program.

Biofuels and Biobased Products, USDA Awards:

GE Global Research (Irvine, CA) up to $1,597,544: to develop detailed and simplified kinetic models of biomass gasification. A fundamental modeling capability will enable the widespread design of feedstock-flexible biomass gasifiers that are cost-effective and scaled to match the regional distribution of biomass feedstocks.

Gevo, Inc. (Englewood, CO) up to $1,780,862: to develop a yeast fermentation organism that can cost-effectively convert cellulosic-derived sugars into isobutanol, a second generation biofuel/biobased product. As an advanced biofuel, isobutanol strikes a unique balance between high octane content and low vapor pressure, it can be converted into hydrocarbons, and as a biobased product it can be used as a chemical precursor for numerous high-value products such as isobutylene and PET plastic products.

Itaconix ( Hampton Falls, NH) up to $1,861,488: to develop production of polyitaconic acid from northeast hardwood biomass, using an integrated extraction-fermentation-polymerization process. Polyitaconic acid is a water soluable polymer with a 2 million metric ton per year market potential as a replacement for petrochemical dispersants, detergents, and super-absorbents.

Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation (Columbus, OH) up to $1,800,000: to demonstrate, at scale, the operation of a dry fermentation system that uses pre- and post-consumer food wastes from supermarkets and restaurants, waste sawdust, grass, leaves, stumps and other forms of wood waste to produce biogas, heat, and electrical power. Yenkin-Majestic will use these products to demonstrate a distributed stand-alone system for the operation of a large industrial facility.

Velocys, Inc. (Plain City, OH) up to $2,651,612: to improve biorefinery economics through microchannel hydroprocessing. This project will explore the unique capabilities of heat and mass transfer inherent in microchannel reactor technology with advanced catalysts to intensify chemical processes, resulting in more efficient conversion of cellulosic residues to liquid transportation fuels.

DOE Awards:

Exelus, Inc. (Livingston, NJ) up to $1,200,000: to develop a Biomass-to-Gasoline (BTG) technology that represents a fundamental shift in process chemistry and overall approach to creating biofuels. The technology uses unique, engineered catalysts that facilitate new reaction pathways to liquid motor fuels from biomass. The BTG process replaces conventional high-temperature processes like gasification and pyrolysis with a series of mild, low-temperature reactions. The self-contained process uses minimal water and no acids or chemical additives.

Biofuels Development Analysis, USDA Awards:

Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) up to $933,883: to develop an analysis of the global impacts of second generation biofuels in the context of other energy technologies and alternative economic and climate change policy options. This project will modify, extend and link established modeling frameworks to capture the strengths of each framework in a hybrid, multidisciplinary system.

University of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN) up to, $2,715,007: to assess the environmental sustainability and capacity of forest-based biofuel feedstocks within the Lake States region. This project will address key uncertainties about expanding feedstock harvests in the northern Lake States, including environmental impacts, economic feasibility and avoided fossil-fuel CO2 emissions.

DOE Awards:

Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (Washington, Idaho, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee) up to $1,430,535: to compare the life cycle environmental and economic impacts for collecting forest residuals, short rotation crops, mixed waste, and biomass from fire risk reduction activities on federal lands for conversion to fuels via biochemical, pyrolysis and gasification systems. National estimates of biofuel production will be based on stratified biomass collection and processing implementation scenarios that can be evaluated against the Renewable Fuel Standard greenhouse gas emission objectives.

Feedstock Development, USDA Awards:

Agrivida (Medford, MA) up to $1,953,128: to develop new crop traits that eliminate the need for both expensive pretreatment equipment and enzymes. Transgenic switchgrass will be engineered with cell wall-degrading proenzymes that are dormant when the plant is in the field, but activated after harvest, under processing conditions with specific temperature and pH.

Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, OK) up to $4,212,845: to develop best practices and technologies necessary to ensure efficient, sustainable and profitable production of cellulosic ethanol feedstocks. Utilizing large-scale feedstock production research, the economic and environmental sustainability of switchgrass, mixed-species perennial grasses and annual biomass cropping systems will be evaluated, and the synergy between bioenergy and livestock production will be explored.

DOE Awards:

The University of Tennessee (Knoxville,TN) up to $2,345,290: to compare three varieties of switchgrass using various management practices, harvesting equipment and harvesting timelines in Eastern Tennessee. This 2,000-acre demonstration-scale project will use field plots ranging in size from 10 - 50 acres that incorporate different varieties of switchgrass seed: the current Alamo variety, the Ceres EG 1101 improved Alamo variety, and the Ceres EG 1102 Kanlow variety.

 
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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