I have not been following the biofuel market for some time but there are definitely still a lot of investment activities going on despite the regulatory/subsidy challenges especially in the US and in Europe.
Here in the US, the uncertainty on the future of the Farm Bill program is now hanging over corn and soybean growers. Farmers depend on this subsidy to help them in times of bad crops. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) also remains a contention between various industries.
Speaking of EPA, the agency’s Administrator Lisa Jackson just resigned from her post yesterday. The food industry, the petroleum industry, and several livestock industries have all been after the EPA to change the status quo for the Renewable Fuels Standard for 2013. The RFS2 requires 13bn gallons of ethanol to be produced in 2013. Several industry food groups are arguing that the RFS requirement is aggravating food prices because of the use of corn.
The EPA denied the request for the RFS waiver last month but this issue will surely not go away next year. For biodiesel, the EPA also boosted demand for the biofuel in 2013 with a mandate that will increase volume of biomass-based diesel for consumption in the US next year from 1.0 billion to 1.28 billion gallons. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) has filed a request for reconsideration on this final mandate.
Not everything is doom and gloom in the biofuel world, at least not in Brazil, where it is benefitting from some of the investments recently such as from BP and Petrobras. Biofuel Digest has an interesting article about their biofuel predictions for 2013 that you might want to check out. In the meantime, here are the blog’s news roundup for biofuels this month.
BP invests in Brazilian ethanol
BP Biofuels plans to invest $350m to expand its ethanol processing capacity of Tropical, one of its sugarcane processing ventures in Brazil. Tropical’s capacity located in Goias State will double to 5m tons/year of sugarcane producing 450m liters/year of ethanol equivalent. The mill is expected to be operating at full capacity by the end of 2014 or early 2015.
Petrobras expands biodiesel capacity
Petrobras Biofuel will expand its Darcy Ribeiro biodiesel plant located in the state of Minas Gerais by 40% to 152m liters/year. The expansion will cost $28m. This latest expansion will increase Petrobras Biofuel’s total biodiesel capacity to 765m liters/year. The Darcy Ribeiro plant currently operates at full capacity and has produced to-date a total of 260m liters of biodiesel.
REG buys Georgia biodiesel plant
Renewable Energy Group (REG) has bought a 15m gal/year biodiesel production plant in Ellenwood, Georgia, US for cash and in-kind consideration of $2.6m. The former BullDog Biodiesel multi-feedstock facility will operate as REG Atlanta LLC once repaired, upgraded and restarted. The company has not yet set a production date for the restart, which has run intermittently since January 2008. BullDog ceased operations since April 2012 due to a combination of poor market conditions and upgrades needed to make the facility more efficient.
New biofuel solvent to cut costs
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have streamlined the process for converting lignocellulosic biomass into high-demand chemicals or energy-dense liquid transportation fuel using a biomass-derived solvent called gamma-valerolactone (GVL). Their new method eliminates the need for costly pretreatment steps that separate hemicellulose and cellulose. The researchers said GVL can be blended as a fuel additive.
Direvo completes enzyme tech scale-up
Germany-based Direvo Industrial Biotechnology has completed the scale-up of its first two products BluZy-D and BluZy-P in collaboration with the Center for Crops Utilization Research and the BioCentury Research Farm at Iowa State University. BluZy-D reportedly can substantially improved the nutritional value of ethanol DDGS. BluZy-P can improve process efficiency of ethanol production at multiple steps and significantly simplify end-oil separation.
…and launches BluCon enzyme
Direvo Industrial Biotechnology has introduced its BluCon platform for one-step conversion of non-food feedstocks to carbohydrates used in the production of fuels and chemicals. The company said BlueCon can convert biomass ranging from grasses and straw to agricultural and wood residues.
Shell opened Aussie biodiesel facility
Shell Australia has opened a new biodiesel facility at its Parramatta Terminal in western Sydney in response to customer demand. The new facility will enable Shell to sell Biodiesel 20 (B20) into the New South Wales market. Shell plans to expand its B20 availability further as it continues to work with customers.
NREL, Johnson Matthey partnership
The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has partnered with specialty chemical company Johnson Matthey in a five-year, $7m collaboration to economically produce drop-in gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from non-food biomass feedstock using newly developed catalysts materials that can improve vapor phase upgrading during the biomass pyrolysis process. The work will be conducted under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between NREL and Johnson Matthey.
Biofuel to benefit from stainless steel
The Nickel Institute has published the report ‘Stainless Steels: Cost-Efficient Materials for the Global Biofuels Industry’ to assist bioethanol, biodiesel and biogas producers to see the economic benefits from selecting the appropriate grade of stainless steel. Stainless steel reportedly offers excellent corrosion resistance, good strength, ductility, toughness and ease of fabrication. The report shows that an increasing number of biofuels process engineering companies specify stainless steel for much of the production equipment.