U.S. oil refiners push for biofuels overhaul at White House

25 Mar 2017   Biofuels

U.S. oil refining executives met with a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration at the White House last week to argue their position for an overhaul of the nation’s biofuels program, two people in the meeting told Reuters. While it is not unusual for the White House to meet with stakeholders on key issues, the meeting is a sign the Trump administration is actively considering possible changes to the wide-reaching program. Executives from Valero Energy Corp, Delta Airlines’ refiner Monroe Energy, CVR Energy Inc. and several others met with Michael Catanzaro, Trump’s senior energy policy aide, on March 16, the two attendees said. The executives argued that Trump should change the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program to lift the onus of blending biofuels into gasoline away from refiners, placing it instead further down the supply chain to gasoline marketers. They said the program was costing the oil refining […]

U.S. refiners’ biofuel bill soars to record high as debate heats up

11 Mar 2017   Biofuels

Oil refiners shelled out a record over $2 billion to meet U.S. biofuels requirements in 2016, a 70 percent surge that helps fuel a growing debate over who should shoulder the costs for meeting environmental regulations. A Reuters review of regulatory filings from ten refiners, including Valero Energy Corp and CVR Energy Inc, showed that they paid $2.22 billion last year for compliance credits that companies use to prove they are meeting annual government requirements for volumes of biofuels to be blended with gasoline and diesel. That was 68 percent more than in 2015 and well above the previous record of $1.3 billion reached in 2013, when prices for paper credits, which trade in an opaque market, spiked to historic levels. […]

Trump to shift biofuel blending burden off refiners: U.S. ethanol group

1 Mar 2017   Biofuels

The head of the Renewable Fuels Association said on Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration would lift the responsibility for fuel blending off refiners, which had long requested this change to the nation’s biofuel program. The news sent prices of compliance credits used to meet annual standards tumbling to as low as 30 cents apiece on Tuesday from 47 cents to 48 cents previously. The Renewable Fuel Standard requires that fuel companies use increasing amounts of biofuel blended with gasoline and diesel. Oil refiners, including Valero Energy Corp ( VLO.N ) and CVR Energy Inc ( CVI.N ), had long sought the change, saying the biofuel program hits them with burdensome costs. Renewable Fuels Association Chief Executive Officer Bob Dinneen said a […]

Refiners Pare Gains as Trump Denies Change to Biofuels Rules

1 Mar 2017   Biofuels

Shares of U.S. refiners pared gains late Tuesday after President Donald Trump’s administration denied that it was considering a proposal to change biofuel blending rules. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn and the leading U.S. biofuel trade group struck a deal to revamp a law that mandates oil refiners to either blend petroleum-based fuels with ethanol and biodiesel, or buy blending credits called RINs, according to people familiar with the agreement, and the shares rose earlier in the day on the news. They slipped after the White House said there was no deal. Merchant refiners including Icahn’s CVR Refining and Valero Energy Corp . would benefit from a deal. Gasoline blenders that operate fuel stations such as Casey’s General Stores Inc. and Murphy USA Inc. would have to shoulder the costs. Ethanol blending credits for 2017 compliance fell by nearly 35 percent Tuesday to 30 cents each, the lowest on record […]

Oil industry infighting heats up as EPA weighs biofuels rule change

24 Feb 2017   Biofuels

Oil companies showed deepening divides on the future of the U.S. biofuels program in solicited comments from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a plan sought by some refiners to shift the program’s financial burden to retailers and blenders. All sides are pushing hard, seizing the opportunity to test President Donald Trump’s commitment to the program. Trump has supported the program, but top figures in his administration have criticized it. Refiners, integrated oil companies, fuel retailers and biofuels manufacturers flooded the EPA with comments on its plan to deny requests from refiners to tweak the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by pushing the compliance burden further downstream. Within the oil industry, the fight pits Valero Energy Corp and billionaire Carl Icahn against refiners like Marathon Petroleum Corp. Biofuels advocates are worried about losing progress into the U.S. fuel stream since lawmakers established the RFS program in 2005 under then […]

Trump faces dilemma as U.S. oil reels from record biofuels targets

29 Nov 2016   Biofuels

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gestures from the front door at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 20, 2016. The Obama administration signed its final plan for renewable fuel use in the United States last week, leaving an oil industry reeling from the most aggressive biofuel targets yet as President-elect Donald Trump takes over. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, signed into law by President George W. Bush, is one of the country’s most controversial energy policies. It requires energy firms to blend ethanol and biodiesel into gasoline and diesel. The policy was designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce U.S. reliance on oil imports and boost rural economies that provide the crops for biofuels. It has pitted two of Trump’s support bases against each other: Big Oil and Big Corn. The farming sector has lobbied hard for the maximum biofuel volumes […]

Trump faces dilemma as U.S. oil reels from record biofuels targets

The Obama administration signed its final plan for renewable fuel use in the United States last week, leaving an oil industry reeling from the most aggressive biofuel targets yet as President-elect Donald Trump takes over. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, signed into law by President George W. Bush, is one of the country’s most controversial energy policies. It requires energy firms to blend ethanol and biodiesel into gasoline and diesel. The policy was designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce U.S. reliance on oil imports and boost rural economies that provide the crops for biofuels. It has pitted two of Trump’s support bases against each other: Big Oil and Big Corn. The farming sector has lobbied hard for the maximum biofuel volumes […]

US lifts biofuel mandate in blow to oil companies

24 Nov 2016   Biofuels

The White House handed a victory to the corn ethanol industry and dismayed oil companies by requiring US cars and trucks to burn more biofuels next year.  The rule finalised on Wednesday will require a 6 per cent increase in the use of renewable fuels to 19.28bn gallons in 2017. While well below the 24bn gallons originally mandated by law, it nevertheless drew cheers from biofuel advocates fighting limited domestic distribution of their product.  The US renewable fuel standard (RFS) set out ambitious targets for biofuel consumption when passed by Congress in 2007. Ethanol and biodiesel are blended with conventional petrol and diesel for use in vehicles. But the targets became unachievable as engines grew more efficient and national fuel consumption stalled after the financial crisis. The oil industry’s refusal to add more than 10 per cent ethanol to most of its petrol further capped demand. As well, the development of cellulosic ethanol made from fibrous biomass-like stalks and switchgrass has fallen short of early hopes. The Environmental Protection Agency has tried to boost volumes while acknowledging market realities.

EPA Completes Rule Requiring More Ethanol Blended Into 2017 Gasoline Supply

24 Nov 2016   Biofuels

Federal regulators finalized a rule Wednesday that raises the amount of ethanol refineries must blend into the nation’s gasoline supply, providing a boost to ethanol companies and drawing criticism from an oil industry that opposes higher levels. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a final regulation, first proposed in May , requiring refineries to blend 19.28 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol and other biofuels into the gasoline supply in 2017. That amounts to 1.17 billion gallons more than the requirement for this year, which was 18.11 billion gallons , but it is far less than the 24 billion gallons envisioned by a 2007 law. The EPA is using a waiver in that law allowing the agency to set lower amounts for a variety of reasons, including slower-than-expected development of certain kinds of non-corn biofuels. The […]

Detailed snapshots of photosynthesis at room temperature using SLAC’s X-ray laser show water-splitting reaction

22 Nov 2016   Biofuels

One of its molecular mysteries of photosynthesis involves how the photosystem II protein complex harvests energy from sunlight and uses it to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Now, an international team of researchers has used femtosecond pulses from an X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to capture the highest resolution room-temperature (RT) images of this protein complex, allowing scientists to watch closely how water is split during photosynthesis at the temperature at which it occurs naturally. A paper on the work is published in the journal Nature . The international research team is a long-standing collaboration between SLAC and Berkeley Lab, and includes Humboldt University in Germany, Umeå University and Uppsala […]

NREL and partners build pilot plant to co-process biomass streams with petroleum

18 Oct 2016   Biofuels

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), together with leading petroleum refining technologies supplier W.R. Grace, and leading pilot plant designer Zeton Inc., built a unique pilot-scale facility that can produce biomass-derived fuel intermediates with existing petroleum refinery infrastructure. This pilot plant, constructed in part with funding from the Bioenergy Technologies Office, combines biomass pyrolysis together with fluid catalytic cracking—one of the most important conversion processes used in petroleum refineries—to demonstrate the potential to co-process biomass-derived streams with petroleum, at an industrially-relevant pilot scale. There are 110 domestic fluid catalytic cracking units currently operating in the United States. Using them to co-produce biofuel could enable production of more than 8 billion gallons of bio-derived fuels, without construction of separate biorefineries. This would significantly contribute to the […]

New report suggests bioenergy crops are not a risk to food production

16 Jun 2016   Biofuels

In a new report, researchers have challenged the belief that growing crops for bioenergy will cut food production, a concern they say is stalling new schemes. The report also identifies five ways that countries as diverse as the United States and Brazil can achieve their targets to increase energy security, foster rural economic development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Experts contributed from ten institutions across Africa, Europe and America, including the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the World Bank and Imperial College London in the UK. Previous studies into growing crops for use as fuels have tended to blame bioenergy crops for food shortages. The new open-access report, “Reconciling […]

Researchers Just Solved One of the Biggest Problems for World Hunger

18 May 2016   Biofuels

Planet Earth is doomed with a fast growing global population and a limited amount of farmland to produce food for everyone. That means that we’re going to need to figure out how to maximize what we’ve got—and researchers just made a major breakthrough in getting the most from our crops. Biologists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have come up with a new agricultural technique which they say increases their crop yields by an incredible 50 percent. The key, they say, lies in figuring out how to use an existing genetic mutation that’s been creating some really weird-looking ears of corn. Scientists have long suspected the existence of a genetic pathway that acts like a set of brakes on a growing corn plant and stop an ear of corn before it got too big. As outlined in a new paper in Nature Genetics , researchers finally identified that pathway. And […]

Biofuel Breakthrough: Production Jumps 64%

5 May 2016   Biofuels

This week I wrote an update on the progress toward cellulosic ethanol commercialization, and given my previous coverage on the topic (especially Why I Don’t Ride a Unicorn to Work ) this seems like an appropriate subject to discuss here. Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that during the first quarter of 2016, just over 1 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol were produced. In fact, production for the month of March jumped 64 percent from the previous month to 446,000 gallons produced, the highest levels of the modern era. Production this year is well ahead of the pace in 2015, when 2.2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol were produced for the entire year. So, have we finally […]

A New Source of Liquid Energy?

28 Mar 2016   Biofuels

In the poorest parts of the world, energy is scarce. That is why some scientists are excited about the prospect of generating electricity from urine. Human waste, after all, is the one product that every community has in abundance, and research has demonstrated that a little urine can be used to produce small amounts of electricity in a device called a microbial fuel cell, which relies on bacteria to generate power. The average person puts out a quart or two of urine daily. The problem is the high cost of fuel cells relative to their modest power production. But recently scientists in the U.K. have come up with a way to cut the cost of an experimental fuel cell while boosting its output. The result is a urine-powered fuel cell that is less than an inch square and costs between $1.50 and $3. Power output is still tiny—the cell […]

U.S. refiner biofuels costs top $1 billion, nearing 2013 record

5 Mar 2016   Biofuels, USA

U.S. oil refiners paid more than $1 billion to comply with rules to produce more ethanol-infused gasoline last year, the most in two years, according to filings that will likely intensify the debate over who should foot the bill for the nation’s biofuels programme. Eleven companies, including Valero Energy Corp and Marathon Petroleum Corp, shelled out $1.27 billion last year for credits, known as Renewable Identification Numbers or RINs, as they raced to stock up on paper credits to meet ethanol quotas set by the government after years of delays, according to securities filings reviewed by Reuters. Uncertainty over the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans for its biofuels policy through 2016 also boosted prices of the renewable fuel credits, which were on average 14 percent higher last year than in 2014. The total cost was up by […]

Ethanol pioneer ADM’s struggle reflects deepening industry woes

3 Feb 2016   Biofuels

When Archer Daniels Midland opened two of the country’s largest ethanol plants in Nebraska and Iowa six years ago, the biofuels market was on the cusp of a boom with prices and profits on the rise. Now, the plants are more of a headache for the Chicago-based company, considered an industry pioneer, amid crushed margins and weak prices as the financial success of its almost 40-year- old business fades. In the industry’s first major capitulation to depressed market conditions, ADM’s chief executive, Juan Luciano, on Tuesday said he would consider options, including a sale, for those two plants as well as another in Peoria, Illinois. The three dry-mill ethanol plants, some of the largest in the country, represent just under half of ADM’s 1.8-billion-gallon-per-year U.S. ethanol capacity. The news […]

US Congress approves extension of biodiesel, cellulosic tax credits

19 Dec 2015   Biofuels

The US Senate on Friday passed a tax and spending package that includes a retroactive extension through next year of a $1/gal blenders tax credit for biodiesel and a $1.01/gal production tax credit for cellulosic biofuels. The credits had expired at the end of 2014. The legislation now goes to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it into law shortly. The biodiesel industry has warned of layoffs and plant closures if the tax incentives were not extended, while the cellulosic biofuels industry has said its tax credits would help attract investment as it scales up. Article continues below… Platts Global Alert is a complete real-time information service for the global energy industry, providing breaking reports of deals done, price indicators for crude and products and more than 200 end-of-day assessments. Contact Sales More Information Notably, however, the package does not change the biodiesel blenders credit to a […]

Port of Seattle partners with Alaska Airlines and Boeing to supply sustainable aviation biofuel at Sea-Tac Airport

19 Dec 2015   Biofuels

The Port of Seattle, Alaska Airlines and Boeing are partnering to move toward powering all flights by all airlines at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with sustainable aviation biofuel. Sea-Tac is the first US airport to lay out a long-term roadmap to incorporate aviation biofuel into its infrastructure in a cost-effective, efficient manner. At the Sea-Tac fuel farm earlier this week, executives for the port, Alaska Airlines, and Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to launch a $250,000 Biofuel Infrastructure Feasibility Study that will assess costs and infrastructure necessary to deliver a blend of aviation biofuel and conventional jet fuel to aircraft at Sea-Tac. The partners’ longer-term plan is to incorporate significant quantities of biofuel into Sea-Tac’s fuel infrastructure, which is used by all 26 airlines and more than 380,000 flights annually at the […]

U.S. oil groups face rising biofuels costs, see higher pump prices

4 Dec 2015   Biofuels

Storage tanks are seen inside the Exxonmobil Baton Rouge Refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 6, 2015. U.S. oil companies will likely pay close to $1 billion this year to put more ethanol and renewables in gasoline and diesel and face even higher compliance costs in 2016 after the U.S. government set targets for alternative fuel use above industry expectations. Higher costs could be passed on to consumers, pushing fuel prices higher and prompting further calls from the oil industry for reductions in the quotas. Companies such as Marathon Petroleum Co and Valero Energy Corp are scrambling to digest the requirements for biofuel use set by the Environmental Protection Agency and work out how much they may have to pay for paper credits to help them meet quotas. The EPA’s targets can be met either by blending biofuels such as ethanol into gasoline or by buying credits – known […]

EU clears clean British power plant

A European regulator said the benefits of moving a British power plant from coal to biomass outweigh any concerns about competition stemming from state support. The British government in December 2014 notified the European Commission of plans to subsidize the conversion of the coal-fired Lynemouth power plant, operated by German energy company RWE, to biomass. The project is slated to receive state support until 2027. After a nine-month investigation , the European Commission said there are no major competition concerns resulting from the subsidies. “The commission concluded that the project’s contribution to the European renewable energy and CO2 emissions reduction targets clearly outweighs any potential distortions of competition that could be triggered by the state support,” it said in a statement. The […]

U.S. EPA Boosts Biofuels Targets for 2014-16 Above Proposal

1 Dec 2015   Biofuels

Fuel suppliers will be required to mix 16.93 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol and other renewable fuels into gasoline this year, as part of a long-awaited set of biofuel targets released by U.S. regulators Monday. Oil refiners will have to use 18.11 billion gallons in 2016 based on targets set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The requirements are above ones proposed by the agency in May but are below statutory targets. The levels are part of a program authorized by Congress 10 years ago that requires steadily escalating volumes of biofuels to be blended into the country’s gasoline and diesel fuels. The law, designed to shrink the nation’s dependence on foreign crude and curb greenhouse-gas emissions, has pitted oil companies including Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. that oppose using more biofuels against farmers in the corn-rich Midwest who’ve argued for higher amounts. Ethanol is projected to consume 38 […]

U.S. Scales Back Ethanol Quotas for Gasoline

1 Dec 2015   Biofuels

The Environmental Protection Agency Monday issued final regulations that ease the annual requirements for ethanol in gasoline, a response to market restraints and other conditions that are preventing the Obama administration from meeting goals laid out in a 2007 law. That law compelled refiners to blend an increasing amount of biofuels into the U.S. gasoline supply each year. While the 2007 law set out goals for ethanol use, the EPA was charged with mandating the quotas on a year-by-year basis. The agency is two years behind in crafting the quotas, putting the agency in the awkward position Monday of issuing the rules retroactively for 2014 and 2015 as well as establishing the mandate for 2016. For 2014, the agency retroactively set the total amount of ethanol to be blended at 16.28 billion gallons, roughly what was actually produced. For 2015, EPA set the total level at 16.93 billion gallons, […]

Ethanol Companies Get Boost From U.S. Quotas

1 Dec 2015   Biofuels

U.S. regulators cut annual requirements for how much ethanol must be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply. But the reductions were smaller than originally proposed, softening the blow to ethanol companies and their Farm Belt supporters. The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday said fuel companies will have to blend 18.11 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol and other biofuels into gasoline next year, up from the 17.4 billion it proposed in May, but well below targets laid out in a 2007 law. The EPA also eased rules retroactively for 2014 and 2015. Ethanol-company shares jumped Monday because the EPA’s reductions were less severe than investors had feared. Shares of Green Plains Inc., one of the biggest U.S. ethanol processors, rose 5%, while shares of smaller Pacific Ethanol Inc. surged 21%. Stock in Archer Daniels Midland Co., the biggest U.S. ethanol producer by capacity, edged up 0.1%, shedding earlier losses after […]

U.S. ethanol use set to rise as EPA unveils biofuels targets

1 Dec 2015   Biofuels

U.S. oil companies will likely push past 10 percent ethanol and other biofuel content in motor fuels in 2016 after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set levels on Monday that sparked criticism from both sides of the debate over alternative fuel use. The EPA had hoped to reach a compromise and get renewable fuels use on track after years of delays, meeting a deadline for its announcement that fell as President Barack Obama and other world leaders met in Paris for climate change talks. It said that fuel companies need to use 18.1 billion gallons of renewables in 2016, up from the 17.4 billion the agency proposed in May but still well short of a target of 22.25 billion gallons set by Congress in 2007. The […]

EPA nudges up volume of renewable fuel in final requirements for 2014-2016 under RFS

1 Dec 2015   Biofuels

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program today for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and final volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2014 to 2017. This rule finalizes higher volumes of renewable fuel than the levels EPA proposed in June ( earlier post ), but still represents a reduction compared to the original statutory requirements. Final Renewable Fuel Volumes 2014 2015 2016 2017 Cellulosic biofuel (million gallons) 33 123 230 n/a Biomass-based diesel (billion gallons) 1.63 1.73 1.90 2.00 Advanced biofuel (billion gallons) 2.67 2.88 3.61 n/a All Renewable fuel (billion gallons) 16.28 16.93 18.11 n/a (Units for all volumes are ethanol-equivalent, except for biomass-based diesel volumes which are expressed as physical gallons.) Final Percentage Standards 2014 2015 2016 Cellulosic biofuel […]

No Country For Old Biofuels

28 Nov 2015   Biofuels

The corn ethanol lobby is shocked—shocked, it says —that the United States government has declined to list the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as one of the measures the country will rely on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. According to the ethanol lobby, the RFS, which required Americans to use almost 16 billion gallons of biofuels in 2014, is “the most successful US climate-energy policy ever enacted.” In reality, the policy is flooding the US fuel market with corn ethanol and other old, outdated, and underperforming biofuels, while failing to deliver on its promise of modern biofuels that may (or may not) help reduce the transportation sector’s negative impact on global climate change. US INDC: Biofuels Are Not Part of the Solution According to the United States’ official submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change detailing its greenhouse gas reduction goal (known as […]

Feature: US EPA decision on RFS looms large for ethanol, gasoline markets

24 Nov 2015   Biofuels, Renewables, USA

When Congress announced the US Renewable Fuel Standard a decade ago the aim was to combat the growing need for foreign oil as well as increase the production and promotion of clean, renewable biofuels. As 2016 approaches, and the Environmental Protection Agency is days away from the updated renewable volume obligations (RVO) for 2014, 2015, and 2016, the landscape that led to these implementations has changed considerably. Demand for foreign oil in the US has dropped tremendously as domestic oil production has increased to its highest level in 17 years, while the growing increase in fuel-efficient vehicles has led to total gasoline retail sales by refiners dropping to more than half of their 2005 levels. With the EPA proposing lowering the volume requirements by 20.5% (4.2 billion gallons), as well as growing support and creation of anti-RFS lobbying groups, US ethanol and gasoline traders and brokers hesitantly await the […]

IEA says 3-fold or greater increase in biofuels possible by 2040

16 Nov 2015   Biofuels

The International Energy Agency released its latest World Energy Outlook 2015, saying there are clear signs that an energy transition is under way. The report finds that the plunge in oil prices has set in motion the forces that lead the market to rebalance, and cautions that strong direction is needed from the upcoming United Nations conference on climate change in Paris, COP2. “It would be a grave mistake to index our attention to energy security to changes in the oil price,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Now is not the time to relax. Quite the opposite: a period of low oil prices is the moment to reinforce our capacity to deal with future energy security threats.” The World Energy Outlook 2015 examines all energy sectors, looking at global energy trends to 2014, the oil market, natural gas, unconventional gas, coal, power, renewables and energy efficiency, along with […]

A US ethanol rally to be thankful for?

4 Nov 2015   Biofuels

November is the month of Thanksgiving in the US, and if historical trends hold up, we’re about to see a price recovery that producers will appreciate. Before I dive into the evidence, I would first like to apologize for being wrong in September. I guess my crystal ball was a little fuzzy when I suggested that we were about to see a downturn in prices. US ethanol prices for four consecutive years had lowered in September, but thanks to crop concerns and rallying corn prices, that streak was broken. Similarly, we saw another minimal gain in October. So let’s try this again. Across the last four years, the Platts Chicago Argo benchmark ethanol assessment has averaged a 37.5-cent rise in November. Before you get too excited about that, understand that the bulk of those gains were made in the past two years. In 2014, the assessment rallied 98 cents […]

Here’s One Thing Standing Between You and Even Cheaper Gasoline

28 Aug 2015   Biofuels, Prices

Oil has lost a third of its value in two months, bringing U.S. drivers within pennies’ reach of $2.50 gasoline. But there’s at least one thing standing in the way of a steeper decline at the pumps: ethanol. While the crude rout dragged gasoline futures down about 60 cents a gallon, ethanol’s dropped a mere 15 cents — making it costlier than gasoline this week for the first time since January. Ethanol’s one thing that’ll keep gasoline prices from a total free fall. The biofuel’s value is being propped up by concern over yields for this year’s corn crop, its main feedstock. Meanwhile, refiners are required to blend the additive into gasoline to comply with the federal regulations. “Because they’re forced to blend, they’re blending a more expensive product,” Chris Knittel, professor of energy economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, said by phone. “A large fraction […]

Washington finds unlikely ally in OPEC as biofuels debate rages

1 Jun 2015   Biofuels

The Obama administration has found an unlikely ally in its efforts to keep pushing more biofuel into the nation’s gasoline supply: OPEC. The lowest oil prices in over six years have fueled a resurgence in U.S. gasoline use in recent months as more Americans take to the road. Demand is expected to climb 1.5 percent this year to nearly 139 billion gallons (526 billion liters) according to the government’s most recent forecasts, enough to easily accommodate small increases in ethanol quotas without breaching the so-called “blend wall” that refiners say puts a cap on blending at around 10 percent of total gasoline and diesel supply. It may be even higher, based on data from the first quarter, when gasoline use surged by more than 3 percent, the fastest in over a decade. Those calculations help explain why biofuel backers are up in arms over the Environmental Protection […]

EPA proposes renewable fuel quotas for 2014, 2015, and 2016

30 May 2015   Biofuels

The US Environmental Protection Agency proposed renewable fuel quotas for 2014 that it said reflect the year’s actual biofuel use, and for 2015 and 2016 and, for biodiesel, quotas through 2017 that increase steadily over time. It proposed using authority granted by Congress to reduce quotas below federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) levels established under the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). The proposal’s steadily increasing volumes indicate that biofuels remain an important part of the nation’s strategy to improve energy security and address climate change, it said. Under the notice of proposed rulemaking , which Administrator Gina McCarthy signed on May 29, EPA proposed adjustments to advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel targets for all 3 years. The proposed quotas for 2015 and 2016 “are expected to spur further progress in overcoming current constraints in renewable fuel distribution infrastructure, which in turn is expected to lead to […]

At the gas pump, US biofuel lobby scores a point against big oil

13 May 2015   Biofuels

In a long-running battle between oil refiners and the U.S. farm lobby over the future of ethanol fuel, biofuel producers may have just made a small, but important dent in big oil’s formidable defenses. Over the past few months, privately held retailers Kum & Go and Sheetz have become the first significant chains to announce plans to start selling E15, a gasoline with 15 percent of ethanol, 50 percent more than the typical U.S. blend. By the end of 2016, those two retailers plan to add E15 at pumps at 125 stations. That will more than double the number of U.S. outlets offering cheaper fuel with a higher ethanol content than the standard E10 blend that contains 10 percent of ethanol. If retailers continued to add stations at a similar pace over the next five years, there would be some 1,300 stations offering E15. That would still […]

UPS to Use Renewable Natural Gas for Part of Delivery Fleet

6 May 2015   Biofuels

Clean Energy Fuels produces a product called Redeem, which is the first renewable natural gas available in commercial quantities. The RNG will be used in stations across California beginning this month to fuel tractors and delivery vehicles. The stations in Sacramento, Los Angeles and Fresno will provide about 1.5 million gallon equivalents of RNG fuel to about 400 vehicles in the state. The company already uses natural gas on tractors in the U.K. RNG, or biomethane, can be created from sources such as decomposing organic waste in landfills. “Renewable natural gas is critical to our effort to minimize UPS’s environmental impact while meeting the growing demand for our services,” said Mitch Nichols, UPS senior vice president of transportation and engineering. The Atlanta-based delivery giant said in April that revenue for U.S. ground packages grew 5.3% to $6.36 billion in the first quarter. That helped buoy total U.S. domestic-package operating […]

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Risk Iowans’ Ire on Ethanol

6 Mar 2015   Biofuels

Despite lower crude prices, ethanol plants across the nation continue to operate at a brisk pace. Photo: Associated Press For decades, presidential candidates have bowed to Iowa’s corn-based ethanol industry while campaigning in a state where corn is king. But several of the likely Republican candidates slated to address the state’s agricultural industry on Saturday backed the sunset of ethanol subsidies in 2011, and many oppose the industry’s new sacred cow: the renewable-fuel standard, which requires blending ethanol and other biofuels into the gasoline supply. How the likely White House contenders navigate the issue will signal how much Republican politics are now driven by the party’s conservative base, which balks at government interference in the marketplace. Two GOP contenders who want to phase out the renewable-fuel standard, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Louisiana […]

A Biofuel Debate: Will Cutting Trees Cut Carbon?

10 Feb 2015   Biofuels

Does combating climate change require burning the world’s forests and crops for fuel? It certainly looks that way, judging from the aggressive mandates governments across the globe have set to incorporate bioenergy into their transportation fuels in the hope of limiting the world’s overwhelming dependence on gasoline and diesel to move people and goods. While biofuels account for only about 2.5 percent today, the European Union expects renewable energy — mostly biofuels — to account for 10 percent of its transportation fuel by 2020. In the United States, the biofuel goal is about 12 percent by early in the next decade. The International Energy Agency envisions using biofuels to supply as much of 27 percent of the world’s transportation needs by midcentury. The reasons for such ambitions are clear: It is nearly impossible under current technology to run cars, trucks, ships and jet planes on energy generated […]

NREL enzyme enables conversion of biomass to sugar up to 14x faster than current alternatives; changing the economics of conversion

13 Jan 2015   Biofuels

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed an enzyme that can enable the conversion of biomass to sugars up to 14 times faster and more cheaply than competing catalysts in enzyme cocktails today. The enzyme called CelA, a cellulase from the bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii , could thus could change the economics of biofuel conversion. In one scenario, the best commercially used enzyme converted sugars at a 30% extent in seven days. CelA converted to double that extent. And while it took the alternative enzyme seven days to achieve that conversion, CelA, with a small boost from an extra beta glucosidase, achieved double in just about two days. Among CelA’s many […]

Falling Crude Prices Force Ethanol Makers to Take It on the Chin

3 Jan 2015   Biofuels

Falling profit margins for the $40 billion U.S. ethanol industry may cause some companies to scale back production in 2015. Bloomberg News Tumbling oil prices are bringing unwelcome tidings to one of the U.S. Farm Belt’s hottest industries. Ethanol makers are bracing for a drop in earnings as cheap crude pushes down the prices they fetch from refiners to blend the corn-based fuel additive into gasoline. Ethanol producers also face a recent jump in the price of corn, their main raw material. Falling profit margins for the $40 billion U.S. ethanol industry may cause some companies to scale back production in 2015, analysts and industry executives say. Still, many observers think ethanol demand may remain steady or even rise if cheap gasoline spurs U.S. motorists to drive more, tempering the hit to ethanol earnings. Crude-oil prices slid 20% in December to about $53 a barrel and fell 46% […]

Ethanol Prices Slide Amid Supply Spike

3 Oct 2014   Biofuels

A spike in supplies has sent U.S. ethanol prices tumbling to four-year lows and curbed profits for an industry that had posted robust earnings for most of this year.  Ethanol futures plunged 28% last month, as falling domestic demand left U.S. producers with the largest inventories in more than a year.  Stockpiles in September reached the highest level since March 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. While demand for the biofuel, along with the gasoline into which it is blended, typically declines after the summer driving season, this year’s downshift was pronounced.

Researchers enhance yeast thermotolerance and ethanol tolerance; potential for significant impact on industrial biofuel production

3 Oct 2014   Biofuels

The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae plays a central role in global biofuel production; currently, about 100 billion liters of ethanol are produced annually worldwide by fermentation of mainly sugarcane saccharose and corn starch by the yeast. There are also efforts underway to use the yeast with cellulosic biomass. Boosting the yield and lowering the cost of fermentative production of biofuel would not only result in a significant immediate financial impact to commercial ethanol operations, but also support cost reductions that would be helpful to advance other advanced biofuels using the same or a similar pathway. However, boosting production has been gated by two key conditions: the ability of the yeast to tolerate higher temperatures, and the ability of the yeast to survive high concentrations of ethanol. Now, two new separate studies report progress on each of those fronts; the findings could have a significant impact on industrial biofuel production. Both […]

Biofuels are included in latest U.S. Navy fuel procurement

26 Jul 2014   Biofuels

Source: U.S. Navy, used with permission Note: Above, clockwise from left: Fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187), aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), and cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59). Great Green Fleet demonstration, July 2012. Recently the Department of Defense (DoD) released its annual procurement for bulk fuels to be delivered to its facilities in the eastern and inland United States and Gulf Coast. For the first time, this procurement requests military-specification diesel fuel and jet fuel that are blended with biofuels. The biofuels components, however, are optional and will only be accepted if certain cost and performance requirements are met. A similar procurement for the Rocky Mountain and West Coast regions is expected to be released later this year. The U.S. Navy’s interest in biofuels is part of its goal to generate 50% of its energy from alternative sources by […]

U.S. investing more in biofuels research

17 Jul 2014   Biofuels

The U.S. Energy Department said it was spending $6.3 million on research aimed at generating a biofuel that could be cost competitive by 2017. SRI International of California and Research Triangle Institute of North Carolina received funding from the Energy Department for research and development projects meant to drive down the cost of producing gasoline, diesel and jet fuels from biomass. The funding is part of an effort to make biofuels competitive with regular fuels. The Energy Department said it wants to produce a drop-in biofuel that would cost about $3 per gallon by 2017. Data from 2011 show some biofuels were close to the point at which they’d be competitive with regular fuels. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the government is looking for ways to increase energy security and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by advancing a low-carbon economy. The transportation sector in the United States accounts for nearly 60 […]

Ethanol Tumbles as Report Shows Output at Record High

19 Jun 2014   Biofuels

Ethanol declined to a six-week low after a government report showed production of the biofuel rose to a record. Futures fell after the Energy Information Administration said output rose 3 percent to 972,000 barrels a day last week, the most in four years of weekly data from the Energy Information Administration. Corn prices that have dropped 34 percent in the past year have helped reduce production costs for ethanol makers and allowed them to boost operations. One bushel of the grain makes at least 2.75 gallons of the renewable fuel. “People are looking to place gallons and get rid of supply that they may have laying around,” Mark Ruyack, a manager at StarFuels Inc., a Jupiter, Florida-based broker, said today in a telephone interview. Denatured ethanol for July delivery slumped 8.5 cents, or 4 percent, to settle at $2.057 a gallon on the Chicago Board of Trade, the lowest […]

How ‘Big Corn’ lost the ethanol battle to Philadelphia refiners

12 May 2014   Biofuels

Six months ago the U.S. oil industry scored a surprise win against farm groups when the Obama administration proposed slashing the amount of ethanol refiners must blend into gasoline, a move that could save them billions of dollars. Stunned by the reversal, producers of the corn-based biofuel and their supporters are now fighting back ahead of a June deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make a final decision on the cut. The clash has been portrayed as a battle between “Big Oil” and “Big Corn,” two powerful and deep-pocketed lobbies. But a Reuters review of public records and interviews with lawmakers, lobbyists and executives reveals a more complex picture. A private equity firm and an airline helped convince the Obama administration to backtrack, at least temporarily, on a policy it has supported for years: requiring steadily-rising volumes of ethanol to be blended into […]

US biodiesel production falls 48% in January: EIA

1 May 2014   Biofuels

US biodiesel production fell to 70 million gallons in January, down 48% from December, Energy Information Administration data showed Wednesday. Production was up 6.1% compared with January 2013. Of the 530 million lb of feedstock used to produce US biodiesel in January, soybean oil’s share reached 45.47%, down 8.85 percentage points from December, the EIA said. Article continues below… Platts Biofuelscan is a daily report, covering the latest worldwide biofuel news and prices. It provides a daily summary of market events and developments, along with closing market price assessments from the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Platts Biofuelscan includes prices assessmenst for ethanol, ETBE, renewal indentification number (RIN) biofuels (US market0 and biodiesel. It also includes graphs depicting historic and current trends for major assessments. Soybean oil remained the largest biodiesel feedstock, with 241 million lb consumed. The next three largest feedstocks were corn oil […]

EPA cuts 2013 cellulosic-ethanol mandate

29 Apr 2014   Biofuels

The US Environmental Protection Agency lowered the amount of cellulosic ethanol required in 2013 to the amount actually produced, relieving refiners and importers of the need to buy credits to cover shortfalls against the earlier mandate. The adjusted volume is 810,185 ethanol-equivalent gal. The earlier requirement, published on Aug. 15, 2013, was 6 million gal. EPA made the change in response to petitions for reconsideration from the American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. AFPM welcomed the move. “I expect EPA to use the same rational thinking to revise its proposed 2014 ethanol and biodiesel requirements, which are already long overdue,” said AFPM Pres. Charles T. Drevna. He said EPA has proposed a mandate of 17 million gal of cellulosic ethanol for 2014 and noted production of the material in the first quarter totaled less than 75,000 gal. Because commercialization of cellulosic ethanol has been slow to […]

US Midwest ethanol margin tumbles to six-week low as prices slide

28 Apr 2014   Biofuels

The estimated production margin for a typical US Midwest dry-mill ethanol plant for the week ended Friday fell 20.06 cents, or 15.6%, to a six-week low of $1.0854/gal, a review of US Department of Agriculture and Platts data showed. As weekly stocks data and added imports had a starkly bearish effect on ethanol prices, the margin retreated for a fourth straight week from an eight-year high hit in the last week of March. The estimated ethanol price used in calculating the margin was the weekly average of the Platts Chicago Argo ethanol assessment, which tumbled 19.4 cents, or 8.13%, to a seven-week low of $2.3870/gal. Article continues below… Platts Biofuelscan is a daily report, covering the latest worldwide biofuel news and prices. It provides a daily summary of market events and developments, along with closing market price assessments from the Americas, Europe, and Asia. […]

Study: Fuel from corn waste worse than gasoline

22 Apr 2014   Biofuels

Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change. A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline. While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says, they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel. The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half the initial market in cellulosics […]

Dual Turning Point for Biofuels

15 Apr 2014   Biofuels

 There is an old joke in the energy business that advanced biofuels are the fuel of the future, and always will be. A Spanish company, Abengoa Bioenergy , has bet $500 million on robbing that joke of its punch line. In the middle of a cornfield here it is building a 38-acre Erector set of electrical cable and pipe that will soon begin producing cellulosic ethanol, which it calls a low-polluting alternative to petroleum products. This is just as the George W. Bush administration and Congress intended seven years ago with legislation promoting energy independence. But even as Abengoa and other companies prepare to produce significant amounts of cellulosic ethanol, using corn stalks and wheat straw as opposed […]