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March/April 2013 Issue 2 • volume 7


One small step for oil Nesté Oil is one company that should be delighted by the EC’s recent proposals favouring advanced biofuels – we find out if this really is the case

The second line of defense Left uninsured, certain liabilities could badly affect a producer’s financial performance

Reap what you sow Now Europe is being forced into taking cellulosic ethanol seriously, we look at what producers can learn from across the pond

RegionalRegional focus: biofuels in southeast AsiaAmerica and Australasia focus: biofuels in South

Cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues THINK AHEAD, THINK SUNLIQUIDÂŽ

Highly efficient sunliquid is an economic and sustainable process to generate biobased products from lignocellulosic biomass. It opens up new feedstocks not only for fuel, but also for sustainable chemistry from untapped resources – like cellulosic ethanol from straw.

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Issue 2

volume 7

March/April 2013 Horseshoe Media Limited Marshall House 124 Middleton Road, Morden, Surrey SM4 6RW, UK managing director Peter Patterson Tel: +44 (0)208 648 7082 publisher & Editor Margaret Dunn Tel: +44 (0)208 687 4126 Deputy Editor James Barrett Tel: +44 (0)208 687 4146 Assistant Editor Keeley Downey Tel: +44 (0)208 687 4183 INTERNATIONAL Sales MANAGER Shemin Juma +44 (0)203 551 5751 US SALES MANAGER Matt Weidner +1 610 486 6525 South American sales representative Roberto Bieler +55 21 3268 2553 +55 21 9465 2553 PRODUCTION Alison Balmer Tel: +44 (0)1673 876143 SUBSCRIPTION RATES £195/€275/$370 for 10 issues per year. Contact: Lisa Lee Tel: +44 (0)208 687 4160 Fax: +44 (0)208 687 4130 No part of this publication june be reproduced or stored in any form by any mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording or other means without the prior written consent of the publisher. Whilst the information and articles in Biofuels International are published in good faith and every effort is made to check accuracy, readers should verify facts and statements direct with official sources before acting on them as the publisher can accept no responsibility in this respect. Any opinions expressed in this magazine should not be construed as those of the publisher. ISSN 1754-2170

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c ntents 2 Comment

4 Bioethanol news 10 Biodiesel news 20 Technology news 24 Incident 25 People on the move 26 Moving on from ‘harmful’ biofuels A new report calls for Europe to completely move away from first generation biofuels as the continent chases 2020 targets 27 Keeping a level head The newly proposed biofuels levels in the US has sparked fierce defence by the industry in the face of stiff opposition 28 Second generation biofuel from a fifth generation bioreactor 29 Reap what you sow Now Europe is being forced into taking cellulosic ethanol seriously, James Barrett looks at what producers can learn from ‘across the pond’ 32 Can the ethanol king rule the second generation? 37 Ongoing battle plagues Argentinean producers 40 Getting back to business The president of the Colombian National Federation of Biofuels Jorge Bendeck reveals how the country is increasing its future production 41 Plant update: South America 43 Diesel from sugarcane? Already being trialled in Brazil, it seems there is no end to the end-uses for sugarcane 45 One small step for oil Nesté Oil is one company that should be delighted by the EC’s recent proposals favouring advanced biofuels. To find out more about the impact this will have Keeley Downey went to visit the producer’s new advanced microbial oil plant 47 The second line of defense against a pollution release Biofuel manufacturers are open to a number of potential environmental liabilities. Left uninsured these liabilities could badly affect the company’s financial performance 49 Grease Theft Auto Grease theft, supply and demand fundamentals and a major new facility are the main stories in 2013 for biodiesel’s fat and grease recyclers 52 Miniature reactor platforms for rapid development of catalytic biofuel processes 54 Alternative catalytic solutions take centre stage 56 Introducing the first commercial genetically enhanced yeasts 59 Tips to remove bottlenecks 61 Keeping up with the times Changing market circumstances lead to new challenges for existing biodiesel plants that were originally designed to process vegetable and waste oils


March/April 2013 Issue 2 • volume 7

63 Jatropha: flying forward? 66 Successful community oilseed project – key considerations In today’s unpredictable and volatile marketplace, a flexible facility can avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy 68 Pretreatment of wheat straw using superheated steam 70 Pumping and mixing the mash 72 Events & ad index

Grease Theft Auto Cooking oil robberies, supply and demand fundamentals and a major new facility are the main stories in 2013 for biodiesel’s fat and grease recyclers

The second line of defense Left uninsured, certain liabilities could badly affect a producer’s financial performance

Reap what you sow Now Europe is being forced into taking cellulosic ethanol seriously, we look at what producers can learn from across the pond

RegionalRegional focus: biofuels in southeast AsiaAmerica and Australasia focus: biofuels in South

Front cover courtesy of BDI – Bioenergy International AG, a BDI Multi-Feedstock plant for BPL Australia

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An industry at war

M Margaret Dunn Publisher

any European biofuel producers had a gloomy start to the year, following proposals effectively limiting the amount of biofuels that could be produced from first generation feedstocks. But the mood lifted slightly in January after the EU Council published a regulation imposing a 9.5% anti-dumping duty on all US bioethanol exports to the EU, leading to a €62.3 per tonne duty. This is a good result for European manufacturers, whom opened a complaint back in November 2011 claiming that US producers were selling fuel in the EU at below cost – a practice known as dumping. Ethanol exports from the US to the EU jumped from 102 million litres in 2009 to 1.17 billion litres in 2011, so a level 13 times higher and an increase of 1,051%. US imports accounted then for up to 20% of EU consumption. US ethanol producers, including Marquis Energy, Patriot Renewable Fuels and Platinum Ethanol increased their combined share of the EU bioethanol market to 15.7% in the 12 months through September 2011 compared with 1.9% in 2008. The EU made the decision after deciding that European producers including Crop Energies Bioethanol of Germany, Tereos BENP of France and Ensus of the UK suffered ‘material injury’ as a result of dumped imports from the US, something that was preventing the domestic ethanol sector from developing. Two different inquiries

were opened by European ethanol producers in 2011, one regarding antidumping and the other surrounding the impact of US ethanol subsidies on the European ethanol market. In August 2012 the European Commission finalised its decision not to impose counterveiling duties on US ethanol, largely because the main subsidy scheme leading to such alleged injury, the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) credit, had expired. The VEETC provided a benefit of $0.45 (€0.34) per gallon for petrol blended with ethanol, which the blender could take either as a credit from the federal excise tax for petrol or as a credit against federal income tax. This ongoing war may be disappointing considering Europe and the US share similar goals to promote the development of biofuels, but it’s certainly not new. Back in 2009 the EU approved five-year antidumping duties on US biodiesel. And this year, the European Commission has just announced new measures making all biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia subject to registration by national customs throughout the EU. Biodiesel producers in the South American country are understandably unhappy about this – something which is discussed in further depth on page 33. Another argument not likely to go away in a hurry in the ongoing debate into the European Commission’s proposals for the Renewable

Energy Directive. In late February Energy ministers from across Europe got together to discuss this, with ILUC factors high on the agenda. Interestingly Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said the 5% proposed limit on conventional biofuels is not a ‘definitive level’ and he is ‘willing to be flexible.’ He told the meeting a slightly higher level of say 6 or 7% may be considered, as well as looking at biodiesel and bioethanol separately. This will please the European ethanol association ePURE, which is requesting a sub-target of at least 10% renewable energy in petrol by 2020 with at least 8% assigned to conventional biofuels. It would also like a general target for advanced biofuels of 2% of the final energy consumption of road transport by 2020, but without it being counted double or quadruple. The proposal will be debated further at a meeting of environment ministers in March and then at ministerial talks in June, at which Ireland, holder of the EU presidency, is expected to deliver a progress report. For regular updates be sure to sign up to our weekly newsletter at Best wishes, Margaret

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Iowa’s earned a reputation for being fertile ground. For bioscience innovation, that is. We’ve got not one but two top research institutions, Iowa State University and University of Iowa. Not only are they producing breakthroughs in plant, animal and human biosciences. Each is transferring patented discoveries to Iowa’s bioscience companies. Which attracts a cluster of the most innovative bioscience leaders in the world. Which attracts more R&D investment. Which produces more patents. Which attracts a skilled talent pool. We call this Iowa’s “agronomic ecosystem.” It’s why Iowa has produced growth rates and profits that far outpaced the nation. And caused Battelle Technology to write, “No other location in the country has such a complete suite of capabilities for bioscience development.” Find your opportunity at biofuels international



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biofuels bioethanol news

New bioethanol plant mused by St1

First batch of commercial biofene made by Amyris

Finland-based energy company St1 is planning to construct a new bioethanol facility in Kajaani.

US-based renewable fuels and chemicals company Amyris has shipped its first load of biofene from its new plant in Brazil.

Company executives aim to make an investment decision about the project this year, which would enable production to begin in 2015. The plant would use sawdust from the local

sawmill industry as feedstock. St1 is keen on second generation biofuels and is aiming to hit an ethanol production target of 300 million litres in the next decade via a network of facilities. It currently has seven bioethanol plants in Finland, plus a refinery in Sweden and over 1,000 petrol stations dotted around both countries and Norway in conjunction with Shell. l

Biomass for biofuels need to meet new EU criteria Germany-based biofuels and bioliquid certification body Tüv Süd has obtained further accreditation for the testing of waste and residual materials. The news comes as the 36th Ordinance on the Implementation of the Federal Immission Control Act now requires EU companies operating in the collection of waste and residual materials to furnish proof of certification in accordance with REDcert-DE or ISCC

DE for the first time. ‘Since biofuels made from waste and residues can be counted twice towards the fulfilment of EU targets, reliable end-to-end certification of the entire supply chain is imperative,’ says Igor Dormuth, project manager at Tüv Süd. ‘Critical aspects in this process include reliable and transparent criteria defining sustainable biomass use. Without them, the reputation of biofuels as an important building-block within the scope of energy from renewable sources will be impossible to preserve.’ l

The facility represents Amyris’ first purpose-built industrial fermentation plant which produces farnesene from sugarcane to create the biofene. ‘This initial shipment marks the successful completion of our start-up activities. We have operated multiple

tanks without contamination or surprises through several production runs during the first month of operation,’ says Amyris CEO John Melo. ‘We are now focused on ramping up biofene production and delivering product to customers, like renewable diesel for bus fleets in Brazil and squalane emollient to the global cosmestic industry for example.’ Amyris’ biofene plant is situated in São Paulo and sources its sugarcane feedstock locally from the nearby Paraíso mill. l

Amyris’ biofene plant in Sao Paulo

New E15 fuel configuration gets approval in US The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as approved a new blender pump configuration in regard to the sale of E10 and E15 blended fuel. The configuration was submitted by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and means that petrol stations wishing to dispense E-type fuel from a blender pump with a common nozzle and hose can do so.

‘When two different gasoline-ethanol blended fuels are dispensed from the same hose and nozzle, residual fuel from a prior fuelling of E15 may be comingled with a subsequent fuelling of E10, resulting in the inadvertent misfuelling of vehicles not covered by the E15 partial waivers with fuels containing greater than 10% volume ethanol,’ the EPA states. To overcome that issue, the EPA previously approved another industry configuration that required a minimum

4 gallon purchase of fuel from a blender pump. Although groups representing small non-passenger vehicles objected to that statement, the RFA has said it will look into any potential solutions. ‘With this new change, we expect to see additional interest in E15 and an increased availability thereby provided American drivers with a product that helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil while also benefiting the environment,’ says RFA CEO Bob Dinneen. l

4 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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Biomass set to benefit from Brazilian joint ethanol venture Brazil-based ETH Bioenergy and European technology provider Inbicon will work together to bring second generation ethanol to the Brazilian market. The partnership aims to introduce Inbicon’s technology to ETH’s industrial and commercial experience to produce ethanol and other products from lignocellulosic raw materials

such as bagasse. Inbicon is owned by Danish energy company Dong Energy. ‘The cooperation with ETH will give both companies access to the Brazilian market to deploy second generation technology and add value to biomass,’ says Dong Energy VP Henrik Maimann. According to agreement details, one of the first orders of business is to conduct feasibility research of ethanol production from sugarcane waste. l

Praj solidifies ethanol presence in Columbia India-based process engineering and solutions company Praj Industries has won a contract to provide an ethanol plant in Columbia. The order comes from food and sugar processing business Riopaila Castilla (RC) and is worth a total of

$20 million (€14.7 million), which includes the plant that will produce 400,000 litres of ethanol a day at RC’s sugar plant in La Pailia. The ethanol will come from sugarcane and molassess feedstock. This contract has meant that Praj retains 100% market share in Columbia and the deal represents the seventh ethanol plant it will supply to the country. l

Praj and RC have signed an agreement

US ethanol plant put on back burner An US biofuels plant owned by Bluefire Renewables has been described as ‘not dead, just dormant’ by Mississippi officials. Itawamba County Development Council executive director Greg Deakle was quoted as saying that work on the Fultonbased plant has gone on ‘indefinite hiatus’ while Bluefire focuses on other projects. The Fulton project, which has entered its fourth year and secured investment from across the globe, has been site-prepared for construction for a while. The cost of the

facility, benchmarked at $300 million (€230.9 million) in 2009, has risen over time and a partnership with Chinese equity company China Huadian Engineering was signed for extra funding. However Deakle believes a new project to construct a sugar cellulose plant in Korea has now taken precedence in Bluefire’s eyes. The ethanol plant planned to use available green and wood wastes as feedstock for the production of around 19 million gallons of ethanol per year. Bluefire is still paying a monthly lease on the Fulton site. l

Global Partners to buy ethanol and crude oil facility Terminal network owner Global Partners has signed an agreement to acquire an Oregonbased crude oil and ethanol facility from Cascade Kelly for approximately $95 million (€70 million). Assets included in the transaction are 200,000 barrels of storage capacity, a rail transloading facility served by the BNSF Railway, a deepwater marine terminal and a 1,200ft dock, in addition to an ethanol plant. Speaking about the deal, Eric Alifka, Global’s president and CEO, comments: ‘This transaction capitalises on our advantaged logistics and enables us to supply cost-competitive crude

and ethanol to refiners and customers on the West Coast. This facility also creates a link between the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin and Pacific refiners. These new assets increase our capability to transport crude from the US and Canadian mid-continent and extend our virtual pipeline to the West.’ The company’s purchase of Cascade Kelly has been approved by the board of directors of the partnership’s general partner, Global GP and is subject to regulatory approvals among other closing conditions. The acquisition is due to be finalised by the end of this quarter. In a statement, Global said it also expects to close its $80 million investment of a 60% stake in Basin Transload early this year. l

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Maple Energy expands Peruvian ethanol plantation Peru-based ethanol producer Maple Energy (ME) has received government approval to expand its operation moving forward. The approval, given in December, will allow ME to begin expanding its sugarcane plantation by 877 hectares from its current size of 6,532 hectares. It reveals that ‘substantial drip irrigation systems are already in place’ and it expects to plant the entire area during the first quarter of 2013. Subject to obtaining additional approvals, ME also plans to expand its plantation by an additional 378 hectares by the end of 2013. That entire expansion will cost the company approximately

$3.3 million (€2.4 million). ME has sold a total of approximately 2.2 million gallons of ethanol to the local Peruvian market since commencing sales in May 2012. It also produced just over 11 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol in the same time period. ‘We are pleased with our progress at the ethanol plant,’ says ME CEO Rex Canon. ‘Sugarcane harvesting rates and ethanol production volumes are expected to further increase this quarter once we expand our harvesting fleet. In addition, with the expansion of our existing plantation and the corresponding utilisation of available capacity at the plant, we believe the value of our ethanol business will be enhanced.’ l

Maple Energy is to expand its sugarcane plantation

US RFA asks for revised ILUC decisions on biofuels to be made

Vilsack visits opening of new plant-tosugar facility

The US Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen has called for certainty over indirect land use change (ILUC) penalties in a letter sent to the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

US-based Renmatix, a manufacturer of cellulosic sugars for bio-based chemical and fuel markets, has unveiled its new multiplefeedstock processing facility at its King of Prussia, Pennsylvania headquarters.

It has been over two years since CARB proposed to revise ILUC penalties against certain biofuels as part of the state’s Low Standard Fuels Standard (LCFS). ‘I am writing to again encourage CARB to honour its commitments to expeditiously revise the ILUC penalty factor assessed against corn ethanol and to utilise the ‘best available science’ when determining direct carbon intensity (CI) values,’ Dinneen stated. ‘Revising the direct and indirect CI values for corn ethanol would be much more

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than a mere academic exercise; rather, a continued failure to update these CI values will jeopardise the ability of regulated parties to reasonably comply with the LCFS programme’s increasingly rigid CI standards in 2013, 2014 and beyond.’ The RFA points toward many peer-reviewed studies, published since the LCFS was adopted, that show CARB overstated the overall carbon intensity of corn ethanol. One such study, conducted by Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions and Energy use in Transportation (GREET) model creator Michael Wang of the Argonne National Laboratory, found the carbon intensity of average corn ethanol to be 62g 2 of CO -equivalent per megajoule (g/MJ) which included ‘possible emissions from ILUC’. That figure is 38% lower than CARB’s current estimate of 99.4g/MJ for average Midwest corn ethanol. l

Secretary Tom Vilsack, leader of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), was present at the commissioning of the BioFlex Conversion Unit and took a tour of the facility with Renmatix CEO Mike Hamilton. ‘Rural America holds tremendous promise today, thanks in large part to innovation taking place in the bio-based economy. Since 2009, USDA has made tremendous investments in the research necessary to develop the next generation of bio-based products,’ says Vilsack. ‘Such research is validated when companies like Renmatix can convert locally relevant feedstocks into the very low-cost sugar intermediates demanded by global fuel and chemical markets.’ The new facility has created 50 new jobs in the local area. ‘The sugars produced at this site will continue to enable development of the emerging bioeconomy and will be shared with key industry collaborators and Fortune 50 downstream partners in our active sampling programme,’ adds Hamilton. l

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US ethanol plant subject of takeover

US-based Guardian Energy Heron Lake (GEHL) has signed an agreement to acquire the ethanol production assets from Heron Lake BioEnergy. The transaction, which also includes a 73% ownership interest in pipeline subsidiary Agrinatural Gas, is expected to close in the first quarter of this year pending regulatory and member approval. The Heron Lake natural gas-fired ethanol plant produces almost 60 million gallons of ethanol and 177,000 tonnes of distillers dried grains per year via locally-purchased corn. GEHL plans to honour all existing corn contracts once the purchase is complete before hosting grain procurement meetings further down the line. ‘We look forward to developing longlasting relationships with area producers and the surrounding communities,’ says GEHL CEO Don Gales. The ethanol plant began producing ethanol in October 2007 and has 35 full-time employees. l

North Carolina biofuels research gets over $1m boost A consortium targeting biofuels production in the US will be awarded a grant by the Biofuels Centre of North Carolina. The 13 strong group, led by AdvantageWest Economic Development, will receive $766,256 (€570,133) to fortify the biofuels sector and help with expansion in the region through a project called Planting the Seeds for a Robust WNC Biofuels Sector. It is hoped the project will hope to achieve goals like expanding feedstock availability, improving value-chain economics and establishing a new test laboratory. A 50% match of that total grant will be added by the consortium to make an overall investment of $1.14 million. ‘The value of this concerted effort cannot be overstated,’ Biofuels Centre CEO Steven Burke was quoted as saying. ‘This will further position the state to grow jobs, secure its energy future and enhance our environment. Moreover, that the collaborators will invest nearly $400,000 in this project demonstrates the region’s firm commitment to developing new sectors and new economies.’ l

news in brief Thailand ethanol plant closed after dumping discovered An ethanol plant in Thailand has been ordered to temporarily close after it was discovered to be dumping untreated wastewater on land in a neighbouring district. The plant, operated by AA Ethanol, is situated in Prachin Buri and governor Chitra Promchutima received notice for closure as it failed to repair the wastewater treatment system as required following a visit by the Department of Industrial Works in January. AA Ethanol also failed to present an explanation of how it would deal with the reported 1,000m3 of wastewater released per day. All repairs must be completed before the start of April, with AA Ethanol management having to request permission to reopen in person at the Prachin Buri industry office.

Brazil ethanol sector could be given more good news Brazil’s energy minister Edison Lobao has said the government could cut taxes on sugarcane-derived ethanol to alleviate pressures on the sector. The pressure comes from rising costs that has left biofuels struggling to compete with petrol. Any potential tax relief would bolster, and not replace, the restored mandatory ethanol content in petrol back up from 20 to 25% coming this May. Lobao revealed that ‘tax cuts are one measure in a set of many we’re examining’. This comes after oil producer Petrobras announced at the end of January that petrol prices were set to rise at the pump for the first time since 2006.

Cash injection and biofuel jobs boost for Enerkem Canada-based waste-to-biofuels business Enerkem has received a multimillion finance injection from Waste Management of Canada. Further to the $37 million (€27.6 million) awarded Enerkem has announced it has recruited the first employees for its new biofuels facility in Alberta. A 25-year agreement to build and operate a plant that will produce and sell second generation biofuels and renewable chemicals has been signed with the City of Edmonton, which will supply 100,000 dry tonnes of municipal solid waste a year. ‘With plant commissioning expected to begin this summer, it’s exciting to see the facility’s first employees join the Enerkem team and start their technical training,’ says Vincent Chornet, president and CEO of Enerkem.

Six new ethanol fuel facilities set for Brazil Brazilian biofuels producer Vinema Biorefinarias do Sul (VBS) is planning to build the country’s first ethanol fuel mills that use grain as raw material. VBS wants to construct six mills at a total of BRL720 million (€265 million) and expects to secure BRL40 million of equity commitments for the first plant due to be based in Cristal. It is believed VBS expects all six plants to be online by 2020, jointly producing 600 million litres of fuel a year on a variety of rice, oats and sorghum feedstocks, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

8 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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Corn oil technology boost for Poet ethanol plants

The move brings Poet’s total capacity to around 250,000 tonnes a year, enough feedstock to produce 68 million gallons of biodiesel annually.

Facilities in places like Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and Ohio have been beneficiaries of the upgrade. ‘There’s a bio-based solution to so much of what petroleum supplies today,’ says Poet CEO Jeff Lautt. ‘Having a more diverse portfolio of products has been a benefit, particularly when ethanol margins are challenging.’ l

Several Poet facilities will benefit from its move to corn oil technology

B99 biodiesel blend back in US northwest US-based Sequential Pacific Biodiesel (SPB) is to return supplying a B99 biodiesel blend to over 30 local retail outlets throughout Oregon and Washington. US-based Sequential Pacific Biodiesel (SPB) is to return supplying a B99 biodiesel blend to over 30 local retail outlets throughout Oregon and Washington. The return to the higher blend ratio marks the

conclusion of SPB’s winter blending period, where it produces a B50 blend as the fuel demands for effectiveness. ‘Our winter blending policy eliminates concerns about engine problems caused by gelling and provides a worry-free experience for our customers,’ says SPB sales director Gavin Carpenter. SPB makes its renewable fuel from recycled cooking oil taken from over 7,000 restaurants and businesses in the northwest of the US. l

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US-based ethanol production business Poet has installed its new corn oil technology into 25 of its 27 biorefineries.

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Revitalised biofuels project progresses in New Zealand New Zealand-based petrol station brand Z Energy wants to bring a biofuel project in Auckland back online. CEO Mike Bennetts says the company wants to reduce its carbon footprint

through creating 20 million litres of biofuel from tallow feedstock, which could then go toward making 400,000 litres of B5 diesel. An earlier attempt at this got to pilot level but a loss of financing meant it stalled. Z Energy brought

the intellectual property and is at an advanced stage to revitalise the NZ$15 million (€9.5 million) project. ‘We’re actually completing the engineering design on both a new building and the plant itself. That work will be completed by March and, if

it lines up with our original estimates, we’ll go ahead with the investment,’ Bennetts was quoted as saying. Bennetts did also add that a ‘lack of government support and cheap shale oil supply’ makes it hard for renewable projects to thrive currently. l

W2 Energy expands into Asian biofuels market W2 Energy has signed a binding memorandum agreement to purchase 51% of Malaysiabased AM Biofuels. The acquisition, totalled at $5.5 million (€4.1 million), will expand W2 Energy’s

fuel business in South East Asia as it continues to move forward a business plan focusing on production, blending and distribution of bio- and synthetic fuels. AM Biodiesel’s plant, licensed under the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, has the capacity of 30,000 tonnes

of biodiesel production a year. The plant is a multifeedstock technology based on the esterification process and plans to produce 20,000 tonnes of palm biodiesel in 2013. ‘We are now poised to enter the ‘clean fuel market’ of Asia, in which Malaysia consumes

about 50,000 and Indonesia about 200,000 barrels per day of fuel oils,’ says W2 CEO Michael McLaren. ‘We will install and commission a number six fuel oil replacement plant on the site and distribute the product through Ecobound Fuel Production Systems production license.’ l

Industry leaders form sustainable European biofuels coalition The CEOs of seven European biofuel producers and airlines launched a new industryled initiative to speed up the deployment of advanced sustainable biofuels throughout the continent. The initiative, called Leaders of Sustainable Biofuels, is made up of Chemtex, British Airways, BTG, Chemrec, Clariant, Dong Energy and UPM as they seek to ensure market uptake of advanced sustainable biofuels

British Airways makes up one of the European ‘magnificent seven’

by all transport sectors. In a statement the group said second generation biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 65%. During a meeting in Brussels, all parties established a common strategy based on several actions aimed at accelerating market penetration and technology deployment, particularly to: • Accelerate research and innovation into emerging

biofuel technologies, including algae and new conversion pathways, supported by public and private R&D programmes • Work together with the supply chain to further develop worldwide accepted sustainability certification • Establish financing structures to facilitate the implementation of sustainable biofuel projects • Publicly promote the

benefits of advanced sustainable biofuels. ‘We also plan to address national policy makers, the European Commission and the European Parliament with a single voice, and invite the rest of the sustainable biofuels industry to follow us on the same path,’ the statement continued. ‘We believe second generation biofuels are also key for the reduction of fossil energy imports in the EU.’ l

10 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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CLH biofuel supply up 27% on 2011 Spanish oil storage and transportation company CLH Group supplied over 2.4 million m3 of biofuels throughout 2012, a 27% increase on what it delivered in 2011. In a statement the company said 2.1 million m3 of this was biodiesel and the remaining 300,000 m3 was bioethanol. Of the 2.1 million m3 of biodiesel, 700,000m3 was accounted for by second generation hydrobiodiesel

which, according to CLH, has seen a rise in popularity throughout the last 12 months. In recent years the group has invested over €25 million in adapting its facilities to receive, store and distribute biofuels. It currently owns 13 plants which can handle diesel blended with biodiesel and a further nine for the blending of petrol with ethanol. The company says these biofuel facilities are based in areas where the consumption of renewable liquid transport fuels is highest.

CLH has spent €25 million for biofuels storage

CLH owns 38 storage terminals with a total 7.8 million m3 capacity, and a

pipeline network of more than 4,000km long. It also has 28 airport facilities. l

Spain to lift self-imposed embargo on biofuel imports A resolution following a lift of the embargo by Spain on any imported non-EU biofuels which caused dispute with Argentina has been announced. The Spanish government, since the spring of last year, decreed that only fuel produced within the EU could meet its quota for biofuels used in transport. Europe is Argentina’s second biggest trading

partner after Brazil, so that prompted the South American country to complain about ‘discrimination’ and added the law was in violation of World Trade Organisation rules. However this complaint has now been dropped. ‘We decided not to proceed with the case,’ Enrique Ferrer, an Argentinean diplomat, was quoted as saying. ‘Spain’s government issued a new decree, so for the time being we are able to export

biodiesel there. We are still following it very closely to see if our exports don’t have any problems in the market and then we won’t proceed with the case.’ The initial chain of events that led to the embargo is believed to have stemmed from the Argentinean government’s perceived unfair 51% purchase of Spanish-owned Repsol oil and gas refinery last year, a story covered in Biofuels International at the time. l

Algae biofuels project receives DoE cash backing The US Department of Energy (DoE) has awarded a grant for a multidisciplinary Cal Poly research team to develop algae biofuels processes. The $1.3 million (€961,400) will help the team, dubbed the Algae Technology Group, look at developing processes that turn waste resources and nutrients recycled from algae-derived biomass into sustainable biofuels. The DoE hopes a successful project will allow locals to save millions of dollars in water

recycling costs every year. ‘Renewable energy and water recycling are necessary for a sustainable society,’ Tryg Lundquist, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was quoted as saying. ‘However, current technologies are too expensive for many communities to develop themselves. We would like our research to help commercialise the use of algae in the wastewater recycling process and production of biofuel.’ The project will take place in raceway ponds at the City of San Luis Obispo water reclamation facility. l

Over $1 million will be spent in grants on US alage research

12 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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Algae-based biofuels research to receive support funding in US

Camelina research receives funding for biofuels and bioenergy

The US Energy Efficiency and Renewbale Energy (EERE) department is to support R&D into algae-based biofuels by setting aside a funding pot.

The team, led by Kansas State University professor of grain science and industry Xiuzhi Sun, has received just over $5 million (€3.7 million) and also comprises of researchers from Montana State University, University of Wyoming, StrathKirn, SBT, Montana Gluten Free and Henkel. ‘Although camelina is currently grown in Montana and Wyoming, it will expand to the Northern Great Plains area and

The system, which will hold up to $10 million (€7.5 million), will support research projects aimed at boosting the productivity of algae cultivation systems and developing and demonstrating energyefficient, low-cost algae harvest and processing technologies such as centrifugation and extraction. In a statement EERE says it ‘encourages applicants from industry, universities and national laboratories but a cost share of at least 20% of the total project cost is required’. The main objective of the funding opportunity is to demonstrate, at a process development unit scale of one acre cultivation equivalent, algal biofuel intermediate yield of 2,500 gallons of biofuel feedstock (or equivalent dry weight basis) per acre per year by 2018. The Biomass Technologies Office believes this target is an important milestone in reducing the cost of algal biofuels to cost-competitive levels on the way to achieving 5,000 gallons per acre by 2022. l

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded a multi-million grant to a team of researchers looking at the potential of camelina as a biofuel feedstock.

it’s possible that agricultural producers in Kansas might be interested in incorporating the crop into their cropping systems in the future,’ Sun says. Once harvested and processed, Sun hopes to develop new technologies to chemically convert camelina oil and meal to a variety of adhesives, coatings and composites. ‘The overall goal is to make oilseed camelina a cost-effective bioenergy and bio-based product feedstock,’ she adds. ‘This project will generate information that will build a foundation to make non-food oilseeds a better resource for biofuels, chemicals and bioproducts, with minimal negative impact on food crop systems or the environment.’ l

Camelina research receives a funding windfall from the USDA

Biodiesel collaboration set to boost US east coast levels Two US east coast-based biodiesel development companies have signed an agreement to provide the national capital region (NCR) with clean burning biodiesel. Tri-State Biodiesel subsidiary Beltway Biodiesel and DC Biofuels (DCB) will launch a combined waste vegetable

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oil collection from restaurants and large food service institutes. The NCR is primarily made up of Washington, Arlington and Alexandria cities. DCB’s facility will produce 7.5 million gallons a year of ASTM D 6751-grade which will also be able to blend biodiesel with ultra-low sulphur diesel fuel blend levels between B2 to B20 and also supply home heating oil to area residents in winter months. The plant is scheduled

to be operational later this year. ‘Working with a well-established subsidiary like Beltway means we’ve developed a business model for the NCR, but it is one that can be used for other cities too,’ says DCB president Wendell Jenkins. ‘With the support of private sector interests, NCR governments and evolving national policy favouring sustainable urban-based energy sources, we enter the market at a right time.’ l

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Biodiesel changes made at Sofiprotéol The financial and industrial arm of the French protein and plant oil industry Sofiprotéol is adjusting the scope of its European activities in biodiesel. Its biodiesel activities are handled by DII, a company split 60% by Sofiprotéol subsidiary Diester Industrie and 40% by Bunge Group subsidiary KBBV. Belgian company Oleon Biodiesel, which was owned by DII, will now be owned directly by Diester Industrie. Bunge is also purchasing two Dll units based at Bunge’s

seed crushing sites, one in Bruck, Austria and the other in Mannheim, Germany. The DII joint venture will however continue to own its Italian subsidiary Novaol, plus 50% of the German company NEW. DII’s biodiesel production capacity will therefore be reduced from 1 million tonnes to 700,000 after these adjustments have been made. A Sofiprotéol statement says the changes are ‘designed to improve coherence between the seed crushing, refining and esterification plants of the Plant Products Division and are in line with its sectoral strategy and the goals of the CAP 2018 strategic plan’. l

Jatropha research expands in Brazil for biofuels and biomass Energy crop company SG Biofuels (SGB) is to work with two Brazilian companies to advance the development of jatropha as a next generation crop. Agreements have been signed by SGB with agricultural research institution Embrapa and biodiesel refiner Fiagril. ‘These agreements validate the two years of progress we’ve made advancing our genetics in Brazil and provide a platform from which to expand commercial production,’ says SGB CEO Kirk Haney. ‘We look forward to benefiting from Embrapa’s expertise in Brazilian agriculture as we deploy jatropha projects for Fiagril and other customers.’ SGB’s strategic research partnership with Embrapa

will combine its breeding and genomics platform, with Embrapa’s advancement in new technologies that have increased agricultural productivity in Brazil. The agreement with Fiagril, the third largest company in the state of Mato Grosso with revenues in excess of $1 billion (€744 million) a year, includes the establishment of an SGB jatropha research centre near Fiagril’s 200,000 tonne capacity biodiesel plant. ‘We have identified jatropha as one of the most promising energy crops for the production of oil for biodiesel and biojet fuel in Brazil,’ adds Manoel Souza, general director of Embrapa Agroenergy. ‘The first efforts to deploy the crop in Brazil were plagued by a lack of improved cultivars and insufficient technological expertise. l

news in brief Call for coconut biodiesel to be embraced in Asia The Asian Institute of Petroleum Studies (AIPS) has made a plea for oil-fired power plants to look at using coconut methyl ester (CME) in a move to become more environmentally friendly. A move to coco-biodiesel would also be cost efficient for businesses, the AIPS claims. ‘When blended with industrial diesel oil or industrial fuel oil, also known as bunker, CME makes oil-fired power plants cost-efficient and environment-friendly because harmful emissions are substantially eliminated,’ AIPS executive director Rafael Diaz was quoted as saying at a recent International Electric Research Exchange. Diaz presented a statistic that South Korean facilities which added a 5% CME blend in diesel experienced improved lubricity by 63%, while citing research by the US Department of Energy that 1 litre of biodiesel reduces 3.5kg of CO2 emission on lifecycle basis.

Muradel biofuels pilot plant finds location in Australia A two-year pilot biofuels project in Whyalla, Australia has been given a location to set up shop by the local council. The facility has been given two hectares at an industrial site to produce biofuels from algae feedstock thanks to ‘unanimous approval’ from the Whyalla City Council in January. ‘The project, in our view, ticks all the boxes — employment opportunities, environmental aspects and it will put Whyalla on the map,’ mayor Jim Pollock was quoted as saying. The facility was proposed by renewable energy company Muradel, which already has another pilot plant in western Australia.

Lone Star terminal reopens for biodiesel use A biodiesel plant in North Houston, US reopened in February thanks to a new partnership. Biodiesel provider Gulf Hydrocarbon and Akash Energy will offer biodiesel and renewable diesel from the Lone Star Terminal located near Bush Intercontinental Airport. The terminal has a capacity of 6.7 million gallons, of which Gulf Hydrocarbon has leased 420,000 gallons of storage for biodiesel. It allows bobtail and transport trucks to add biodiesel fuel to their diesel fuel mix. ‘This allows us to reach a broader spectrum of the Houston fuel distributor market,’ Justin Heller, president of Akash Energy, was quoted as saying. ‘The truck rack services a variety of customers, from large commercial distributors to small fleets and retailers.’

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Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions hands over pilot plant to KIT

At the end of February the complex high-pressure entrained flow gasifier bioliq II was handed over for operation. The four-step process designed at the KIT allows producing valuable and enginecompatible design fuels for diesel and Otto engines. The entrained flow gasifier in step II converts the liquid inter-mediate product bioliqSyncrude obtained in the first process step into a tar-free synthesis gas. In pilot mode, it may optionally be operated at two pressure stages (40 bar and 80 bar) which provides maximal flexibility, depending on the requirements of the downstream process steps. The entrained flow gasifier was provided with a special plant design. It offers the advantage that a variety of biomass containing even high ash concentrations can be processed. The materials used are able to withstand the corrosive effects of biomass components and allow for operation at high pressures. This ensures operation of the entrained

Source: Markus Breig

The Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT), in cooperation with its technology partner Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions, has achieved the second process stage of its bioliq pilot plant.

The bioliq plant at the KIT: in a multi-stage process, high-grade synthetic fuels are produced from straw and other biogenic residues

flow gasifier at condi-tions that are close to commercial-scale operation – consequently, the pilot plant functions as an important research plat-form at the KIT. ‘As the bioliq process relies on straw and other biogenic resi-dues which do not compete with food or feed production, we are in a position to make a material contribution to the devel-opment of alternative energy solutions’, says François Venet, VP of Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions. The multistage process takes account of the fact that, on the one hand, biomass residues occur highly fragmented regional-ly and, on the other, it is

imperative to establish an economically viable, commercial production scale. The construction of the pilot plant at KIT Campus Nord is subsidized by the Federal Government and the Land Baden-Wuerttenberg. Besides numerous institutes and service units of the KIT, several industrial partners partake in bioliq. The construction of bioliq process stage II has an investment volume of around €28 million. Fifty percent of this amount is contributed by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). These funds are made available via the Fachagentur für Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. (FNR). l

The bioliq process The complete bioliq process (biomass to liquid karlsruhe) comprises four stages. In stage I, the dry residual biomass which occurs widespread regionally and possesses low energy content is converted decentralised into a substance similar to crude oil of high energy density by fast pyrolysis. The so-called bioliqSyncrude can be transported cost-effectively over long distances and is processed further centrally. In the second process stage, a high-pressure entrained flow gasifier converts the bioliqSyncrude to a tar-free syngas at temperatures above 1,200 degrees

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high pressure and the reactive products make exacting demands on the pro-cess, the instrumentation and the safety technology of the plant. The downstream hot-gas cleaning unit – stage III – has the function to separate impurities like particulate matter, chlo-rine and nitrogen compounds from the syngas. KIT is a corporation under public law of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg. It In the fourth and bundles the mission of a university with the mission of a national research centre in last process step, the Helmholtz Association the gas molecules centigrade and pressures of of carbon monoxide and are selectively com-posed up to 80 bar. The synthesis hydrogen. In this stage to obtain customised gas is mainly composed II, the high temperatures, motor fuels.

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California named top biofuel state California, which has long been considered a hub of innovation in the biofuels industry, has this week been named as the US’ ‘top biofuel state’. Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national green business policy organisation, credits the state’s Bay Area in its recent analysis into the nation’s biofuel industry. According to its research, California is the home state of almost 30 large advanced biofuel companies. These organisations are leading the global alternative energy industry – as well as setting an example for the rest of the country.

has a global reputation for being at the centre of alternative energy production and development. Particular areas of expertise for these firms includes renewable diesel, aviation fuels and ethanol research and production. Other states are, too, developing central hubs, housing within them a high concentration of biofuel firms; Illinois, for example, counts Chicago as its biofuel centre. Environmental Entrepreneurs’ report estimates that the alternative energy market will be worth more than $60 billion (€45 billion) within the next 10 years. The company expects that a further 26 major biofuels companies will launch within the next two years, creating around 18,000 jobs for experts within the industry.

The analysis concludes that dozens of states across the country were starting to take note of both the enviornmental and the financial benefits of this rapidly growing industry. The group announced that there are now in excess of 80 advanced biofuel organisations, refineries and other indstury companies in the US, which are spread out over 27 states in various corners of the country.

The largest biofuel plant currently sits in Colorado. The Gevo Development facility is capable of producing more than 350 million gallons of butanol every year. It hopes to extend this further within the next few years. The report stated that biofuel production in the US and Canada increased by around 30% between 2011 and 2012 – from the production of 427 million gallons to 685 million gallons. The prediction is that by 2015, this will have increased five fold to around 2.6 billion gallons.

Setting an example for other states in the country California won the poll by a significant margin. Second place Illinois houses eight biofuel companies, while Colorado, Texas and Iowa have six, five and four respectively. The Bay Area in California is a hotspot for energy companies and rife with innovation from energy providers. A large proportion of California’s biofuel companies are based in this area, which

Biofuel production will increase dramatically

Increased pressure on existing feedstocks Another recent report into the growth of the biofuels industry stated that demand for business will be trebled by 2030. The study, ‘Finding Feedstocks for the Bio-Based Fuels and Chemicals of Today and 2030,’ by Lux Research, said that

this would create considerable pressure on available resources. Today, the industry requires around 1 billion tonnes of biomass every year to replace around 3% of the world’s petroleum products. This requirement will increase almost four fold by 2030, the report warned. This increased demand will place massive pressures on available biomass, which often require huge amounts of products such as sugars and waste feedstocks. Lux’s research analyst, Kalib Kersch, advised that there are many innovations in the industry that will help cope with this demand. Innovations from organisations in the feedstock department include crop modification, new value chain configurations and agronomical technology improvements (for example, irrigations and biosensors); these are being tipped as the way forward in meeting an exponentially growing demand. The Lux report also found there to be other potential feedstocks, such as municipal solid waste, carbon dioxide and flue gas. More work to meet demand It is clear from these recent reports in the industry that a lot of work needs to be done in order to meet the expected demand in the industry. Many universities are undertaking research programmes that will determine ways to modify crops in order to decrease agriculture’s material inputs. Many of these universities are aptly located in California. It is hoped that by taking note of California’s advancement in the field of biofuels, The US will be able to keep up with this sky-rocketing expected increase in demand; as universities fight over themselves to develop new feedstocks, it looks like the country is well on its way. l

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B&Q continues sustainable energy goal with new biomethane transport UK home improvement brand B&Q signed a contract in February to begin using lorries that run on green fuel. European bio-LNG provider Gasrec is to supply B&Q with 50 dual fuel lorries powered by 60% biomethane. ‘We’re pleased to make this announcement and other initiatives we are looking at include 500 new double decker lorries and the replacement of 78 smaller energy efficient

delivery vans,’ says B&Q’s retail logistics service manager Michelle Thomas. ‘We’re also strengthening our focus on transporting more of our products by rail to save on road miles.’ B&Q is aiming to reduce its CO2 emissions from business travel and haulage to 50% by 2023 and is currently tracking at 36%. Last year the company scooped two awards for its progress on becoming more sustainable, including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. l

Vopak plans 140,000m3 expansion at Vlaardingen terminal Vopak, an independent bulk liquid storage provider, is expanding its Vlaardingen storage terminal in the Netherlands with the construction of 52 new tanks, according to the Port of Rotterdam. The company knocked down 85 storage tanks at the site in 2012, which totalled 50,000m3. The replacement infrastructure will be able to handle 140,000m3 of product, which could be vegetable/animal fats or biodiesel, among other things. The new storage tanks will enter operation later this year. l

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New technology Biofuels enzyme collaboration provides accessible receives funding US Department of Energy low-cost fermentable sugars. inline characterisation The ‘There are two major challenges (DoE) has awarded enzyme Mettler Toledo has launched a new inline particle system characterisation tool that is suitable for the biotechnology industry. The electric ParticleTrack E25 measures aqueous particle and droplet systems. The probebased technology eliminates measurement variability in the sample for a more cost-effective system characterisation. Mettler Toledo says the ParticleTrack E25 is suitable for measuring modern manufacturing processes. Based on the traditional focused beam reflectance technology (FBRM) but with no air/ gas supply, the FBRM probe is robust and allows for real-time product quality optimisation. l

company Novozymes and biotechnology provider MBI $2.5 million (€1.8 million) to develop new enzymebased technologies to convert corn stover into sugars for subsequent conversion into biofuels. The collaboration aims to tailor enzymes for MBI’s AFEXtreated biomass, which will in turn enable the production of

in converting agricultural biomass into bio-based products,’ says Allen Julian, MBI chief business officer. ‘One is the challenge of handling, storing and hauling low-density biomass to the refinery, the other being the challenge of breaking down the biomass cost-effectively into its constituent sugars.’ MBI previously won a $4.3 million DoE award to develop and scale up its AFEX technology and is currently completing the installation of a one tonne per day pilot-scale reactor at its Michigan facility. l

Ciengis’ control system offers advantages in biodiesel industry

Increased corn oil productivity pursued by Abengoa

Ciengis, an optimisation and advanced process control solutions provider, has reported positive results from the installation of its process at a biodiesel plant in Portugal.

Bioethanol producer Abengoa Bioenergy has decided to add an oil separation system to two of its plants in the US.

The project saw the installation of the company’s non-linear model predictive control system for the

optimisation of industrial processes – Plantegrity – and the installation of its monitoring and plant historian system PlantstreamerPortal. Ciengis says this was one of the first installations of non-linear model predictive control applied to the production of biodiesel. The main result was a significant reduction in the utility consumption which saw a full investment return in less than a year. l

The systems, to be supplied by ICM, will be deployed in Illinois and Indiana with the aim of maximising the recovery of nonfood grade bio-oil from emulsion concentrate.

‘We will collaborate with Abengoa to deliver corn oil extraction technology and support corn oil’s expansion into higher-value co-products. The investment in our technology affirms our shared vision of pursuing sustainable development efforts for the global renewable energy industry,’ says ICM director of sales Brock Beach. Installation of the two corn oil extraction systems is expected later this year. l

BDR issued US patent for biodiesel technology Ottowa-based clean energy technology company Biodiesel Reactor Technologies (BDR) has received a patent for its biodiesel reactor technology. The US patent, entitled ‘Apparatus and Method for Biofuels Production’, covers the commercial application of BDR’s ceramic membrane reactor

technology for the production of biodiesel and Fatty Acid Acyl Esters. Invented by Andre Tremblay and Marc Dube of the University of Ottawa, the technology is compatible with existing conventional plant technologies and can be used for either new plants or to retrofit existing ones. It is suitable for virgin oils such as soya, canola and rapeseed and high free fatty acid containing feedstock, used cooking oils, yellow grease, waste

corn oil and jatropha, as well as next generation feedstocks including algae oils. ‘The US patent extends intellectual property protection for BDR’s membrane reactor technology into the world’s second largest biodiesel market,’ says Ken Lawless, CEO of BDR Technologies. Patents relating to this technology have been issued in Singapore, Malaysia and China and are pending in South America, the EU, Canada and other parts of Asia. l

18 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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Biochemical research end goal for new partnership International polymer producer Invista Technologies and biotechnology Arzeda will collaborate on the development of new technologies for bio-derived processes.

range of products. The initial focus of the collaboration will be on the production of bio-derived butadiene. ‘As we seek solutions to increase the global supply of butadiene, we believe developing a cost-competitive bio-derived route will help assure ample supply and reduce price volatility,’ says Bill Greenfield, executive VP of Invista’s nylon intermediates business. ‘We believe this collaboration can accelerate product development within the broader, bio-derived chemical space.’ l

The agreement will combine the two companies’ technologies in order to further co-develop platforms to ultimately develop new bio-derived processes for a

New gene research could boost biofuels crop future Evogene, a developer of improved plant traits for industries including biofuels, has launched a model plant validation system for evaluation of candidate genes for monocot crops. Monocot plants have one single embryonic seed leaf and include three of the most economically important food crops in corn, rice and wheat. Evogene claims this system, which uses Brachypodium as the monocot model plant, enables the evaluation of candidate genes performance for improving traits of interest such as yield and drought tolerance. ‘The successful implementation of our monocot validation system is an important additional achievement as we aim to provide the ag-biotech industry with a complete solution for plant trait improvement for food, feed and fuel through combining state-of-the-art biotechnology and advanced breeding methods,’ says Hagai Karchi, Evogene’s executive VP of R&D. l

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StocExpo 2013 set to break records StocExpo, to be held on 19–21 March at Antwerp Expo, is set to be the biggest event yet for Europe’s terminal operators, oil companies, traders and regulators. Many of the 150+ exhibitors will be using the show to debut new technologies or make major announcements. For example, Trisoplast Mineral Liners

will be launching its Trisoplast into the tank storage industry. This patented durable mineral barrier consists of 99% natural materials, suitable for tank pit and bund wall lining. The show will also be the first European expo to exhibit HMT’s new VaporVault Composite Floating Cover to the oilwater separator floating cover market, and Applus RTD will be demonstrating two of its inspection techniques: the Slofec floorscan and the Beetle. Mesa will showcase its latest

development in the emission reduction seal design for aboveground storage tanks: the Vapour GuardVT gauge pole cover, which helps control the amount of escaping hydrocarbon vapours from storage tank gauge poles/guide poles. Running alongside this jam-packed expo will be a three-day conference designed to help delegates stay ahead of industry trends, spot market opportunities and improve their business performance. To find out more about attending StocExpo, visit l

Canola plant uses double pressing technology The world’s biggest full pressing Canola plant is now being commissioned in Warden, Washington, US.

The processing plant has a nominal capacity of 1,100 t/day and will be operated by Pacific Coast Canola. The plant is designed to produce food grade canola oil which can also be used for other technical and fuel applications. The project’s design builder is Industrial Construction Group, US. Seed preparation and oil refining technology is being provided by Crown Iron Works, US, and the double pressing technology is being provided by HF Press+LipidTech PLT, a division of the Germany-based Harburg Freudenberger Group. HF Press+LipidTech PLT produces pressing technology and screw presses for animal waste products, as well as degumming/neutralisation, bleaching and deodorisation. The company’s winterisation technology incorporates the Combiprocess combining degumming with dewaxing by centrifuges. HF Press+LipidTech PLT has sold nearly 2,500 of its Krupp-presses to date. The key features of its machines are reliability and low-maintenance and the company produces all the critical and sensitive wear parts in its own manufacturing facilities to guarantee the best possible quality. And deliveries of components from its suppliers are subject to particularly stringent quality control inspections. l

Harald Boeck (right); Director HF Press+LipidTech and Matt Upmeyer (left) MD of PCC in front of HF`s screw presses at the canola pressing plant in Warden, US

Please find more information: HF Press+LipidTech, Seevestrasse 1, 21079 Hamburg, Germany, Tel: +49 40 77179 0,,

22 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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APRIL 8-10, 2013 Minneapolis, MN

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biofuels incident update A summary of the recent major explosions, fires and leaks in the biofuels industry Date



Incident information


Paw Creek, North Carolina, US

Eco Energy

A fire that broke out in a fuel tank farm in North Carolina is thought to have started following a lightning strike. The blaze set fire to Eco Energy’s 40,000 gallon ethanol storage tank. The incident occurred at around 4pm and required over 70 fire fighters to bring it under control using water and foam. Nobody was injured. The National Weather Service is yet to confirm there was a lightning strike in the area at the time of the blaze. Another possible cause is a static discharge.


Alexandria, Virginia, US

Norfolk Southern

One hundred gallons of ethanol spilled at Norfolk Southern’s transloading facility. The incident happened just after 5pm and remained within the facility’s containment system, posing no danger to any nearby properties or the community. Clean-up of the fuel began immediately and Norfolk Southern is investigating what caused the spill.

Blue Sun St. Joseph Refinery

A fire broke out in a biodiesel fuel tank at Blue Sun St. Joseph Refinery after fuel levels fluctuated and caused a spark. No-one was injured but the fire has left the tank badly damaged and temporarily out of service. Fire fighters, police and other emergency services responded to the incident

08/02/13 St Joseph, Missouri, US


Cecil, Ohio, US


Volney, New York, US

One person died and a stretch of road was closed for two days following a multi-vehicle pile-up that resulted in an ethanol spill. The crash occurred at around 8am when the ethanol tanker truck collided with another car. Efforts to avoid this accident resulted in seven more collisions involving 14 vehicles. Nine people were taken to hospital. The tanker ruptured during the collision and 1,500 gallons of ethanol spilled out onto the road before it was contained by fire crews and Ohio EPA officials.


A fire broke at Sunoco’s ethanol plant in Volney, New York just before 10am. It took fire fighters from Volney, Phoenix, Cody and Fulton fire departments around one hour to extinguish the flames but they remained on the scene to ensure there were no ‘hot spots’ that could lead to another blaze. The plant, opened in 2010, produces 100 million gallons a year of ethanol.

24 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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People on the move Cindy Thyfault appointed to RE&EEAC Cindy Thyfault, founder and CEO of Westar Trade Resources, has been appointed to the Secretary of the Department of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (RE&EEAC). The RE&EEAC will advise and provide recommendations to the US Department of Commerce Secretary on matters concerning: • Competitiveness issues facing US renewable energy and energy efficiency exports • Development and administration of

programmes and policies to expand US renewable energy • Trade policy negotiations relating to US energy efficiency exports • Policies of foreign governments impacting the export of US energy services and technologies. Thyfault has over 27 years experience in the business development, management and funding of bioenergy projects, food and fibre manufacturing, oilseed manufacturing, green building products and residential and industrial

Chu resigns from Energy Secretary post US Energy Secretary Steven Chu has stepped down from his post after he submitted his letter of resignation to President Barack Obama on 1 February. Chu agreed to stay until the end of February and may remain until a successor is found. The White House said it had made no steps to replace Energy Secretary Chu at this stage, but potential heirs Steven Chu include former North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan, former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm and former Washington governor Christine Gregoire. In a statement, Obama said that Chu brought a ‘unique understanding of both the urgent challenge presented by climate change and the tremendous opportunity that clean energy represents for our economy’. Chu, 64, previously worked as a director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in California and had little political experience before taking the energy post in 2009.

biofuels international

s new Novozymes announce president and CEO ctors has Novozymes’ board of dire lsen as the Nie lk Ho er appointed Ped and CEO, ent sid pre new company’s effective from 1 April. as the Nielsen is currently serving yme Enz executive VP and head of ition pos a es, Peder Holk Nielsen, Business at Novozym to r president and CEO, Prio 7. 200 he has held since Novozymes positions this he held management ri/ ust Ind vo No and at Novozymes ss Novo Nordisk across busine nagement and sales ma lity qua D, R& , ent developm and marketing. en Riisgaard, who He is taking over from Ste company’s CEO the as is retiring after 12 years es. ym voz No following 33 years at and Ph.D in chemical c. M.S a ds hol The CEO-elect cal University of Denmark engineering from the Techni al business management and a B.Com in internation School. Nielsen is from Copenhagen Business of directors of also a member of the board . Hempel and of LEO Pharma

construction, both domestically and internationally. She currently serves on the Business Development Committee for the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI), in which she is the international finance lead. In this position, Thyfault advises board members and other worldwide aviation fuel development associations on best practices and strategy regarding aviation fuels technology development, commercialisation and financing. She is also one of 35 members on the Sustainable Alternative Fuels for Aviation (SUSTAF) for the International Civil Aviation Association.

BP Biofuels executive joins Primus Green Energy as chief infrastructure officer Primus Green Energy (PGE), New Jersey, US-based alternative fuel company, has welcomed John Doyle as its chief infrastructure officer. Doyle joins PGE from BP Biofuels, where he was the head of applied engineering, responsible for developing and maintaining the core commercial process design of the company’s large-scale commercial build programme. In his new role, Doyle will lead project management and operations of PGE’s commercial plants. PGE has developed a renewable drop-in fuel technology that produces jet fuel or high-octane petrol and hopes the addition of Doyle will accelerate the commercialisation of its technology, STG+gas-to-liquids (GTL). The process converts biomass-derived syngas to transportation fuels such as jet fuel, petrol and diesel. l

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biofuels regulations A new report calls for Europe to completely move away from first generation biofuels as the continent chases 2020 targets

Moving on from ‘harmful’ biofuels


new report published near the end of January has put European green transportation fuels back under the microscope again. The main point of the Sustainable Alternatives for Land-based Biofuels in the European Union paper, delivered by Dutch research institute CE Delft and commissioned, among others, by Greenpeace, is that Europe can use renewable energy for transportation needs without ‘resorting to harmful biofuels’. It explores scenarios that prioritise energy efficiency, sustainable biofuels and renewable electricity made from waste and residues only. The report claims its alternative tact could cut CO2 by 205 million tonnes compared to the 60 million tonnes posted by the EU under its revised policy. Current EU obligations want a 10% renewable target for the transport sector by 2020 which was primarily chased by countries using agricultural crops as feedstock, but the report claims most biofuels on the European market ‘offer no or limited carbon emission savings compared to conventional fuels when indirect land use change (ILUC) is taken into account’. The amount of food cropbased biofuels allowed towards that target was slashed in half towards the

end of 2012, much to the concern of some member states who believe that limitation will affect their chances of fully complying. But the CE Delft report argues the targets can be met through greater investment in fuel efficiency measures, electric vehicles and use of the aforementioned waste and

can still use harmful biofuels like palm oil from Indonesia and claim credit for cutting emissions. The growing use of transport fuels from crops has driven up food prices and led to more global deforestation, making climate change worse as a result.’ The other environmental groups involved in the commission of this research,

‘Abandoning biofuels based on food crops at this stage would be detrimental to the development of biofuels made from wastes and residues’ residue-based biofuels, alongside tighter rules to phase out the use of biofuels made from land-based food or energy crops. Greenpeace’s executive director John Sauven says that ‘the most serious flaw’ in EU biofuels policy still remains that producers are not held accountable for the emissions any ILUC produce in their supply chain. ‘The EU Commission’s decision to put a limit on the use of crop-based biofuels is a step in the right direction,’ he adds, ‘but fuel suppliers

including the European Environmental Bureau and Transport and Environment, have also urged the European Parliament and EU governments to focus on the solutions offered in the report’s alternative scenario to put EU green transport fuels policy back on track. They believe compliance would lead to that large reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 and, crucially, member states could meet their obligations with no or substantially lower shares of biofuels made

from crops grown on land. ‘This scenario won’t be achieved overnight but would start with changes to the Commission’s current proposal,’ Transport and Environment fuels programme manager Nusa Urbancic says. ‘The proper accounting of the full carbon footprint of biofuels, including emissions from ILUC, is the first step towards more sustainable alternative fuels. We therefore call on the European Parliament and Council to include ILUC factors in the EU biofuel policy.’ One person who thinks abandoning first generation biofuels would be ‘detrimental’ however is Adrian Higson, head of biorefining at UK-based bioeconomy consultants NNFCC. ‘Abandoning biofuels based on food crops at this stage would be detrimental to the development of biofuels made from wastes and residues,’ he says. ‘When the right economics and policies are in place we would encourage a steady transition towards advanced biofuels and, in the longer term, electrification. In the mean time we need low carbon fuels that can be used in existing vehicles.’ The European Commission proposal will be discussed by EU ministers at the energy and environment Councils up until the end of March and by the European Parliament in the coming months. l

26 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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The newly proposed biofuels levels in the US has sparked fierce defence by the industry in the face of stiff opposition

Keeping a level head


he US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed its 2013 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard programme (RFS). The proposed 2013 overall volumes and standards are: 1) Biomass-based diesel (1.28 billion gallons; 1.12%) 2) Advanced biofuels (2.75 billion gallons; 1.60%) 3) Cellulosic biofuels (14 million gallons; 0.008%) 4) Total renewable fuels (16.55 billion gallons; 9.63%) The proposal will be open for a 45-day public comment period and EPA will consider feedback from a range of stakeholders before the proposal is finalised. Cellulosic quandary The level set for second generation biofuels has seen some derogatory remarks from those in other industries, however. The 14 million gallon figure is an 8.7 million increase on the figure set in 2012, but some have pointed out that particular branches of renewable fuels actually contributed closer to zero over last year. It has been reported that a representative of the US oil industry believes the level increase is a kiss-off by the Obama administration toward the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which threw out the 2012 mandate a week before

biofuels international

the EPA announcement via claims it was based on ‘wishful thinking rather than accurate estimates’. Bob Greco, a director at the American Petroleum Institute, was quoted as saying at the time: ‘The court recognised the absurdity of fining companies for failing to use a nonexistent biofuel’. But, as biofuels represent a threat to the oil industry in general, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol

advanced and cellulosic biofuels as producers begin to ramp up production. ‘This is a pivotal year for cellulosic and advanced biofuels. Following years of research and development, plus millions of dollars in investment, companies are right now commissioning commercial cellulosic biofuel refineries and constructing additional facilities – creating thousands of new jobs in the process. The visible

‘The bottom line is the RFS is an unrivalled American success story’ Council (AEC) Brooke Coleman applauded the new figure. ‘The advanced ethanol industry appreciates EPA’s due diligence on getting to the right number on cellulosic biofuels as that industry is breaking through at commercial scale with the most innovative and cleanest liquid fuel in the world,’ he says. ‘The EPA has worked hard to ensure that the cellulosic biofuels volume standard for 2013 would be tied directly to the expected commercial production of them this year.’ Binding together The Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO) is relishing the fact the RFS will continue to ensure that the US fuel market will be open to

progress of the industry is proof that the RFS works,’ a BIO statement read. The association is also wary to further undermining tactics by ‘the oil industry and their allies’ but says it will to continue working closely with the EPA. ‘We will do that to finalise these rules in an expeditious manner so that second generation biofuel producers can continue working to meet the energy security and environmental health goals of the nation. By contrast, we fully expect the trade organisations for oil companies, and their allies, to continue to use every regulatory and legalistic ploy at their disposal to delay finalisation of these rules, block the growth of the

renewable fuel industry and attempt to preserve their control of the fuel market.’ Rallying cry The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says that a recent article, conducted by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, concluded that the RFS is ‘producing significant positive economic effects in the US’. Findings in the study has the RFS reducing crude oil prices, decreasing crude oil imports, increasing gross domestic product and having only minimal impacts on global food markets and land use. It also believes these economic benefits will be amplified once the advanced biofuel requirements of the RFS are fully implemented. RFA president Bob Dinneen is also wary of continued smear campaigns by both the oil and food industries as hearings and responses start to filter in. He believes that instead of ‘giving credence to sham studies funded by grocery manufacturers for example’, studies like the above by third parties should guide the debate. ‘We can’t allow profitprotecting fear mongers in the oil and snack food industries to scare Congress into changing a flexible policy that is making important contributions to the American economy and environment every day,’ he adds. ‘The bottom line is the RFS is an unrivalled American success story.’ l

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biofuels cellulosic ethanol

Second generation biofuel from a fifth generation bioreactor


he second generation production process is more complex than the first, largely because the carbon required is not present in a form that is easily available to microorganisms, such as starch or sugar. Cellulose needs to first be cleaved in an enzymatic process. This makes the overall procedure a two phase process that consists of enzymatic hydrolysis to release the sugar followed by the actual fermentation. In order to accelerate the process and save on the expenditures involved in purchasing two different plants, efforts are being made to combine these two processes. This process with simultaneous hydrolysis and fermentation is called Simultaneous Saccharification and Fermentation (SSF). The art of combining these two process steps is to design a bioreactor that meets the stringent requirements regarding the thorough mixing of solids during the hydrolysis step just as ideally as it provides perfect cultivation conditions and bioprocess control during the anaerobic fermentation. In cooperation with researchers, it was found that the mixing of the pretreated lignocellulosic slurry before it is gradually hydrolyzed enzymatically into liquid was the most critical part. To solve this issue, different kinds of impellers have been developed and a special geared motor with an 8:1 conversion (10-200 rpm) is used to fulfil both the different needs of the high viscos slurry and the liquid after hydrolysis. Swiss bioreactor provider Infors-HT has developed

Infors-HT Labfors 5 BioEtOH with solid substrate

Infors-HT Labfors 5 BioEtOH in fermentation stage

the Labfors 5 BioEtOH, which meets all these requirements by combining the well-known technology of a microbial bioreactor and the implementation of new developments for enzymatic hydrolysis. The equipment has been extensively used at the Lund University in Sweden with various pre-treated materials such as wheat straw, bagasse or spruce. This new application required a number of changes to key bioreactor technologies for the successful use of solid and semi-solid substrates. One simple change is a good example of critical adaptations of conventional design. Handling of solid substrates can be difficult in bioreactors intended for liquid medium. A wide head plate port (40mm in diameter) was added to allow

easy addition of solids to the vessel. Locations of other ports for sensors were adjusted to accommodate the various impellor designs. The selection of stirrer types (helical and anchor) optimally meets the different mixing requirements of each substrate. In combination with the powerful high-torque motor, Infors-HT achieves fast and perfect mixing, even when substrates with high viscosity or high solids content are applied.

The reduced heat transfer in solid substrates in comparison to liquids represents another challenge. A second point of temperature measurement in the vessel jacket prevents overheating on the inside wall of the vessel and keeps the enzyme activity high. This makes it possible to not only set a temperature for the bioreactor content, but also a maximum temperature that is not to be exceeded in the jacket of the vessel. These temperature set points can both be set on the controller interface. In the following anaerobic fermentation step, the bioreactor provides perfect cultivation conditions and comprehensive bioprocess control. The same impellors can be used as good mixing does not require high stirrer speeds. Oxygen transfer is not an issue and that obviates the need for the high shear forces generated from conventional Rushton impellors. Standard sensors, feed and reagent inlets plus efficient treatment of the exit gas ensures this subsequent fermentation step is as efficient as possible. l For more information: This article was written by Tony Allman, product manager for fermentation at Infors-HT, +41 (0)61 425 77 00, t.allman@;

Stirrer set Labfors 5 BioEtOH

28 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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Now Europe is being forced into taking cellulosic ethanol seriously, James Barrett looks at what producers can learn from ‘across the pond’

Reap what you sow


t the start of February seven giants came together to form the Leaders of Sustainable Biofuels, with a view to creating one voice to address national policy makers and the European Commission on second generation biofuels. One of the seven that signed the agreement is Gudio Ghisolfi, CEO of technology provider Chemtex Italia Gudio Ghisolfi and cellulosic biomass producing offshoot Beta Renewables. ‘From a technical standpoint, Europe is ready to meet targets for cellulosic production,’ Ghisolfi says. ‘Technology now needs to deploy on a serious commercial scale, but where it gets sticky is when we start to look at political and logistical angles.’ Ghisolfi believes that Europe’s biofuels industry has been dramatically hit by all the debate surrounding food-versus-fuel and indirect land use change (ILUC) issues, meaning support from the ground floor up has been shaken. ‘The amount of viable technology across the globe

is so vast that the ability to physically build and operate plants to hit demand should not be a problem,’ he explains. ‘Our cellulosic ethanol plant in Crescentino, Italy should be up and running in March for example.’ The Crescentino plant aims to produce 20 million litres of ethanol via 60,000 tonnes of non-food feedstock including rice straw, wheat straw, corn stover, Arundo Donax and poplar. It will also generate electricity, beyond what is needed to run the plant, at 60 million kWh a year and have a CO2 sequestration saving of 80% on average. So, with the technology there, feedstock levels remain the biggest question mark for Ghisolfi as to whether or not cellulosic ethanol production really takes off. ‘Government and EU support can be garnered through continued talks and campaigns but biomass yield and price will remain a huge factor in getting this industry up to full speed,’ he says. ‘That could be the biggest challenge producers face over the next few years.’ Changing mindsets would be one step Ghisolfi would like

to see, particularly at ground level: ‘Along with logistics and subsidises in place, we need to make farmers understand the validity of growing nonfood crops as a potentially new revenue stream. This would create robust supply chains and help our industry become a common, everyday thing - the general public wouldn’t have to think twice about what we are providing.’ Ghisolfi hopes to see an end to the ILUC debate soon too as he explains that it is a situation that can easily be resolved. ‘Let’s not keep comparing fuels to food, it is pointless,’ he reveals. ‘We must steer our industry away from that and look at alternatives by forecasting biofuel needs properly, delving into barren or neglected lands to grow dedicated crops.’ He adds that, even though the country is not particularly seen as an agricultural one, Italy has 30 million hectares of land available of which one-third is used by the agriculture industry. ‘We’ve lost between 1 and 2% of that figure every year for the past 10 however, through farmer retirement and other

reasons. So instead of taking a wrong tact and debating whether a piece of land should be planted with wheat, rye or biofuels crops, let’s just say if the land has been unused for maybe three years then biofuels crops could take precedence,’ he reasons. Target: sustainability One high-profile project in this domain which didn’t come to fruition was fuel giant BP’s proposed plant in Florida, US. It cancelled plans to build a $350 million (€265 million) commercialscale facility, capable of potentially producing 36 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually, last autumn citing a desire to ‘redeploy the considerable capital required into more attractive projects’. While the immediate aftershocks from that decision caused debate over the future of the US industry in particular, the sector still continues to gather momentum and Abengoa is foraging ahead with the construction of its own 25 million gallon plant in Kansas. BP too claims it will continue to invest in cellulosic projects so

Will cellulosic ethanol provide a new dawn when it comes to thinking about crop plantations?

biofuels international

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biofuels cellulosic ethanol optimism still abounds. Another to echo Ghisolfi’s sentiment about the European celluslosic ethanol industry being on the threshold of greatness is Markus Rarbach, head of biofuels and derivatives at chemical producing company Clariant. ‘First demonstration projects are up and running but what is missing to bring them to market, especially in Europe, is a stable political framework to support investment into these new technologies and create stability,’ he says. Rarbach points to the US, where such measures are already in place and has led to a lot of first commercial plants under construction. One recent news report has the US industry seeing ‘around 70 cellulosic ethanol projects get underway’ to the investment tune of ‘billions of dollars’. ‘When it comes to deployment of advanced biofuel technologies, the US is ahead of Europe. The difference is that with the Energy Independence Act, the US government has set clear long-term goals for the biofuels industry, thus creating confidence in the market and security for investors,’ Rarbach muses. ‘In addition, the US Department of Energy offers low interest loans for the construction of first-of-itskind plants. These reference plants for new technologies are generally more expensive than later ones due to uncertainties in scale-up that need to be considered. Thus, financial support is essential to bring these new technologies to the market.’ Conversely Rarbach points to the many discussions Europe is having at a regulatory level which will influence the future of its biofuels market that is creating an ‘environment of insecurity’ among investors. ‘But Europe does have a very strong research and development platform, plus extensive process technology

The Crescentino plant is almost ready to begin operations in Italy

know-how,’ he adds.’ The next few years will show who will win and who will fail, but the industry is ready to fulfil the goals set by the Commission. So, despite current insecurities, the coming years will start to see some substantial investments into new plants and technologies.’ Rarbach thinks it is impossible to write down an exact number for required initial investment at this point as it will vary from plant to plant, due to technology used and based locations for example. He does provide a rough guide from Clariant’s point of view though: ‘With our Sunliquid brand technology for example, investment costs for a first plant has been estimated in the low hundred million range, whereas later plants may probably cost below €100 million.’ Clariant’s €28 million demonstration plant started operation last summer, confirming the feasibility of its technology by converting grain and corn straw into celluslosic ethanol, so the company is planning for a first commercial reference plant. ‘The size of our commercial plant will be between the ranges of 50,000 to 150,000 tonnes of annual ethanol output,’ explains Rarbach. ‘To produce one tonne of cellulosic ethanol, we need around 4.5 tonnes of

feedstock, with the most important feedstock in Europe for us being wheat straw.’ When taking into account the agricultural landscape, Rarbach believes European plants will more than likely be at the lower end of the production scale but ‘nevertheless these plants will be competitive’. Where are the pioneers? Taking a view from India, the executive chairman of Praj Industries Pramod Chaudhari says the activity happening in Europe is ‘exciting’. He has been among those in the Asian industry that have been speaking to European counterparts about technology advances and cost-effectiveness of the celluslosic industry. He says the EC’s 5% drop on first generation biofuels came as a ‘major surprise’ and believes a comprimise level of 7.5% would have been ‘perfect’ as debates about ILUC and food-vs-fuel continue. ‘Europe has a good quantity of biomass available however, which will help establish the cellulosic industry,’ Chaudhari reveals. ‘All those companies looking to forage ahead and take risks will become pioneers in my eyes, while others will be happy to sit back and observe, potentially missing the boat if they don’t

adapt their business models.’ Chaudhari also believes that the global industry needs to work hard at ‘eliminating potential risks’ to make it an ‘attractive and bountiful’ one. ‘I don’t think the US is much further ahead than Europe in my opinion. The only distinct advantage it has is its huge land area which will come in handy when planting and growing feedstocks other than grain for example,’ he muses. ‘Lets all promote any technology or bioscience breakthroughs we discover as it will encourage investors and governments to support cellulosic production to the benefit of everyone.’ Keeping turning heads So it seems the key word in relation to cellulosic industry growth is ‘support’ and that fact is no different in the much-lauded US. One recent announcement there came from biomaterials and sustainable fuel technology provider Edeniq, which has begun construction of a bagasse-to-sugar demonstration plant in South America with support from Brazil-based partner Usina Vale. The plant should handle up to 20 tonnes of bagasse a day and will be co-located at an ethanol and sugar production site in Sao Paulo. ‘It’s true that as a country we’ve come along way in this regard but, without the overall support the industry has received, I don’t believe much would’ve progressed as much,’ laments co-director for Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels Larry Ward. He points to an aggressive plan for commercial cellulosic biofuel, via the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), that began back in 2007 which called for 16 billion gallons by 2022. That sparked private sector investment into the industry, from the likes of Poet, Dupont and Ineos which is now starting to take the form of physical plants.

30 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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‘The industry is poised to start contributing significant gallons of cellulosic ethanol next year but the RFS has been so instrumental in that fact,’ Ward adds. ‘The oil industry owns and operates the fuelling infrastructure in the US, but the RFS finally allows a renewable competitor into the mix. It’s important to demonstrate that market access to attract investors, plus the RFS has helped build the grain biofuels industry, which is the base on which the cellulosic ethanol industry is being built on.’ He believes that European counterparts should keep developing their infrastructure and aim to stir up a real demand by giving consumers another choice. ‘The more you can open up the available market early, the better,’ he continues. ‘The US biofuels industry is doing a lot to build out the

To give consumers a choice at the pumps, it is vital the whole industry continues to educate the world on its progress

infrastructure to allow for 15% blends while educating the public on the issue. Longerterm we expect availability of high-octane higher blends of ethanol to be a key part of high-efficiency engines that meet more stringent emissions standards.’

Ward believes PoetDSM’s own project in Iowa will be able to produce about 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year, potentially rising to 25 million year once established. ‘The US Department of Energy has research

showing about 1 billion tonnes of biomass available for bioenergy,’ he adds. ‘That biomass is accessible and sustainable, none of it is on protected land or the like. That’s enough to meet the cellulosic RFS volumes many times over.‘ Without that target set by the RFS seven years ago however, Ward and his peers across the US might not be as far ahead as they are today. He concurs and points to a quote by the ex-CEO of Dupont, Chad Holliday, that stated: ‘You need some certainty on the incentives side and on the market side because we are talking about multiyear investments, billions of dollars, and that will take a long time to take off.’ Seems the powers that be in Europe need to take note of such a warning lest its own industry stalls under the weight of its own indecision. l

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biofuels ethanol in South America

Can the ethanol king rule the second generation? by Amy McLellan


ll commodities are vulnerable to price volatility and biofuels, just like their hydrocarbon counterparts, are no exception. Poor harvests, recession, competition for feedstock and political whimsy can hurt sentiment and derail investment. While in many parts of the world biofuels enjoy the shelter of state subsidy, in the ethanol powerhouse of Brazil, home to the world’s largest sugarcane industry, there is no such protection. In recent years producers have battled slim margins, particularly after a run of poor harvests which pushed up feedstock costs and saw the owners of flex fuel vehicles swap to cheaper petrol. The sector was also hit by the global financial crisis of 200809, which saw over-leveraged mills forced into closure or sold to the cash-rich global players that now dominate the Brazilian ethanol industry. Investment in new capacity shrank, particularly as liquidity dried up and the need to renew old sugarcane fields added further cost barriers. Now the country is keen to make up for lost ground in order to keep up with domestic demand for fuel – or risk costly imports of petrol. February 2013 may have marked a milestone in the turnaround as the country’s ethanol price rose above the value of sugar for the first time

in almost two years. This is down to an increase in statecontrolled petrol prices (stateowned Petrobras announced a 6.6% price increase at the end of January), the rise in the Brazilian real against the dollar and expectations that the Government will abolish taxes imposed on ethanol sales. The price movements mean that mills, which can produce either raw sugar or ethanol, will favour the biofuel. The industry has also been boosted by a bumper harvest in the most recent season which could lead to an oversupply of raw sugar, depressing costs and boosting refining margins (industry sources suggest sugarcane represents 60-70% of the costs of producing ethanol). This sugarcane bounty is aided by replanting schemes, backed by government subsidised credit, and it seems the crushing capacity overhang of recent years could be reversed by 2015. More good news has come from an increase in the mandatory blend of ethanol in petrol which, in May, is set to rise from 20% to 25%. Analysts believe this could generate additional ethanol demand of 1.2 billion litres. Big business This is good news for the corporate giants that took a punt on Brazilian ethanol in the lean years, with some of the big mills once again investing

in ethanol production. These include oil supermajor BP, which in 2011 paid $71 million (€53 million) in cash to buy out the former 50% owners of sugarcane processing mill Tropical BioEnergia plus $700 million to acquire Companhia Nacional de Açúcar e Álcool (CNAA). In December 2012 BP also announced plans to invest $350 million to double the processing capacity of its Tropical mill in Goiás State to produce 450 million litres of ethanol a year and export 340Gwh of energy to the national grid. The new mill is expected to be operating at full capacity by the end of 2014 or early 2015. NYSE-quoted Adecoagro, the agri-giant backed by George Soros, is also investing in a new plant. In January it landed a $241 million loan from Brazil’s development bank, the BNDES, to support construction of its Ivinhema greenfield development in Mato Grosso do Sul. The new Ivinhema mill will have an initial crushing capacity of 2 million tonnes, which will be increased in phases to 4 million in 2014 and 6.3 million by 2017. The new plant is just 45km from its Angelica mill, the company’s first greenfield project that is already fully operational with capacity of 4 million tonnes, creating a cluster with 10.3 million tonnes of crushing capacity and over 110,000 hectares of sugarcane plantation, allowing for cost-sharing

and economies of scale. To keep pace, state oil company Petrobras is boosting spend on ethanol to lift output to 5.6 billion litres by 2015, or a 12% market share. About 70% of this spend will be used to produce what it calls ‘new ethanol’, through construction of new plants, distilleries, increased crushing capacity and plantation renewal. Cellulosic ethanol: whose winning? It seems the race is on to deliver the country’s first cellulosic ethanol plant although some analysts believe there is still some way to go before cellulosic ethanol production in Brazil can be considered commercial. ‘There will be some production this year and 2014, but far from what could be considered commercial production,’ says Marcos Françóia of Sertãozinhobased advisory company MBF Agribusiness. ‘Important steps have been taken in order to improve production and get lower cost, but this will only happen in a few years from now with stimulation from the government.’ Leading ethanol producer Odebrecht Agroindustrial, which recently changed its name from ETH Bioenergia to better reflect its status as part of Brazil’s giant Odebrecht engineering group, is also pushing to build one of the

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country’s first cellulosic plants. It has signed up Dong Energy’s Inbicon unit as its technology partner with a view to locating the first commercial-scale ethanol plant at one of ETH’s existing first generation mills. Inbicon is already running trials of bagasse at its demonstration plant in Kalundborg, Denmark. ‘The primary focus is the cost of production,’ says Henrik Maimann, VP of Dong Energy. ‘The biomass is cheap because it’s already onsite but we also need to look at the costs of enzymes and energy, how much energy we will get from the waste material and also how we go about integrating the second generation plant with the existing ethanol plant and what cost savings that will deliver.’ The aim is to reach a construction decision in Q3 2013 and have the first plant online in 2015. ‘By August we want to have production costs firmed up and the first real capex on an integrated concept,’ says Maimann. ‘Our analysis suggests we will come to a production cost level that will give us a reasonably good business case to compete with first generation.’ This is no small ambition as the partners are eyeing the domestic market, which has probably the lowest ethanol prices in the world: ‘We could focus on exports and get higher prices in subsidised markets but, by planning on the Brazilian price, we are building a long-term commercial and sustainable business. Subsidies, after all, can be taken away.’ The timeline means other planned cellulosic plants could be online ahead of them. ‘We could accelerate and be in production in 2014 but we prefer to be conservative at this point,’ adds Maimann. ‘While it’s nice to be first, it’s more important to get it right.’ The other contenders include Sao Paulo-based GraalBio which, in May 2012, announced plans to build a cellulosic plant in Alagoas

biofuels international

using bagasse and straw as feedstock, eventually to be replaced by energy cane. The R$300 million (€114 million) investment envisages a plant with capacity of 82 million litres, a pilot biochemicals plant and selective breeding to develop energy cane, a hybrid with low sugar and high fibre content per hectare. It is working with BetaRenewables of Italy, which is scaling up the world’s first commercialscale cellulosic ethanol plant in Crescentino, Italy. The biorefinery model The GraalBio plans include a pilot biochemicals plant. Indeed, investors in secondgeneration ethanol projects in Brazil are looking at the ‘biorefinery’ model to strengthen the business case by allowing operators to lower production costs and derisk the strategy by monetising valuable coproducts. Indeed some studies suggest costs could be reduced by about 30% by adopting a biorefinery model. ‘Biorefineries are interesting because they allow companies to have more products and consequently more possibilities of profit,’ says Françóia of MBF Agribusiness. ‘For Brazil it is the potential to lead a sustainable economy.’ Braskem, Brazil’s biggest petrochemicals group, has a headstart after investing $500 million in a plant to produce 200,000 tonnes of polyethylene a year from sugarcane ethanol, the largest facility of its kind. It is also building a green propylene plant that will have minimum production capacity of 30,000 tonnes/year, with startup slated for late 2013. Other industrial groups are catching on. Dow Chemical and Mitsui, for example, have formed a JV to build what they claim will be the world’s largest fully integrated biopolymer operation, using sugarcane ethanol to produce bioplastics for packaging.

The agreement, which represents Dow’s largest investment to date in Brazil, will see Mitsui become a 50% partner in Dow’s sugarcane growing operation in Santa Vitória, Minas Gerais, where a new ethanol facility is being built to provide a renewable feedstock source to produce biopolymers. Californian renewable oils company Solarzyme, which uses proprietary micro-algae to convert low cost plant sugars into high value oils and chemicals, and global agribusiness group Bunge, recently announced plans to

market for value-added coproducts in the country’s large feedlot and dairy industries. According to a report from the US Department of Agriculture, production this year is expected to hit a record 400 million litres and as new plants come online capacity is expected to jump to 720 million litres. With the country failing to meet its 5% ethanol blending target, all the ethanol will be used in the domestic market. Further greenfield projects are underway for 2014. ACA Bio Cooperative, for example, has a 40mgy plant under

Maple Energy: Its ethanol plant on Peru’s north coast has been in operation since March 2012

expand their joint venture in Brazil, increasing capacity from the 100,000 tonnes per year currently under construction to 300,000 tonnes per year by 2016. Argentina With its highly efficient and competitive agricultural sector, Argentina could be primed to be a major player in the biofuels industry. It is fair to say that, to date, its ethanol potential has not been realised – but that is starting to change. Until 2012 all ethanol for fuel was produced by its sugar industry in small to mediumscale refineries but investment in new large-scale plants is targeting the country’s corn harvest. The economics are robust, with state price support for ethanol, cheap local corn plus a profitable

construction in the central province of Cordoba, which is expected online in Q1 2014, while Bunge has joined forces with Aceitera General Deheza to build the country’s largest ethanol plant, with a capacity of 140,000m3 of ethanol, again in Cordoba. Peru Peru has a fledgling ethanol business and one of its main players is London AIMquoted Maple Energy, which brought its plant online in March 2012. The company, which in February 2013 raised £9 million (€10.2 million) to support the expansion of its plantation, expects to have a 7,787 hectare plantation by year-end as its ethanol plant moves from ramp-up phase to sustained production. At the end of last year, the plant was operational 85% of

march/april 2013 33

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biofuels ethanol in South America Table 1: Argentina’s fuel ethanol industry 2008
















Source: USDA

(Million litres)

0 3 118 166 268 390



the time and had produced 42,266m3 of ethanol. The fuel is sold into the local market and exported to the EU through a sales and distribution agreement with Mitsui. Maple expects to continue exporting a substantial portion of its ethanol production to international markets. Colombia





almost 4% last year and is estimated to hit 4.8% in 2013, looks rampant compared to anaemic Eurozone economies. Its domestic oil industry is again in favour with international oil companies while its biofuels sector has made rapid progress from a standing start some six years ago, backed by a blending mandate that reached (Million litres) production






between 8% and 10% in 2012, depending on location. Ninety eight percent of production comes from sugarcane (the remaining 2% is from cassava), with five refineries co-located at sugarmills. Despite the odd hiccup, production has increased year-on-year, with many local producers backed by state oil company

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012* 2013* 260 327 280 351 355 410 5






Colombia’s emerging ethanol industry




Linking biotechnology, *projected chemistry + agriculture to create new value chains

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CE June 16-19, 2013 Montréal, Canada

Palais des congrès de Montréal Over the past decade, the BIO World Congress has become the largest industrial biotech conference creating a unique forum for business executives, government officials, academic researchers and industry leaders.

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34 march/april 2013 biofuels international

Source: USDA

Over the past the decade, Colombia has reversed its reputation as a no-go zone for investment and its economic growth, which was



Ecopetrol. Food conglomerate Riopaila Castilla is among those adding to capacity here. It recently hired Indian contractor Praj Industries to help build a 400,000 litre per day ethanol plant. The overall picture for ethanol in South America is positive as the climate ensures there is an abundance of readily available, low cost feedstock, be that sugarcane or corn. Big corporates see that this feedstock advantage is a key to trimming production costs on second-generation solutions, making places like Brazil a key destination for those seeking to deliver the sustainable biorefinery model of the future. l

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Brazil focus behind Iogen sale


n January 2013 Iogen Corporation announced that Danish enzyme manufacturer Novozymes was to acquire one of its two divisions, Iogen Bio-Products (IBP). IBP makes and sells a wide variety of enzyme products used in the pulp and paper, textile, grain processing and animal feed industries. While the deal provides Novozymes with all commercial rights to IBP’s existing product portfolio, pipeline, facilities and knowhow, the acquisition does not include the purchase of technology assets that relate to Iogen’s second generation biofuels business. The acquisition brings Iogen CA$67.5 million (€50 million) in cash as well as potential earn-out payments of up to CA$12.5 million, and now permits it to concentrate efforts on the commercialisation of its cellulosic ethanol technology. Over the past 15 years, Iogen has spent more than $300 million on its cellulosic technology evolution, including more than $80 million on its Ottawa demonstration plant. The plant has been through several iterations of technology upgrades and, since 2004, has manufactured more than two million litres of cellulosic ethanol – more volume and for a longer period of time than any other cellulosic ethanol facility in the world. More recently, in 2011 and early 2012, Iogen upgraded the demo plant and demonstrated its Release 8 (R8) technology on wheat straw. The R8 upgrades were validated through 24/7 integrated operation of the

biofuels international

demo plant, where uptimes greater than 80% were achieved over a sustained period of operation. R8 also allowed Iogen to more than double the concentration of its process, thus leading to a significant step change reduction in the cost structure of its technology. Iogen is convinced that its demonstration plant experience and the learning derived from its operation are invaluable in the scale-up and de-risking of its technology. With the wealth of data produced over this recent and prior demonstration periods, Iogen believes its R8 technology is ready for commercial deployment. The cellulosic ethanol produced in the demo plant is a fuel-grade product. It has been successfully used in a number of global events including G8 Summit 2005 vehicles, Ferrari Formula One and American Le Mans

race cars, cellulosic E85 Government of Canada vehicle fleets and cellulosic E10 blends at a Shell petrol refuelling station in Ottawa, Canada. In the spring of 2012, when then Iogen partner Shell announced it would not be proceeding with a long anticipated cellulosic ethanol facility in Canada, Iogen turned its attentions to the opportunity for cellulosic ethanol commercialisation with its new Brazilian partner Raízen. Raízen Group is a joint venture between Shell and Brazilian company Cosan S.A. that currently generates approximately R$50 billion (€19 billion) in annual revenues. It is the world’s largest processor of sugarcane and produces 2.2 billion litres of ethanol, 4.4 million tonnes of sugar annually and 900MW of bioenergy. In addition, it has over 4,500 service stations for

retail fuel distribution in Brazil, 53 fuel distribution depots, and aviation fuel businesses in 52 Brazilian airports. In October 2012, Raízen announced it will commit the initial investment needed to develop a commercial cellulosic ethanol project in Brazil using Iogen technology. The investment, the first step toward the commercialisation of cellulosic biofuels in Brazil, will cover development and engineering costs associated with the front end design of a biomass-to-ethanol facility to be co-located with Raízen’s Costa Pinto facility in São Paulo. That facility is expected to cost R$206 million, with a nominal production capacity of 40 million litres per year. The target startup date is July 2014. Once the second generation installation at Costa Pintois is up and running, Raizen intends to pursue similar second generation cellulosic

Smoking: Iogen’s demonstration plant in Ottawa makes fuel-grade product

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biofuels cellulosic ethanol biofuels co-locations at many of its sugarcane mills. Its long-term target is to integrate second generation technology into eight of its facilities by 2024. ‘The goal,’ says Alberto João Abreu, director of bioenergy technology at Raizen, ‘is to increase ethanol capacity by 50%.’ By co-locating Iogen’s cellulosic ethanol technology with existing sugarcane ethanol plants, and by therefore being able to use the same supply chains and site locations for each, Raízen hopes to be among the first, if not the first, in the world to win the race toward the production of significant quantities of commercially viable cellulosic ethanol.

Iogen has now turned its attention to validating its R8 technology on bagasse feedstock. It has started to process, in its Ottawa demo plant, several hundred

run on sugarcane trash. Also known as tops and leaves, this residue that is left in the field during the harvest represents another potentially large source of biomass.

‘The goal is to increase ethanol capacity by 50%’ Alberto João Abreu, director of bioenergy technology, Raizen

tonnes of bagasse sourced from the Costa Pinto mill. In close collaboration with Raízen, Iogen is optimising its process to run on bagasse, with subsequent plans to also fine-tune its operation to

Raízen is not the only Brazilian company with ambitions to produce cellulosic biofuels, and Iogen not the only technology developer to target Brazil for commercial deployment.

GraalBio, ETH Bioenergia and Petrobras are some of the entities that have announced plans to pursue second generation ethanol development, each teaming up with an international technology developer. As well, strong financial support is available through the Brazilian national development agencies, BNDES and FINEP, which will certainly incent further project development. Clearly, the prospects for the commercialisation of cellulosic ethanol technology in Brazil are strong, which explains why Iogen along with others are setting their sights on Brazil. l For more information:

Be seen at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop! Editorial to cover: • Regional focus: Ethanol in the US • Feedstock focus: Corn: looking at how high feedstock prices and the blend wall are hitting producers • Plant construction: Will the European proposals put a stop to new build first generation plants? • Filtration technology: A comprehensive comparison of different centrifugal and coalescing separation technologies • Corn oil extraction: Around 40% of ethanol plants were extracting corn oil in 2011 – this has now risen to as high as 75%. We explore this additional revenue stream in detail, covering different extraction practices and the potential return on investment • Biochemicals: how can biofuels producers benefit from market demand? • Exploring legal issues • Mergers & acquisitions • DDGS: How to make the most of by-products • Plant automation: The latest software available to lower costs, increase transparency and improve efficiency • Biodiesel purification and methanol recovery

Next issue

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For details on advertising please contact Shemin Juma, +44 (0)203 551 5751, For details on editorial contribution please contact Margaret Dunn, +44 (0)208 687 4126,

36 march/april 2013 biofuels international

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Ongoing battle plagues Argentinean producers by Amy McLellan


outh America is home to two of the world’s biofuel powerhouses: Brazil, the ethanol king and Argentina, the biodiesel champion. Argentina is the second largest biodiesel producer with production of 3 million litres in 2012, and the number one exporter, with 1.8 million litres. It has achieved this because, as one Buenos Aires-based analyst puts it: ‘We are swimming in feedstock’, and that is soya oil. The agricultural heavyweight is expected to produce 52 million tonnes this year from a crop that covers 19.6 million hectares, making it the world’s largest exporter of soyabean oil and the third largest of soyabeans. But life is not easy for Argentine biodiesel producers right now as the industry battles on two fronts: at home, with the government of President Cristina Fernandez De Kirchner and away, with the EU. First up, the international trade dispute, which has Argentina under scrutiny

President De Kirchner: The Argentine government is making life difficult for smaller biodiesel producers

for dumping cheap biodiesel in the EU. ‘We export like crazy to Europe but the European producers have been griping about this for quite some time and accused Argentine producers of dumping biodiesel in the EU,’ says regional biofuels expert Carlos St James of energy consultancy Santiago and Sinclair. ‘I can see no evidence of this but Europe is very good at defending its own industry.’ At the end of January, the EC announced new

measures making all biodiesel imports from Argentina – and Indonesia, also accused of dumping – subject to registration by national customs throughout the EU. This would mean future anti-dumping duties could be levied retroactively. The European Biodiesel Board (EBB) said the measure was the first move to put to an end the ‘unfair imports’ from these countries. For its part, CARBIO, the Argentine biodiesel producers association, said the allegations were ‘unfounded and inconsistent’. Then there’s the added complication of the stand-off with Spain, a major buyer of Argentinian biodiesel, taking 1 billion litres in 2011 or 53% of Argentina’s total exports. This erupted in April 2012 when De Kirchner’s government – not one to readily make friends and influence people – wrested a 51% stake in the country’s largest oil company YPF from Spain’s Repsol. Madrid cried foul, as did many of Argentina’s trading partners, and quickly issued a law requiring that only EU

fuel could meet quotas for its biofuels. That prompted a WTO challenge by Argentina, since withdrawn, but the rancour between Buenos Aires and its trading partners in the EU remains, which This is not good for business. A difficult year At home, biodiesel investors have also been troubled by the government. One major issue is uncertainty surrounding the blending mandate, which was introduced in 2010 at 5% and quickly raised to 7%. In April 2012 the government said it would increase the mandate by monthly 0.5% increments to 10% but this appears to have been abandoned. Worse still has been the tinkering with the pricing and tax structure for biodiesel, which has left domestic producers in disarray. ‘Last year was a very difficult year,’ confirms St James, who was the founder of the Argentine Renewable Energies Chamber (CADER) and works from offices in Washington DC, Buenos Aires and London.

Argentina’s biodiesel industry 2006









20 215 830 1360 2070 2760 3000 2800


0 185 780 1305 1550 1920 1800 1500




















175 665 1500 2300 2800 3700 4700 5200

Capacity use %









* As estimated mid-2012

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Source: USDA

Million litres

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biofuels biodiesel in South America ‘They just took away the 10% blend mandate and all other support. That’s caused a lot of stress and chaos,’ he adds. ‘While the bigger and more efficient companies can still export, the small companies in particular are really suffering and are idling production.’ It remains to be seen whether 2013 will see a change of heart from the Kirchner government. Certainly the lack of consultation, the slump in prices and the ongoing uncertainty will weigh on investors in a sector that had been booming. Brazil: domestic demand Brazil may be famous for its ethanol industry but the continent’s economic powerhouse is also flexing its biodiesel muscles. The country’s biomass advantage means there is a bounty of potential feedstocks for refiners but according to the Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels National Agency (ANP), soyabeans lead the way, accounting for 77% of total biodiesel feedstock followed by animal tallow (16%) and cottonseed (4%). Since 2010 there’s been a mandatory blend in place for biodiesel of 5% and the booming domestic market soaks up all production, which in 2012 was 2.7 billion litres. This is expected to rise 2% to 2.76 billion litres in 2013. The strong domestic demand for biodiesel has attracted investment from some big players. Bunge, Cargill and ADM, for example,

A greener future for Costa Rica: AFAI’s jatropha plantation

are building biodiesel plants to complement their oil seed operations. State oil giant Petrobras is also investing heavily in the sector (although it is still a small proportion compared to its ethanol business). In 2011 it announced that its Petrobras Biocombustível unit would invest $2.5 billion (€1.9 billion) to increase biodiesel and ethanol production through to 2015 (as well as $1.3 billion on ethanol logistics and $300 million on research). Of this, some $600 million was earmarked for the biodiesel segment, where the company is keen to maintain a 25% share of the domestic market. Petrobras now has interests in five plants with total capacity of about 700 million

litres per year. Two of these plants are held in partnership with local company BSBios Industria e Comercio de Biodiesel Sul Brasil; in 2011 Petrobras paid R$200 million (€77 million) for a 50% stake in BSBios, which operates a biodiesel plant with production capacity of 160mly in Passo Fundo, Rio Grande do Sul. The two companies were already 50/50 partners in the Marialva biodiesel plant, a $100 million facility in the northern state of Paraná that came online in 2010. Second generation catch up? Petrobras is also working with the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte in a pilot plant for the cultivation

of micro-algae for biodiesel production. The plant lies in Extremoz, Rio Grande do Norte, a region with climatic conditions thought to be conducive to the cultivation of the micro-organisms and where open tanks with a capacity of 4,000 litres have been installed. The company describes this as one of its ‘priority’ research projects. ‘Not just because of the yield potential, but also because the microalgae are active both in CO2 capture and cleaning up water,’ according to Petrobras Biocombustível CEO Miguel Rossetto. ‘This project puts Petrobras at the forefront of research into renewable energy in Latin America.’ This kind of investment is vital, say regional experts who

Brazil’s biodiesel industry


69 404 1,167 1,608 2,386 2,673 2,700 2,760


69 361 1,565 1,565 2,462 2,613 2,691 2,772











300 1,800 3,600 4,350 5,837 6,742 7,100 7,100

Capacity use %









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Source: USDA

Million litres 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

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have watched with concern the apparent complacency that has allowed Europe and the US to lead the search for viable second and third generation biofuels. ‘Next generation fuels are the weak spot in Latin America,’ adds St James. ‘Because we are so good at growing stuff like sugarcane and soyabeans we had an advantage over the US and Europe, where feedstock availability was more of an issue. But they are now making rapid advances with second generation fuels and, as they become commercially viable, that will be the beginning of the end of our advantage.’ BioVerde Industria e Comercio de Biocombustiveis is among those to seek a more sophisticated business model for biodiesel. The company is not only building Brazil’s largest biodiesel plant but is also investing in biochemicals. It plans to retrofit a facility in the state of Sao Paulo that will be able to convert vegetable oils into 100 million litres per year of chemicals for industrial applications. Mexico: could do better The other big economy of Latin America, Mexico, has made scant progress in biofuels, both politically and commercially. This is partly down to land ownership structures, which do not favour large agricultural undertakings, partly it’s still a fossil fuel driven economy, and partly it’s cultural. ‘They have an abundance of corn but from an emotional standpoint it’s very tied to feeding the nation, not making fuel,’ says one commentator. Costa Rica: getting started Some of the smaller countries in Latin America, particularly those that do not share the hydrocarbon bounty of a Brazil or Argentina, are hoping to capitalise on their natural

biofuels international

climate and land availability to develop a domestic biofuels industry to help offset costly fuel imports. ‘Some of these countries are much more vulnerable to oil price volatility than more developed economies,’ says Craig Frank, CEO of Alternative Fuels America, a Florida-based company that has invested in bio-crop trials in Honduras, Guatamala and most successfully Costa Rica. ‘If they can offset even a small amount of their oil imports with domestic production then that can have broad economic consequences.’ The company has spent seven years and over $2 million trialling different crops in different regions to find the right combination of crop maturity and oil yield. ‘One of the key mistakes many biofuels companies made 10 years ago was the emphasis was on refining and processing, not feedstock,’ says Frank. ‘You can have the most sophisticated processes available but if you do not have enough feedstock it’s not sustainable.’ The company is now raising funds for its first commercial plant, which will be fed by jatropha trees on a 12,000 acre plantation. The plant will produce 4 million gallons a year and AFAI has already sold 3.75 million of this to local transportation companies, municipalities and a fish processing plant. It hopes to deliver first production by the end of 2014 or early 2015 although it still seeking to close funding of $12 million. Once this has been successfully delivered, the trick will be to repeat the model elsewhere, possibly Panama for number two and either Colombia or the Dominion Republic next. ‘We’re aiming to plant one quarter of a million acres over the next 10 years, that’s 60-80 million gallons of biodiesel a year,’ says Frank, explaining the long-term vision for the company. l

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biofuels colombia The president of the Colombian National Federation of Biofuels Jorge Bendeck reveals how the country is increasing its future production

Getting back to business


espite suffering from floods at the end of 2010 and start of 2011 that disrupted ethanol production by a reported 35% for a while, the National Federation of Biofuels Colombia says ambitious targets for the industry are still on the cards. The floods, originating in the Cauca Valley region, wiped out large volumes of sugarcane and reduced nationwide ethanol production from 1.15 million litres a day to 750,000 in November and December 2011. ‘We call it the la Niña effect but we have recovered from it now,’ says the association’s president Jorge Bendeck. ‘The country is back to full capacity now.’ Level increase Colombia produces 1.3 tonnes of biodiesel and 1 million litres of ethanol per day, which is just under full capacity levels. The country has had a B8 biodiesel mandate in place from 2008, which has since risen to 10% but has not yet been fulfilled. Biodiesel comes from a bountiful supply of palm oil, a feedstock that thrives in Colombia’s warm climes. Plantations have doubled in a little over a decade and the Colombian Palm Growers Federation (FedePalma) believes current expansion could support a blend target of 20%. ‘We are currently at 8% blend for petrol but are confident that this year will see us actually surpass the mandate level by half a percent,’ says Bendeck. ‘The claim isn’t as far fetched as it may sound because we estimate

Colombia could handle a blend over 13% by 2014.’ The reason for Bendeck’s optimism could be placed at the door of the increased amount of facilities and refineries, including one new ethanol facility which is expected to be completed this year. ‘We added four more biodiesel refineries last year to bring that total up to nine and now two are being commissioned,’ he explains. ‘The latest new ethanol plant will contribute another 400,000 litres a day and another, due in 2015, will add the same again.’ India-based Praj Industries will be supplying that first facility in conjunction with agribusiness Riopailia Castilla in a $20 million

(€15.1 million) deal. The plant will use sugarcane and molasses feedstock from the aforementioned Cauca Valley. ‘We may be just shy of producing at full capacity in Colombia at the moment but we are maintaining a high monthly production comfortably, so when the association believes the nation could hit 2 million litres of ethanol by the end of 2015 it does so with confidence,’ Bendeck affirms. Keeping an eye out Second generation biofuels are creating a stir in places like Europe and the US at the moment and Bendeck reveals that Colombia is intrigued in ‘the next step’ but that nothing will happen just yet.

A worker on a plantation owned by Colombian agribusiness Manuelita

‘We are waiting, with interest, for others to bring forth the next set of technology to make this second generation production a realistic possibility,’ he says. ‘As a nation Colombia cannot delve too deeply into that side of things because the costs involved are too prohibitive.’ ‘An ideal price for a litre of ethanol produced in this manner would be under $2 and one company in South Korea believes it can do this,’ he adds. ‘The US EPA recognises sugarcane as an advanced fuel source so we are well placed to hold tight and see how things pan out.’ Sandwiched between two renewable fuel behemoths in the US and Brazil, Colombia is happy to use all its ethanol and biodiesel in-house. It clearly doesn’t need to import extra reserves but, conversely, it doesn’t get involved in export either. ‘We cannot compete with those two,’ agrees Bendeck, who says Colombia only produces about 1.2% of what Brazil does in total. ‘The size of the land dedicated to feedstock production per country is the most obvious reason why we cannot. ‘However, while exporting product maybe a future avenue for us to explore, our industry is best served looking after local interests. It helps diversify our agricultural industry and creates jobs in that sector, makes the quality of our air cleaner and gives us viable alternatives to a dwindling oil stockpile that may only have about seven years left.’ In that case may the next flood Colombia experiences be limited to the amount of biofuels product that comes onto its market. l

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Plant update – South America ProMaiz Location

Alejandro Roca, Cordoba province, Argentina Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity 420,000 liters per day Feedstock 350,000 tonnes of corn a year Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Designer / builder Vogelbusch Project start date End of 2011 Completion date 2013 Investment $200 million Comment The plant will also produce vegetable protein for animal feed, as well as other products for the food industry. The plant will be the country’s largest ethanol plant

Asociacion de Cooperativas Argentinas Villa Maria city, Cordoba province, Argentina Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity 33 million gallons a year Feedstock 300,000 tonnes of corn Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date October 2011 Completion date April 2013 Investment $80 million (€ million)

Usina de Acucar Santa Terezinha Location Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil Alternative fuel Ethanol Feedstock Sugrcane Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date March 2012 (announced) Investment 500 million reais (€ million). The national development bank Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Economico e Social and the government fund Fundo Constitucional de Financiamento do Centro-Oeste are providing project funding Comment The ethanol plant will cost 300 reais. The remaining 200 reais will be spent on developing sugarcane plantations for the company’s eight existing ethanol plants


GraalBio Investimentos Location Alagoas, Brazil Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity 21.6 million gallons a year Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date May 2012 (announced) Completion date December 2013 Comment The company plans to build five plants in Brazil by 2017 at a cost of $724.5 million (€ million). Novozymes will supply the plant with enzymes and DSM with industrial yeasts

BP Biofuels Location Usina Tropical in Edeia, Brazil Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity 450 million litres of ethanol from 5 million tonnes of feedstock Feedstock Sugarcane Construction / expansion / Expansion from 2.5 to 5 million tonnes acquisition a sugarcane a year. A new mill will also be built Project start date December 2012 (announced) Investment $350 million (€271.1 million)

Adecoagro Location Ivinhema, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity 4.1 million tonnes Feedstock Sugar Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date January 2013 (secured loan from Brazil’s development bank) Investment $238 million (€ million)

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SAT Location Pernambuco, Brazil Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity 1.2 million litres Feedstock Algae Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date July 2012 (announced) Investment $9.8 million (€7.9 million) Comment The new plant will be built at the site of an existing sugarcane plantation

Vinema Biorefinarias do Sul (VBS) Location Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity VBS has announced plans to build a total of six ethanol fuel mills producing a total 600 million litres a year Feedstock A variety of rice, oats and sorghum feedstocks Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date January 2013 Completion date 2020 Investment BRL720 million (€265 million) Comment The first of the six facilities is due to be built in Cristal

Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira Location Sao Manoel, Brazil Alternative fuel Cellulosic ethanol Capacity 3 million litres a year Feedstock Sugarcane bagasse Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Designer / builder Poyry Project start date July 2013 (announced) Completion date Mid-2014 Investment $40 million (€ million) Comment Andritz will supply equipment to the plant and it will use either Novozymes and/or Codexis enzymes

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biofuels plant update Raizen Group Location Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil Alternative fuel Cellulosic ethanol Capacity 10.58 million gallons (40 million liters) Feedstock Biomass including sugarcane bagasse Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date October 2012 (announced) Completion date 2014 Investment $90 million Comment The plant will be co-located with Raizen’s existing Costa Pinto facility. Raizen expects to have eight plants producing advanced ethanol by 2024

Amyris Location São Paulo, Brazil Alternative fuel Biofene Feedstock Sugarcane Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Completion date December 2012 (production started) Comment The company shipped its first load of biogene from its new plant in February 2013

EdeniQ and Usina Vale Location Brazil Alternative fuel Cellulosic ethanol Feedstock Sugarcane bagasse Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date November 2012

Petrobras Location Brazil Alternative fuel Cellulosic ethanol Capacity 10 million gallons of ethanol a year Feedstock 120,000 tonnes of bagasse Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Designer / builder Blue Sugars Project start date July 2012 (announced) Completion date 2015 Comment Blue Sugars is also set to provide three other Brazilian sugarcane mills with its technology by 2015

Rhodia and Cobalt Technologies Location Brazil Alternative fuel Biobutanol Feedstock Bagasse Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date August 2012 Completion date Mid-2013

Guyana Sugar Corporation Location Albion sugar factory, Guyana Alternative fuel Bioethanol Capacity Demo-scale Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Designer / builder Whitefox Technologies Project start date November 2012 (announced) Completion date Q1 2013

Coazucar Location Casa Grande, Peru Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity 190 bpd Feedstock Sugarcane from its Casa Grande, Cartavio and San Jacinto plantations Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Completion date March 2013 (production due to begin)

Maple Energy Location Peru Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity 11.5 million gallons a year Feedstock Sugarcane Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Completion date 2012 Comment In December the company received government approval to expand its sugarcane plantation by 877 hectares from its current size of 6,532 hectares. Maple said it plans to plant the entire area during Q1 2013

Abengoa and Alcoholes de Uruguay Location Paysandú, Uruguay Alternative fuel Ethanol Capacity 15.4 million gallons a year of ethanol and 50,000 tonnes of DDGS Feedstock Sorghum, maize, barley and wheat Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date October 2011 (announced) Completion date Mid-2013 Comment Abengoa will also build an adjoining cogeneration power plant worth about $120 million (€ million), which will have an installed capacity of 8MW. The power plant will use biomass to produce electricity and heat (steam) which will be needed in the bioethanol facility

TMO Renewables Location Brazil Alternative fuel Cellulosic ethanol Capacity 10 million litres a year Construction / expansion / Construction acquisition Project start date October 2012 (announced) Comment The plant will be built alongside the existing Cerquilho sugar mill

*This list is based on information made available to Biofuels International at the time of printing. If you would like to update the list with any additional plant information for future issues, please email

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Already being trialled in Brazil, it seems there is no end to the end-uses for sugarcane

Diesel from sugarcane?


n countries such as Cuba, Spain and Thailand, sugarcane is cultivated solely for producing sugar and ethanol. However, in leading industry countries such as Brazil and India, it also produces electricity, from burning the bagasse, plus furfural, ammonia and vinasse for example. The amount of products it can be used for keeps on growing but when it comes to sustainable transportation, its only contribution has been ethanol. This is a problem in Europe however, where up to 75% of all of automobiles are diesel and diesel engines cannot be fed with ethanol of any blend. Brazil began producing diesel from sugarcane last yearand is successfully testing it in buses. Many companies are looking into the technology, but it was US-based Amyris who took the lead. The company made a joint-venture with Crystalsev, one of the largest trading companies and producer of Brazilian sugar ethanol, to use its facilities to produce diesel from sugarcane. The process began in December 2010 when Amyris announced a deal to build a 26 million gallons a year (mgy) farnesene facility inside Sao Martinho’s new Boa Vista sugar and ethanol mill in Goiás state, Brazil. For that, it paid $80 million (€61 million) for a 40% interest in the plant. In April 2011 that agreement was changed so Boa Vista would continue to be owned by Sao Martinho and, instead, the two partners would establish a 50/50 jointventure to build a chemical plant in the Usina Sao Martinho unit in Pradopolis

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Sugarcane diesel is an exciting development which seems to prove the mantra that sugarcane is indeed a remarkable feedstock and may even indeed become the new oil

(Sao Paulo state). This venture started production in 2012 and is expected to process up to 1 million tonnes of sugarcane per year. For that, Amyris developed a genetically-modified strand of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This yeast is the one used for regular ethanol production, but in this case it was modified to also produce a molecule called farnesene. This molecule actually refers to a set of six closely related chemical compounds which all are sesquiterpenes. They occur naturally in many plants and fruits such as apple, orange, mandarin, lime, grapefruit and pears, plus ginger and nutmeg. In fact, it is responsible for the smell of green apples. The molecule however carries an added bonus which is crucial in aeroplane engines: it has no oxygen in its structure. This means that it generates no corrosion in engine parts (something which is unacceptable in

engines), albeit at the expense of having a lower energy output. This means that it can potentially be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as an alternative fuel or at least as a blend for jet engines, thus opening a whole new market. The key difference between sugarcane diesel and biodiesel is its chemical structure. Biodiesel contains fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), which are long, complex chains containing carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. On the other hand, sugarcane diesel is made up of totally organic hydrocarbons (hydrogen and carbon atoms only) just like petroleum diesel. This means sugarcane diesel is a 100% drop-in replacement requiring no modifications to the existing fuel distribution infrastructure or the vehicle’s fuel system. Biodiesel can dissolve certain rubbers in the engine and thus is usually only used in blends to up to 30%. Amyris does not divulge

much about the method, but one can guess what it is based on. Fermentation is a metabolic process in which an organism converts a carbohydrate, such as starch or sugar, into an alcohol or acid. In this case, the saccharomyces’ yeast performs fermentation by converting the sucrose present in sugarcane into an alcohol called ethanol. Bacteria also perform fermentation, but covert carbohydrates rather into lactic acid. Even human muscle cells, when deprived of oxygen, use that method. However, in all cases, this process cannot be changed as that would mean practically redesigning the organism DNA from the ground up. However, what is possible is to add new DNA strands to the organism regular DNA. This way, the organism starts producing whatever that DNA strand refers to, even if the end product is of no use for it. However, the original

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technology news biofuels Xebec Adsorption Dow Water & Process branches out to the UK expands biodiesel solutions Xebec Adsorption Dow Water & Process biofuels sugarcane Canada-based After acquiring Rohm environment,’ Tony Hales, It also provides Amberlite branches out to the UK expands solutions processes are maintained: for ethanol production. it is working fossil (such as sugarbeet) or to a Xebec project director,This says. BD10DRY technology, purification, separation, and Haastoinreduce July biodiesel this the only condition is that dehydration, and Canada-based the new process for its end filtration equipment product cannot interfere with purifi cation, separation, manufacturer Xebec the organism’s regular ones. dehydration, and This idea however is not Adsorption has opened filtration equipment exclusive to Amyris. US-based a new sales offi ce to manufacturer Xebec biotech company LS9 also provide enhanced Adsorption has opened has a similar technology, but service to UK this time using genetically a new salesthe offi ce to modified strains of the biogas enhanced market. provide Escherichia coli bacterium.

service to this thewill UKbe used As Thisbefore, new initiative is in biogas to obtainmarket. molecules similar response to the growing

to thoseinfound in normal market the UK for biogas diesel fermentation processes This new initiative is in upgrading to renewable using sugarcane juice. response to the growing natural gas, a carbon neutral The in real beauty of market the UK for fuel source. The ofbiogas ce will sugarcane diesel stems from upgrading renewable handle allto sales, marketing, the fact it does not require natural gas,and a carbon neutralany technical after-sales new equipment or processes fuel source. support forThe the of UK.ce will to be produced. In fact, it uses handle sales, ‘TheallUK and marketing, Europe are the exactand same plants used technical after-sales poised to fully develop the support for thegas. UK.Biomethane use of green ‘The UK and Europe are Gas injected into the National poised to fully develop the Grid is a huge step forward use of green gas. Biomethane for both the industry and the injected into the National Gas Grid is a huge step forward for both the industry and the

means lower investment risks, Xebec offers ve standard environment,’ Tony Hales, shorter time-to-market and sizes of biogas upgrading Xebec project director, says. the ability to also use /h up systems from 200 m3those Xebec ve standard facilities for ethanol /h,and combines to 2,000offers m3regular sizes upgrading production, thus creatingpurity bestof in biogas class recovery, systems fromconsumption. 200source. m3/h up another revenue and energy 3 /h, and toThese 2,000 m The tests for this new fuel systems arecombines either best in class recovery, began in São Paulo lastpurity year, skid-mounted or containerised and energy consumption. when buses used asmall mixture with an extremely These systems either of 10% sugarcane diesel. footprint, offerare high upskid-mounted or containerised The reasons for choosing time and low maintenance that city stems from the fact with extremely small andan operations cost. it has over 15,000 buses footprint, offer high upThe solutions Xebec consuming about 450 million time and low maintenance provides include natural litres of diesel per year, that and operations cost. gas and biogas purication, itnatural has solutions one of the highest The Xebec gas dehydration, levels of include contamination in provides naturalfor hydrogen purication South America (to the point gas purication, fueland cellbiogas and industrial it employs rotation system natural gas adehydration, applications, and specialised where its puri citizens cannot hydrogen cation for solutions for other gases. use their cars on certain fuel cell and Xebec also industrial offers compressed days of the week) and that applications, specialised air treatmentand solutions. To solutions for other gases. date, Xebec has supplied Xebec more also than offers 8,000 compressed adsorption airsystems treatment solutions. to more than To 1,300 date, Xebec has supplied customers worldwide. ● more than 8,000 adsorption systems to more than 1,300 customers worldwide. ●

diesel consumption by 10% yearacquiring Dow Water & After Rohm each year through 2018. The Process Solutions test Riohas andquickly Haasspread in Julyto this expanded itsitportfolio de Janeiro started year Dowwhere Water & with 20 buses and 409 of solutions, including Process Solutions has lines running on a mixture biodiesel capabilities. expanded portfolio of 30% and isits expected to ofIt solutions, including rise to 30offers this year. And now the Dowthis number is expected to rise biodiesel capabilities. Amberlyst BD20 solid significantly over the catalyst FFA esterinext cation Ittechnology now offers the Dow few years duethat to the football offers World Cup and thesolid Olympics Amberlyst BD20 biodiesel producers the also happening in the city. catalyst FFA esteri cation exibility to produce However, from when it comes technology that inexpensive offers biodiesel to Europe, all those exciting biodiesel producers the low-quality feed stocks developments may still exibility to produce without sacricing the purity mean little.from In order to take biodiesel needed in theinexpensive end product. full advantage of this idea, it low-quality feed stocks The Ambersep BD19 is needs to be developed without sacripuri cing cation the inside purity a feedstock European soil. Two options needed in theaend product. technology, pre-treatment areThe available: eitherBD19 to use Ambersep is to be step specially designed sugars from other sources a used feedstock puri cation together with Amberlyst technology, a pre-treatment BD20 catalyst technology step specially to be that extends designed life time and used together with Amberlyst improves the operability of BD20 catalyst technology the downstream process. that extends life time and improves the operability of the downstream process.

grow sugarcane in Europe. simple and cost-effective It also provides Amberlite Surprisingly, the second solution for biodiesel BD10DRY technology, option is available as purication designed ato simple andhas cost-effective sugarcane been grown maximise process yield. solution foryears biodiesel successfully in Spain For 50 DowforWater & puri cation designed to been over 200 years. Spanish Process Solutions has maximise yield. consultancy group Alkol providingprocess innovative water For process 50 years Dow Water & Bioenergy is in the process and solutions to both Process Solutions has been of developing a new variety communities and industries providing innovative of sugarcane which willwater be alike. A differentiated and process solutions to both grown in the Andalusia region business unit of The Dow of Spain, the only place in communities and industries Chemical Company, Dow Europe the capability alike. Awith differentiated Water & Process Solutions to grow sugarcane. l Dowof business unit of portfolio The offers a broad Chemical Company, Dow ion exchange resins, reverse Water & Process Solutions osmosis membranes, offers broad portfolio of ultraaltration membranes ion exchange resins, reverse and electrodeionization osmosis membranes, products, with strong ultra ltration positions in membranes a number of For more information: areas, and electrodeionization major application products, strongand includingwith industrial positions in a number of municipal water, industrial major application areas, processes, pharmaceuticals, including industrial and power, residential water and municipal water, waste and waterindustrial reuse. ● processes, pharmaceuticals, power, residential water and waste and water reuse. ●

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Nesté Oil is one company that should be delighted by the EC’s recent proposals favouring advanced biofuels. To find out more about the impact this will have Keeley Downey went to visit the producer’s new advanced microbial oil plant

One small step for oil


n a recent flight to Finland to visit Nesté Oil HQ, Buzz Aldrin, US astronaut and second person to walk on the Moon, popped up on the television screen and described himself as a ‘risk taker’; a fearless man who’s risk was worth taking because: ‘The only device to take us back in time is our memory. We are made to move forward and we have to study the future fearlessly’. This, it turned out, was a Nesté Oil advertisement. And looking to the future is exactly what this small oil company is doing with the development of Europe’s first microbial oil R&D plant, built alongside the technology centre at its site in Porvoo, Finland. Between now and 2015 Nesté will be working to develop technology capable of producing microbial oil on an industrial scale, with the oil expected to enter commercial production in 2015 at the earliest. Phase one of the €8 million facility was completed in August last year, with Nesté officially opening the plant in October. The decision to explore the potential of microbial oil as a feedstock for its NExBTL renewable diesel was an obvious one for Nesté. Speaking in the company’s technology centre Petri Lehmus, VP of R&D, said: ‘For now most of our efforts are with microbial oil. This is a nice concept as it produces food and fuel rather than food or fuel.’ The residual biomass left after the microbes have been pressed for oil can be used in the animal feed industry. Lehmus continued: ‘We are

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expanding our raw material focus as part of our long-term feedstock strategy by using lower quality feedstock which is cheaper and more readily available. For our renewable diesel we use waste animal fats (more than 400,000 tonnes), non-food vegetable oils and waste fish fat, which is a new waste raw material that we introduced last year. The amounts are limited at the moment but increasing all the time. We also use algae, which has big promise for the future.’ But, unlike algae, microbes do not need sunlight to grow so can be easily studied in Finland, Nesté’s home country. The company is working with algae but joined forces with Wageningen University in Andalusia, southern Spain to carry out its field trials. On the surface, microbes might not seem the most

suitable things to yield oil: they are one thousandth of a millimetre in size and, with over 600 species, identifying the ones most suitable for this application could be as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. So far Nesté has studied yeast and filamentous fungi microbes cultivated in traditional bioreactors and discovered that up to 80% of these cells’ weight can be oil. They also have high productivity, a quick production cycle of just a few days, and are easy to harvest. ‘We feed the sugars to the microbes and then they get fat and become rich in oil. They are cells with high obesity,’ joked Perttu Koskinen, project manager of R&D at Nesté, ‘and then we recover the oil.’ Koskinen told how the organisms his team is using are a secret, however did

Food and fuel: Microbes are a solution to combat the food vs fuel debate as the microbial biomass leftover can be used in animal feed

reveal that they are speciallybred and not related to those bacteria found in a termite’s stomach which enable them to digest wood. A carbon copy There are a number of routes to advanced liquid biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass. It can be exposed to fractionation and hydrolysis or treated chemically or thermally. From here fermentation, gasification or catalytic pyrolysis processes can be deployed to produce substances such as oxygenates, syngas and pyrolysis oil. A further stage comprising fermentation, FischerTropsch or hydrotreatment for example, will produce a range of renewable fuels such as biomass-to-liquid (BtL) biofuels and cellulosic ethanol. To produce its NExBTL renewable diesel from microbes, Nesté first extracts the sugars from the biomass using fractionation and hydrolysis. These sugars are then fermented and the microbial oil recovered. A final hydrotreatment step produces the NExBTL. The make-up of fossil diesel looks like this: CnH2n+2 + aromatics, while renewable diesel’s composition is: CnH2n+2; exactly the same minus the harmful aromatics. This shows that NExBTL is a copy of conventional diesel, meaning no limitations. A drop-in fuel, NExBTL has no blendwall like FAME and is the only biofuel that can be used in a pipeline network. Despite producing the cleanest diesel in the world with an in-house technological

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biofuels profile innovation that it is clearly proud of, Nesté still faces a number of challenges as its commercial volumes increase. ‘We are now starting to think about securing our supply,’ explained the company’s VP of renewable fuels, Kasia Hietala. ‘We need more producers otherwise our customers will start thinking “What if Nesté can’t meet our needs, what about supply?” We need more producers.’ The growing number of competitors is also on Nesté’s radar. In September last year Italian energy company Eni said it was to invest $125 million (€95 million) to convert its Venice refinery into a 100 million gallon a year renewable diesel biorefinery using the Honeywell UOP/ Eni patented Ecofining technology. UOP also licenses this technology to Emerald Biofuels for the production of 85 million gallons a year of Honeywell Green diesel. A collaboration comprising Dynamic Fuels, Syntroleum and Tyson Food is also producing renewable diesel from Dynamic’s plant in Geismar, Louisiana. In May 2012 Nesté filed a patent infringement action against Dynamic, stating it breached a patent relating to the composition of diesel fuel which protects aspects of its renewable diesel technology. Aemetis is producing renewable diesel and jet fuel, in partnership with Chevron, using an isoconversion process. And in October 2012 Biodico formed an agreement with the US Navy that will see it establish a biorefinery at Naval Base Ventura County for the production of renewable petroleum diesel equivalent fuel, in addition to other biobased products and bioenergy. And the European Commission’s proposal to cap first generation biofuels last October is another worry for Nesté. With the proposal suggesting foodbased biofuels counted towards the 10% Renewable

Energy Directive (RED) will be limited to 5%, the waste materials-mad company should be pleased as the move is designed to stimulate the development of second generation biofuels from nonfood feedstock. But while good news for the company itself, Hietala is worried about the impact on the biofuels industry in general and questions the usefulness of double and quadruple counting. ‘We understand why the Commission wants to cap the use of food-based crops for biofuels, but not why it wants to promote the rest with double and quadruple counting,’ she said. ‘We are worried about meeting the 10% RED target with this method because every time something is counted as double, more replacement fossil fuels have to come in and so we use less biofuels. We are confused about the message from the Commission and it must think about the consequences. At the moment the proposed plan does not meet climate goals, leads to a shrinking market and does not encourage future investments.’ Financial strains It has been a busy and capitalintensive few years for Nesté Oil, with its renewable fuels business investing some €1.5 billion in NExBTL production facilities. Its first plant came online in Finland in 2007, costing €100 million and

Small but mighty: Up to 80% of a yeast cell’s dry bodyweight can be oil

producing 190,000 tonnes a year. Two years later and the company opened its second Finland-based 190,000 t/a production plant at a cost of over €100 million. Singapore was the location of its third renewable diesel factory: a €500 million plant with an 800,000 t/a capacity which came online in 2010. And in 2011 Nesté opened its fourth NExBTL production plant in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Costing €670 million, the facility has the same capacity as that in Singapore. Such heavy outlays has meant the company’s renewable fuels business is yet to realise a profit after five years. It recently reported that the business remained lossmaking last year, although its full-year comparable operating profit improved by €107 million compared to 2011 and reached close to breakeven in the fourth quarter. 2013’s full-year result is expected to improve and One of Nesté Oil’s renewable diesel plants in Finland

be positive. But as Nesté’s president and CEO Matti Lievonen explained: ‘We have invested a lot of money in a very short space of time and it takes time to realise this.’ Nesté is confident 2013 is the year that its renewable fuels business will shine as all of its abovementioned NExBTL plants are close to full working capacity – almost 2 million tonnes per year. Kaisa Lipponen, director of corporate communications, summed up the general feeling: ‘As we have invested all this money in lots of projects, this year has been quite quiet in comparison because all the plants are close to full working capacity. It will be good to see some positive results this year.’ While already utilising a range of materials at its four renewable diesel plants, including vegetable oils and waste fats, Nesté is not resting on its laurels. The introduction of waste fish fat last year and the recent inauguration of its new microbial oil plant, in addition to its activities in Spain surrounding algae, show this company will leave no stone unturned on its quest to find our planet’s future renewable oil sources. Nesté Oil’s annual R&D budget is €40 million, 80% of which goes towards research for new feedstocks. As Hietala pointed out: ‘Without raw materials there are no biofuels.’ These small steps for oil really could be giant leaps for mankind. l

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Biofuel manufacturers are open to a number of potential environmental liabilities. Left uninsured these liabilities could badly affect the company’s financial performance

The second line of defense against a pollution release


iofuels manufacturers find themselves at a unique junction between offering environmentally responsive alternatives to petroleum and the more traditional refining sectors. While the source materials may be literally green, the processes involved in creating these products are sophisticated, using and storing large volumes of hazardous and volatile materials. Biofuel plants have sprung up across the world and many of these facilities’ operators have acknowledged the potential environmental exposures that exist, including risks to surrounding communities as well as their own financial health. Sound engineering and process planning can provide a strong first line of defense in the event of an environmental release or exposure. However, the resulting expense for clean up, tort liability or penalties can be enough to close the business. Standard liability and property insurance policies have excluded coverage for claims associated with pollution events since 1985 or restrict coverage to only sudden and accidental releases, leaving significant coverage gaps in insurance programmes. Although there has been a market for pollution liability insurance

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since 1979, the market for pollution liability insurance has dramatically changed over the past few years. Environmental liability exposures Biodiesel and bioethanol producers face many environmental insurance exposures that arise from all aspects of the business lifecycle, and just because they are renewable it doesn’t mean they are risk-free. Biofuel producers are liable for property damage and bodily injury when a third party is affected by

pollution damages resulting from accidental releases of chemicals into surface and subsurface soils, groundwater, surface water and the atmosphere during the storage, production and transportation of chemicals, stock fuels and finished product. During operation of the biofuel facility and machinery, the storage and handling of raw chemicals and hydrocarbon fuels expose the potential for air emissions and explosion hazards. Onsite exposures include the generation and handling of wastewater, stormwater runoff and solid waste resulting

from operations. Storage of chemicals and raw materials in aboveground or underground storage tanks at the facility can result in spills and leaks into soils and waterways. Though biodiesel and bioethanol are renewable fuels and can be less harmful to the environment than diesel or petrol, they are produced using some chemicals with potentially harmful properties. Biodiesel itself is non-toxic and biodegrades four times faster than conventional diesel. It is produced using sodium hydroxide, a corrosive chemical that can burn skin and damage the eyes, respiratory and digestive tract if inhaled or swallowed. Methanol, another chemical used in production, can cause complications that result in blindness among other health related problems. Since methanol is highly flammable, there is a serious risk of fire and explosion during production. Bioethanol is the principal fuel used as a petrol substitute and additive for road transport vehicles. It is produced using sulphuric acid, a chemical that may be fatal if inhaled or swallowed and corrosive to the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Bioethanol also requires electricity and stream productions that may be met using natural gas, coal, coke or other hydrocarbon fuels that present additional environmental exposures.

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biofuels insurance Regulatory and governmental compliance issues can create potential exposures for biofuel companies. An increasing ‘not in my backyard’ trend citing air emissions and odours is being observed with the community possibly using regulatory leverage to resist expansion plans or threatening continued operation. Or the company may be required to manage and disclose their potential environmental remediation liabilities. Pre-construction Environmental Site Assessments are often required by law but, if property that has received a clean environmental assessment is found to be still contaminated, the company faces additional costs. When discovered, historical impacts of pollution prior to establishing the plant can become present-day liabilities. These remediation obligations arise due to the federal Superfund law and the federal hazardous waste law. This is a particularly difficult risk to manage because the extent and type of hazardous wastes generated are not often known at the time. In addition to site liability, many biofuels manufacturers take on the liability for transporting the finished product to its eventual end user; by truck, rail or barge. A loss during loading, transit or unloading can be catastrophic, requiring cleanup and possibly causing injury to nearby residents or passersby. These damages can easily work into the hundreds of thousands, or even million, dollar price tags. Available environmental insurance Although environmental insurance has been available in the US since 1979, it first became a focus within the overall insurance industry when pollution exclusions became prevalent around 1985. This is the period when the Insurance Services Office introduced new pollution exclusions on commercial general liability

insurance policies. These pollution exclusions created significant coverage gaps in insurance programmes throughout the US. The market for pollution liability insurance has matured and diversified dramatically in recent years. Environmental insurers are offering broader coverage and cost-effective rates and adequate limits are almost always available, with individual insurers offering up to $35 million (€26 million) in limits and tower capacity in the range of $150 million in limits or more. The coverage most considered necessary by biofuels manufacturers addresses exposures associated with the operation of their plants and damages caused by a release of pollution originating from those plants. The loss for the company can include cleanup costs on-site or off-site, or to third-parties for bodily injury or property damage. Fixed site coverage is available through many specialty carriers and is sometimes referred to as pollution legal liability or environmental impairment liability coverage. The fixed site1 policy typically covers costs associated with cleanup, third-party bodily injury and third-party property damages arising from pollution conditions at, or emanating from, a site. These policies often can be modified to insure business income exposures, development soft costs caused by pollution conditions, non-owned locations (landfill, warehouses, disposal sites, etc.), and transportation exposures. Other enhancements can be made to meet the specific needs of the insured. Coverage can be written to insure the environmental risks associated with a single site or a portfolio of sites. These fixed site policies are also known as ‘mono-line’ pollution liability policies, as they offer dedicated limits and terms to the special case of pollution

liability. They can be added to any existing programme of property and casualty coverage currently carried by the company and added at any time regardless of other policy expiration/renewal dates. Somewhat unique in the insurance industry, the fixed site policies also have the ability to insure against the discovery of a historic pollution condition. As described above, if subsurface contamination (soil or groundwater) is discovered during the construction phase or during a subsequent activity at a site, the policy can respond by paying for the necessary cleanup costs and legal fees associated with the newly discovered pollution. The legal fees alone can be staggering. Through the maturing and expansion of the environmental insurance industry, the premium for fixed site coverage has steadily come down and terms have become increasingly broadened. While not a comprehensive survey of the full market, the premium for fixed site coverage, broadened to include non-owned disposal sites and transported cargo, is typically in the range of $12,000 to $20,000 annually per site when purchased for individual locations for limits up to $5 million. The per site premium drops notably when a portfolio of locations is covered by a single policy. The amount of limits purchased by a given operator will vary depending on the number of locations, age and size of the facility, product manufactured and the transportation liability. However, many multi-facility programmes have policies with limits ranging from $3 million to $10 million and savings can be achieved through the purchase of multi-year policies. In addition to mono-line pollution liability insurance, some insurance carriers have expanded their product offerings to provide pollution coverage wrapped into the more traditional general liability/casualty policies. These

combined GL/PL products have particular relevance to the biofuels sector. The value of these combined policies is the relative low cost of including pollution coverage within the GL policy form – coverage that is generally deemed essential to operating. The combined policies offer an alternative to mono-line coverage and can provide the additional benefit of product liability for a pollution exposure (products pollution). Off the shelf, the pollution coverage provided by these combined forms will be limited to off-site cleanup and thirdparty bodily injury and property damage. However, much like the mono-line product, these combined forms are very flexible and can be crafted to serve the unique needs of any specific facility or company. Biodiesel and bioethanol manufacturers have many potential environmental liabilities that, uninsured, could adversely affect their financial performance. The policies and coverage described here can be designed to address these risks and provide a cost-effective way of transferring costs. The environmental insurance industry is mature and well positioned to assist in mitigating the financial consequences related to biofuel manufacturing and environmental risks. It takes a well-organised approach with risk management, legal, finance and operations/environmental personnel to implement an effective environmental risk management programme. Environmental insurance can be a key component of that overall approach. l For more information: This article was written by Emily Bourdeau, associate environmental broker at Aon, and Dale Cira, director at Aon Environmental Services Group. Visit 1 This is a generic term. Specific product terms from the insurers include Pollution Legal Liability (PLL), Environmental Impairment Liability (EIL), Pollution and Remediation Legal Liability (PARLL), Environmental Site Liability (ESL), Premises Pollution Liability (PPL) and Real Estate Environmental Liability (REEL).

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Grease theft, supply and demand fundamentals and a major new facility are the main stories in 2013 for biodiesel’s fat and grease recyclers

Grease Theft Auto by Nicholas Zeman


n the early morning hours of December 28 in Riverside, California police confronted two men sitting in a McDonald’s restaurant parking lot. They were siphoning used cooking oil from a dumpster into a metal tank mounted to the bed of their truck. It’s one of many such stories of ‘grease bandits’ all over the US last winter. The McDonald’s owner told the Los Angeles Times prices for used cooking oil had exploded because of the ‘biodiesel’ industry’s appetite for any and every production source. The owner of the restaurant had notified authorities the day before thieves were stealing thousands of dollars worth of the waste grease the franchise now sells to recyclers. Used grease collecting has certainly become a lucrative part of the rendering trade. Indeed, renderers – the companies that process waste oils and greases into usable production sources for fuel, feed and chemical sectors – saw record prices at times over the past few years, largely driven by the run-up in corn and soybean prices (greases compete with corn and soyabeans not only as biodiesel feedstocks, but also animal feed ingredients). The increasing battle against grease theft however has left millions of dollars worth of feedstock out of production reservoirs. The problem has become so bad that California, along with Virginia and North Carolina, has enacted special regulations meant to protect the rendering

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Everyone’s loving it: used cooking oil is attracting many suitors

industry from grease theft. But, apart from stopping the culprits, these regulations are creating dividing lines. Surprisingly, not all biodiesel producers support heavyhanded regulations for grease collection. ‘We were against it,’ says Lyle Estill manager at Piedmont Biofuels in North Carolina. ‘The renderers were the ones who lobbied for that. You’re basically not going to be able to pick up grease in North Carolina if you’re not a large renderer.’ It’s true that large producers like Iowa’s Renewable Energy Group, Ontario’s Biox or Louisiana’s Dynamic Fuels buy

waste greases or animal fats already purified for biodiesel production by a renderer. There is, however, a legitimate network of small-scale, ‘community-based’ producers like Piedmont, that actually collect used cooking oil and process it. ‘We collect grease from anywhere: sometimes it’s free, and sometimes we pay up to $2.50 (€1.90) per gallon for it,’ Estill says. Grease, though, seems like a hard material to seamlessly turn into cash. So who is offering a quick sales outlet for grease bandits? Biofuels International sources say it is not biodiesel producers.

‘The rendering guys are taking every calorie they can get their hands on to make animal feed, so that is leading to the theft,’ Estill adds. ‘Renderers are buying it from anywhere and its them behind this new grease theft law. Now in North Carolina you have to have a license, marked trucks and $1 million in liability insurance to collect grease, so this is going to disrupt small-scale community-based biodiesel production here. Dave Kaluzny, director of Kaluzny Brother’s rendering service in Chicago, says that most of the grease bandits are using the material for

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biofuels feedstocks their own purposes and not reselling it. ‘Or they sell it to a second party,’ he says. ‘It’s a problem for everybody… they’ve caught several thieves here in the Chicago area.’ The razor-thin margins associated with biodiesel refining usually reward scale, but 75% of biodiesel refinery capacity is made up of players, like Piedmont Biodiesel, with less than 20 million gallons of capacity. Further, Jinming Liu, animal fats and renewable fuels market analyst for Ardour Capital, and other industry observers have said biodiesel produced from waste grease will have an advantage in the marketplace, one that continues to grow as regulations will remain prejudiced against food-based biofuels in Europe and the US. That means more big players coming into the market. In fact, Liu says, a period of consolidation in both the rendering and biodiesel industries - even an industry ‘shake-out’ - could be on the way. That would support prices as well as margins for larger players to grow their reach and become more efficient, but it could relegate the strong network of community-based biodiesel producers to a fringe status as more plants are bought up by Fortune 500 companies and more regulations are imposed upon grease collecting. That is exactly what Estill and Piedmont Biodiesel were against when they opposed legislating heavy-handed grease collection laws. Nevertheless, cooking oil, once the low-cost material that helped a whole industry of small producers to get their starts, is now becoming a driver in the growth of the corporate rendering business. Big player Biodiesel has become important to renderers and the two industries have formed a sort of

symbiotic relationship. Darling International, the US’ largest rendering firm for instance, has developed a project that will create a single demand destination for its own product. Diamond Green Diesel, the almost-complete renewable diesel plant in Louisiana, is the culmination of a joint-venture with Valero, and a major development in the biofuels recycling sector. No other biofuels are being made primarily from waste at this scale. But is the timing right? Diamond Green’s in-state competition, Dynamic Fuels in Louisiana, has had a go since it opened in 2010. The facility’s technology provider, Syntroleum, Oklahoma was

plant doesn’t work, then its core business is still intact. But I think this will be a year of growth at Darling and we will even see acquisitions of some smaller companies.’ The $250 million Diamond Green Diesel plant, located next to Valero’s St. Charles refinery in Louisiana, is scheduled to begin operation in Q1 2013. Each year the facility will take in approximately 11% of the waste fats and grease supply in the US and produce 137 million gallons of renewable diesel fuel. ‘The animal fats business is growing but it is growing very slowly,’ adds Liu. ‘So the total is a fixed number, it’s about 10 billion pounds.

75% of biodiesel refinery capacity is made up of players, with less than 20 million gallons of capacity delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and is in the midst of a worrisome dispute with major European competitor, Neste Oil. In addition, SEC filing and earnings reports said Syntroleum took over $21 million in equity-accounted losses at Dynamic Fuels, with the plant not operating anywhere near efficiency, consistently producing at only about 55% of capacity. Operating efficiency will also be the challenge at the new Valero/Darling plant Liu says: ‘There might be some short-term challenges because it could take some time to get the plant running at 100% capacity, but in the long run it will be very good.’ ‘Darling’s core business is animal fats so, if the biodiesel

It takes about 8.5 pounds of animal fats to make one gallon of biodiesel. So the renewable diesel plant will take over 1 billion pounds – they’re creating demand for their own product.’ Transport adds big-time costs to the bottom line of biodiesel production, so having direct access to a waterway cuts out shipping costs. Therefore, the Diamond Green, along with Dynamic Fuels and Kior’s Sapphire Energy projects, are all located along the Mississippi River in Louisiana. In addition, wastes from poultry processors have made the South an attractive place to locate large renewable diesel plants. ‘We know that chicken fat in the Southeast is one of

the lowest cost feedstocks out there,’ Clinning says, ‘But it would cost us too much to get it here.’ While many producers depend on virgin oils, more and more are starting to use at least a small percentage of animal fats because of the $0.10 per pound price advantage to soya. ‘A lot of plants are using some percentage of animal fats because of the price, but they are limited in how much they can use if they want to adhere to ASTM regulations,’ Liu says. ‘Cooking oil, on the other hand, has only been in fryers a couple of hours or days so it’s easier for biodiesel producers to use. But with the renewable diesel process, the FFA content doesn’t matter. That is an advantage for Diamond Green Diesel.’ Supply and demand The stories of Darling International, Biox and Syntroleum, feature all the highlights of 2012 – RIN and feedstock price dilemmas, volatile swings and the realtime impacts of attacks on the RFS. All suffered losses in 2012, but market fluctuations and politics were not as much of an obstacle as something simpler – weak demand. When theft starts to run rampant it can point to a supply shortage that is inflating prices. But other market conditions indicate this is anything but the case. RFS was fulfilled in nine months, RIN prices bottomed out and producers quit buying feedstock – the situation signaled ‘oversupply’ to investors – and over supply in a commodity market is never good. Add to that the fact that feeders slaughtered a lot of livestock so they wouldn’t have to feed them – that cuts the price of feed material. ‘The fundamentals of supply and demand will always cause the volatility and the challenges for these

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companies,’ Liu adds. ‘Corn and soyabean prices have been going down and that could continue – rendered products are always at a discount to those. Also, any arguments related to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) could have an adverse affect on the demand for rendered product.’ Yellow greases and animal fats are the primary materials that renderers supply to refineries for biodiesel production. ‘With respect to feedstock prices, yellow grease and edible corn oil, our target feedstocks, averaged $0.40 per pound for the first nine months of 2012 and $0.35 per pound from

October to now,’ Biox said in a third quarter earnings report. Soyabean price per pound in January hovered over the $0.50 mark. Biofuels International asked Biox and other sources if the lack of a futures contract made it hard to manage risk relating to swings in feedstock prices. ‘There are price reporting services that work pretty well and we talk to a lot of suppliers so we don’t think price transparency is a problem,’ Clinning says. The Jacobsen agricultural reporting service and the US Department of Agriculture both publish daily and weekly tallow and yellow grease prices respectively.

‘There is no futures contract, primarily because you can’t store animal fats and yellow greases the way you can store corn, soyabeans or even petroleum,’ Kaluzny says. ‘You’re not going to be able to store tallow or grease to hedge against volatility. And there are several price reporting services that work pretty good. There never has been a futures contract [in this sector] and we’ve got along fine without one.’ Yellow grease tracks the price of diesel fuel and virgin oils and contracts in those markets are what fuel makers must use to hedge their risks. For discovery

and other pricing efforts, Clinning says Biox has weekly meetings with vendors and looks for idiosyncratic buying opportunities. He further observed that biofuels managers who utilise multiple feedstocks are constantly monitoring the animal fat and waste grease markets, including production volumes as well as trading liquidity – just to decide when to buy oils and how much biodiesel to produce in a given cycle. ‘Feedstock price accounts for almost 70% of overall production costs. We’re always looking for low-cost feedstock, and the right time to sell our biodiesel,’ he concludes. l

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biofuels catalysts Research into biofuels not based around human foodstuffs, but rather start as wild grass or a by-product, requires special experimental tools which are a key part of the race towards renewable source fuels

Miniature reactor platforms for rapid development of catalytic biofuel processes


overnments around the world are encouraging the switch to renewable fuels, the socalled green alternative, by setting ambitious targets for the amount that should start from such sources. This has led to the well-publicised problems associated with potential human food shortages and rising food prices, as these sources are diverted towards biodiesel or bioethanol production. As a result of the alarm resulting from this, the focus is shifting now to second and even third generation (all non-food) sources of fuel. But converting these sources to biofuels is much more of a challenge and is the subject of much academic and industrial scientific research. The conversion processes that are emerging will most likely operate at elevated pressure (perhaps of the order of 100bar or more) and temperatures significantly above atmospheric with suitable metal catalyst to provide acceptable conversion rates and yields. Even under these process conditions, and with the right catalyst, it is difficult to drive the chemistry forward because the rate of reaction can be limited by the mixing

The HPCS is a parallel platform for heterogenous catalysis study

of different phases involved (typically liquid, gas and solid) and so the bottleneck to rate of conversion can be purely

mass transfer, i.e. mixing. As a consequence, research on chemistry of this type is challenging and requires small

reactors with special features in order to obtain meaningful data. In addition, the trend now is for chemists to run

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many experiments at the same time in order to study a range of different conditions or look at many different catalysts or feed materials. This is the objective of high throughput or parallel experimentation which reduces the time taken to generate useful data. The equipment required falls typically into two groups, depending on the objective of the research: 1) Screening devices, where large numbers of samples are tested but each one often at the same conditions and with very little control of individual conditions 2) Development (or optimisation) reactors, where the individual test samples are more precisely controlled and a better understanding of the chemistry is possible. The first step often involves stirred vials working at a very small scale (around 1ml) but in large numbers (typically 16-96) so that many different candidate reactions can be compared, with each sample at the same conditions of temperature and pressure. An example of such a device is the CAT-24, where 24 different samples can be studied at the same time. The test samples (solvent, reagent and catalyst) are added to vials each with a magnetic flea to provide mixing. The unit is then pressurised with gas, for example hydrogen if hydrogenation reactions are to be studied, before heating to the test temperature and stirring. Solvent loss from the vials and cross-contamination of chemicals is prevented by the inclusion of cold fingers which act as a reflux condenser for each vial. All the samples in CAT blocks are at the same temperature and pressure and nothing is individually monitored or controlled. The vials are sampled and product analysed after a defined period of time in order to determine the results and in this way promising reaction

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candidates can be identified. The next step in the research path after screening is to take the successful results forward and study them in more detail so that reaction time, yield and conversion can be more precisely determined and the conditions under which this occurs can be specified more accurately. A very useful platform for doing this is the High-Pressure Chemscan (HPCS). A typical version of the HPCS has eight reactors with sample volume ranging from 2 to 10ml, each reactor at potentially different pressure and temperature, and properly stirred by a

samples correctly end up at the same uptake (around 100ml). In this way, different pressures, temperatures, reagents and catalysts can be readily compared. Another aspect of process development and optimisation is scale-up, and this is critical for larger scale production. The objective is to confirm the robustness of the process and to verify, while still operating at a laboratory scale, that the results will be replicated when the chemistry is carried out at much larger volumes. In terms of laboratory testing, the required tools do not vary much compared with the HPCS, but normally the sample size ranges between

Figure 1: Typical results from HPCS showing gas consumed against time

mechanical agitator. Many relevant reactions involve the addition of a gas, for example hydrogen, oxygen or CO2 and this is consumed as the chemistry proceeds. To maintain the working pressure more gas is added under computer control and monitoring of consumption provides a very useful indication of reaction rate and progress of the chemistry. Some typical data is shown in Figure 1 where the same reaction is performed with three different loadings of catalyst. The reaction progress (expressed as volume of hydrogen uptake) is plotted as a function of time and shows how it varies with catalyst amount. All the

100 and 500ml and often the mixing is more precisely defined, possibly using similar stirrer types to those on the larger scale reactors. An example of a suitable system is the high pressure automate. This equipment can handle four reactors in parallel which can be at different conditions and different size reactors can be used even at the same time. Therefore some degree of scale up can be studied even at this small scale. HEL Group, a provider of research and pre-pilot scale chemical reactors and systems, has shown that the small scale reactors which are carefully designed, well controlled and fully monitored can replicate

performance over several orders of magnitude. When examining the time to complete the reaction as a function of catalyst amount (g in litre of substrate), HEL’s tests have shown that at the higher temperature of 60°C the data for 5 and 50ml reactors is shown to be independent of volume. At 40°C, data from 5 and 500ml reactors is presented; again, the results are independent of volume, suggesting that those results after scale-up to even larger sizes should be similar. It is interesting to note that for data from both temperatures, the reaction time falls rapidly initially as catalyst amount is increased, but then flattens off. At 60°C, little change (slow down) in reaction time is noticed after around 2g/litre of catalyst; at 40°C the flattening occurs at around 4-5g/litre of catalyst. The flattening of reaction time is an indication of the fact that the rate of reaction is being limited now by the mixing (mass transfer) and not the chemistry (kinetics). In other words, to reduce the reaction time further (make the conversion to product faster,) it would be necessary to improve the mixing between liquid, gas and solid materials in the reactors. The fact that the rate switches from being kinetic controlled (at lower catalyst amounts) to mass transfer controlled is also clear from the separation of the data at the two temperatures. The lines are quite separate and distinct at low catalyst amounts but then merge at higher amounts, showing that in the latter region, neither greater catalyst loading nor higher temperature, noticeably speeds up the reaction – the limit is elsewhere (namely in the mixing). l

For more information: This article was written by Jasbir Singh of HEL Ltd.,

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biofuels catalysts The conversion of biomass feedstocks into second generation biofuels presents many challenges both to process developers and producers. While technological progress has been recently achieved, we still await large-scale commercial deployment of advanced biofuel technology

Alternative catalytic solutions take centre stage


hanging regional energy landscapes and, in particular, the emergence of shale gas as the default energy security feedstock in North America are placing increasing emphasis on biofuel technologies that have the potential to be cost-competitive with conventional petroleum routes and other fossil fuels. As the product value for fuels is fixed, the attention of process developers has been on utilising lower cost feedstocks, including those traditionally classified as waste streams. The use of cheaper biomass feedstocks and waste streams, which are often accompanied by higher impurity levels, present additional purification and processing challenges such as the need for additional feedstock pre-treatment steps and the solving of catalyst deactivation issues. Catalysis is playing a leading role in addressing and solving these conversion and purification challenges. Biosyngas purification Thermochemical gasification is a process route comprising the application of heat under oxidising conditions (steam

Oak-derived syngas 100 90

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80 70 60 50 40 30 650

PGM typically 15 - 30x as active as Ni catalyst 700






Temperature ËšC JM, NREL - catalytic syngas purification from model biomass gasification streams, catalysis today (submitted for publication)

Figure 1: Comparison of nickel and PGM catalyst performance in biosyngas purification

and/or oxygen) to convert lignocellulosic biomass to syngas, from which power or useful chemicals and/or fuels can be derived. Gasification processes have to address the variety of potential feedstocks, ranging from wood to municipal solid waste (MSW), both in terms of elemental composition and physical nature. Biomass gasification

technologies are under development and can be categorised by operating temperature. Those that operate at high temperature generally produce a cleaner syngas (with less organic contamination) but entail higher equipment and operating costs. However, many developing gasification technologies are targeting operation at low temperatures.

This brings another technical challenge in that the product syngas contains organics, tars and high levels of methane. Tars are organic compounds, typically heavier than benzene. Their presence not only represents a loss of potential product, but also damages downstream purification and conversion catalysts, and can lead to fouling and

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effluent problems. Methane and light hydrocarbons in the product also represent a loss of efficiency and also need to be reformed into syngas to improve product yields. The production of biosyngas from low temperature gasification products requires the conversion of the tar compounds and light hydrocarbons. This is commonly called tar reforming. It presents unique challenges not seen elsewhere as, in addition to tar and methane, the syngas also contains contaminants from the biomass, which in turn affects the reforming catalyst. These include sulphur up to 100 ppmv in biosyngas derived from wood and much higher levels in other feeds such as MSW, phosphorus, light alkalis and fine particulates. The problems posed in handling these contaminants are the biggest technical hurdle that must be solved to enable the provision of pure, high quality syngas from biomass suitable for downstream conversion. Conventional nickel reforming catalysts are excellent for clean natural gas reforming but are significantly deactivated by sulphur, even at low temperatures, are less durable and have operational constraints. Johnson Matthey and its process licensing business Davy Process Technology are focused on developing thermochemical and chemical processes and catalysts for advanced biofuels, including gasification, biodiesel manufacture and triglyceride/ fatty acid upgrading. The company is working on alternative catalytic solutions and one effective catalyst, for example, is based on a supported platinum group metal (PGM) which can be operated at higher space velocities and at lower temperatures than nickel (see Figure 1). Over hundreds of hours of operation with real, wood-derived syngas,

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these catalysts have shown methane reforming rates that are stable with close to complete tar removal. Steam reforming is a strongly endothermic reaction, with the syngas needing to be heated or partially combusted with oxygen to provide the reaction heat necessary to achieve a high conversion of the residual methane. Operation of a PGM catalyst at lower temperatures is advantageous since less oxygen is required while more CO and H2 is available to make product. Biodiesel production technology Davy Process Technology’s biodiesel process takes fatty acids obtained from naturally derived oils and fats and produces biodiesel grade fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). The fatty acid and glycerol are obtained from the hydrolysis of the feed oils or fats. This use of hydrolysis, coupled with the process’s ability to convert a high free fatty acid containing feedstock, enable the conversion of second generation low value, high free fatty acid feed oils, such as rancid fats, used cooking oil and tallow, as well as traditional first generation edible oils. These second generation feedstocks have been traditionally considered as waste and therefore not used for fuel production as they contain high levels of free fatty acids which cause a problem for first generation biodiesel technology. The technology utilises a route which allows impurities to be removed prior to conversion of the oil, fat or grease to biodiesel. The fatty acid is esterified with methanol in Davy’s counter current esterification reactor at low pressure and temperature to produce high quality fatty acid methyl ester. The reaction is catalysed using a heterogeneous proprietary catalyst which is contained in the reaction system and

can be changed online without any downtime or reduction in process rates. The residual methanol is removed without requiring an additional distillation step to produce a methyl ester suitable for use as biodiesel. Endicott, Davy’s US licensee, has a licence to develop second generation biofuels for the US market and recently put into commercial operation its Port Arthur, Texas-based biorefinery. This plant utilises Davy’s biodiesel technology to produce biodiesel from second generation feedstocks containing high free fatty acids. It harnesses low cost materials that have not been previously viewed as viable for fuel production and reduces greenhouse gases by more than 75% as measured by its carbon intensity value, compared with diesel produced from crude oil. The core technology deployed has been in operation for over 14 years in seven commercial facilities producing methyl esters and natural detergent alcohols from primarily palm based feedstocks. Fatty acid upgrading In addition to their use as a feedstock for FAME production, triglycerides and fatty acids have attracted much interest as potential precursors for the manufacture of drop-in hydrocarbon fuels. In addition to the currently available sources such as edible oils and waste fatty acid feeds, the potential of advanced biotechnology to convert low value feeds (including carbon dioxide and methane) to

fatty acids offers future new routes to hydrocarbon fuels. The molecular structure of these fatty acids makes them an excellent starting point for long chain hydrocarbon fuels, in particular diesel. The unwanted oxygen within these molecules can be removed by a number of mechanisms. The choice of the appropriate catalyst and process conditions offers the potential to tailor both the hydrogen requirement of the process and the product distribution of the hydrocarbon product. A key challenge is to control the degree of branching, cyclisation and aromatisation in order to yield a range of hydrocarbon molecules for alternative uses, for example as components of aviation fuel. This could be achieved using conventional refinery catalysis following the deoxygenation step, but recent catalyst developments have shown the potential of bifunctional catalysts for the single step conversion of fatty acid feeds to these molecules. A key challenge to be met in fatty acid upgrading is the issue of catalyst deactivation. The combination of water, the acidic feed and impurities in the feed requires catalysts with low fouling rates and good acid resistance to achieve commercially viable operational lifetimes. There is scope for further catalyst and process development in this area, as well as across the broader field of biofuel production. l For more information: This article was written by Michael Watson, Jim Abbott, Andrew Steele and Andrew Heavers from Johnson Matthey Plc, and Ian Mitchell and Iain Gilmore from Davy Process Technology (part of Johnson Matthey). Visit

Deoxygenation pathways for a fatty acid feed Hydrodeoxygenation: CH3(CH2)14CO2H + 3 H2 → C16H34 + 2 H2O Decarbonylation: CH3(CH2)14CO2H + H2 → C15H32 + CO + H2O Decarboxylation: CH3(CH2)14CO2H

→ C15H32 + CO2

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biofuels glycerine purification Recent technology developments will allow process improvements to be introduced into the biofuels industry driving yield and plant profitability higher than the currently expected yield baseline results

Introducing the first commercial genetically enhanced yeasts


he industry has undergone unprecedented growth over the last five years. However with that growth came major questions in regards to using feedstock for fuel instead of feed. This myth is largely untrue but criticisms coupled with legislative pressure and uncontrollable weather conditions have brought this industry to a crossroads. The theory used to be to make as much alcohol as possible and not worry too much about the efficiency and yield. Now with the profitability and margins being tested at every turn, it is time for plants to look into various ways to maximise the system and to get as much yield out of feedstock as possible. One of the ways to look at the overall process is to determine which feedstock is needed to run efficiently and also to look at various parts of the production facility and see where improvements can be made. One of the most important areas is fermentation - this is the only area where the alcohol will be produced. It is clear to anyone involved in the production of ethanol that current high grain prices worldwide are creating a major issue in respect of profitability. What implication does this have on fermentation and the technology surrounding it?

the process performance. What negatively affects fermentation?

The value of percentage yield increase in a 100 million gallon plant

By definition, yield increase is ‘increasing the quantity of final product produced from the process without increasing the quantity of feedstock utilised.’ The increased revenue (or savings) from increasing yield directly impacts the bottom line of a production plant as no additional processing or fixed costs are required. There is a significant increase in bottom line benefits as modest yield improvements are made. Improving the fermentation process The process is already efficient and a controlled plant is capable of running at over 92% efficiency, this is a respectable number in any industry. The problem is more eliminating yield loss or improving cost efficiency rather than improving the basic process. Of course there

are always new technologies that look methods to increasing efficiency. A controlled plant will monitor its process through key performance indicators (KPI) and identify process variability or ‘lack of control’. There are a number of areas in a biofuels process that can be identified as negatively affecting the efficiency of the process. In simple terms there are three possible key areas of yield loss: 1. Fermentable sugars are not fully extracted from the grain (starch) 2. Fermentable sugars are not fully converted to alcohol 3. Alcohol is produced and then ‘lost’ post-fermentation Areas 1 and 3 are not directly related to fermentation and hence will not be discussed in this article. But the second area is absolutely key to improving

In simple terms, the yeast requires certain conditions to perform effectively. Basically there are only four situations that can create potential issues 1. The environment is lacking in a component 2. There is something present that is stressing the yeast 3. There is something present that is competing for the basic feedstock 4. There is a condition that is killing the yeast 1) Yeasts nutritional requirements There are many key nutrients that are critical to the yeast performance for many reasons, but there are also key aspects of the feedstock and process parameters that also fall into the ‘nutritional’ area. For instance, if the glucose level falls below 1% then this can naturally cause a stalling of the fermentation. In addition, the fermentation process is anaerobic and without the presence of free oxygen, components such as sterols and unsaturated fatty acids cannot be metabolised. Both these compounds provide components of a healthy yeast cell wall and membrane. A restriction of their availability will reduce the exponential

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Typical criteria for yeast nutritional requirements Category Carbohydrates

Description Glucose, maltose, maltotriose

Comments These are the only sugars the yeast can utilise listed in order of preference; without them fermentation and growth stops


Small chain peptides, amino acids, ammonia, urea

Amino acids are required to allow the yeast to produce proteins and enzymes and hence critical to growth and fermentation. The yeast can either take in these building blocks or assimilate them from a raw nitrogen source

Other major components

Phosphorus, sulphur and oxygen

Macro nutrients

Potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, chloride, magnesium and zinc

Most of these are present in grain mash, with slightly varying levels depending on the type of grain and environmental conditions during season

Micro Nutrients

Cobalt, boron, cadmium, chromium, iodine, molybdenum, nickel and vanadium

Most of these are present in grain mash, with slightly varying levels depending on the type of grain and environmental conditions during season


Biotin, pantothenic acid, Inositol, thiamin, nicotinic acid and pyridoxine

growth phase by restriction of the budding percentage. Due to the potential of mash components changing from week to week, through differing sources of grain, a number of the most consistently controlled production processes use a commercial yeast food to ensure that critical nutritional components are always present. Generally these products are cost-effective and are justified by the more consistent results. It is clear that in the respect of nitrogen, which after carbohydrates is considered the most important nutritional component, there is significant data to show the benefit of supplying suitable amino acids as opposed to relying on other chemicals such as ammonia or urea. Based on this a significant number of facilities will use a protease to supply amino acids and small di and tripeptides through the breakdown of proteins present in the mash. The end

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result is generally a spike in the metabolic activity of the yeast combined with a slightly lower requirement of other nitrogen sources. Please note that with certain proteases a slight yield improvement has been identified and is generally linked to the breakdown of the protein structure freeing up bound starch which can then be used either in the current fermenter or through the backset recycle in following fermentations. 2) ‘Something is stressing the yeast’ This can happen from a number of sources. Some of them include typical components from feedstock or its preparation, chemicals from processing/cleaning materials, byproducts from contaminants or products recycled from previous batches. In all of these cases the stressor exerts a negative effect on the yeast through chemical or metabolic impacts. The most common

of these are as follows: 1. Organic acids (lactic and acetic acids) produced by contaminating bacteria or wild yeasts 2. Sodium residue from cleaning cycles. In zero discharge plants, all waste caustic (sodium hydroxide) has to be returned to the process or removed off site through a high cost approved method. Of course there are a number of other components that can directly cause issues to the fermentation, but usually the high mash volumes and associated dilution in the fermentor can limit the effect. The organic acid issues are generally produced by the presence of Gram positive lactic acid bacteria (LAB). These organisms are prevalent in the environment and are difficult to eliminate from the process. A common methodology is to use a small maintenance dose of antibiotics in both the

propagation as well as the fermentation. The most common treatment is that of Virginiamycin, Penicillin or a blend of antibiotics. The aim here is to eliminate, or at least restrict, the growth cycle of the bacteria thus eliminating the production of the organic acids. The bacteria have a dual impact in as much that it impacts both situations 2 and 3. Initially the bacteria consume the same nutritional requirements as the yeast and this has a direct relationship to yield loss in the following ways: • For every molecule of lactic acid that is produced is a loss of one molecule of ethanol • For every 90g of lactic made, 46g of ethanol could have been made • Likewise from acetic acid, for every 60g of acetic acid made, 46g of ethanol could have been made. In addition, the stress impact of the presence of these organic acids is even more dramatic. In practical terms if the level of contamination of LAB is in the region of 106 cells per ml. it is reasonable to anticipate a reduction in alcohol production of up to 1-2% alcohol by weight of the final alcohol content at fermenter drop. In a 750,000 gallon fermentor this would equate to a loss of approximately $25,000 – $50,000 (€19,000-€37,000). Take this times the number of fermentors run and this loss adds up quickly. Other treatment options can include non-antibiotic options that allow microbial control and a potential premium in respect of DDGS pricing. Therefore multiple options are being explored to achieve this and the three most common choices are: 1. Hop acids – known to have a bacteriostatic effect is probably the most common Non-antibiotic option 2. Generated chlorine dioxide – a powerful reducing agent that will kill bacteria at levels

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biofuels fermentation as low as 2-5ppm but yeast can survive up to 50ppm without serious effect. The product has a very short half life and has very little residual effect, but very effective immediate kill 3. Stabilised chlorine dioxide – This utilises the same chemical as the generated version but relies on the pH drop caused by the production of organic acid to release the chlorine dioxide thus creating a kill of the bacteria. This product has a good kill effect later in the fermentation but has almost no immediate kill as the product has not been activated Lallemand Biofuels and Distilled Spirits has carried out testing on a prototype methodology to preactivate a stabilised chlorine dioxide solution to allow a very effective blend of options 2 and 3 giving a very effective immediate kill along with a good residual late fermentation effect. Initial testing indicates an effective control of bacteria in fermentation, along with the ability to reduce dosing levels once the system stabilises after the first 10-14 days of treatment. Based on this dosing reduction a cost benefit can be seen. Another thing that could stress yeast would be the level of sodium throughout fermentation. It has been seen that stresses are synergistic and in general times of high stress, physical parameters or chemical stress, the impact of sodium can be seen at much lower concentrations than in times of low stress. Generally it is accepted that sodium level between 800-2000 ppm can cause poor fermentations. The good thing in respect of sodium is that the vast majority of it originates from the use of caustic soda as a cleaning agent. Therefore good manufacturing practices and control can limit the sodium levels in the process.

3) ‘Something is killing the yeast’ In most cases, out of control physical parameters are more likely to kill the yeast than stressors which normally only inhibit the fermentation. The two main parameters that can cause major fermentation issues are temperature and pH. The temperature can have an impact on both the enzymatic breakdown and the yeast performance. Remember that enzymes and yeast are made of proteins and at higher temperatures, proteins can become denatured. This will affect this functionality of them and is some cases, the denaturing is irreversible. Although pH can affect the yeast, it is unlikely to kill it. However it can have a devastating effect on the enzymes. The yeast fermentation is an exothermic reaction generating heat, therefore good process control and heat exchange in the first 24 hours of fermentation, where the yeast is most active, is required. Most heat issues occur during this early period, and rapid response to issues is needed to avoid significant losses. Typical responses can include a re-pitching of yeast and potentially additional enzymes and nutrient package to restart a failed fermentation. So far we have addressed the potential for yield loss through fermentation management, but there are also options of ensuring the most effective choice of yeasts. Practically speaking the ability of the yeast to ferment sugars to alcohol is generic across all Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains including ordinary baking strains through to specialty distilling or wine yeasts. The use of specific distilling strains can significantly affect the efficiency of fermentations especially where differing feedstocks are being compared. For instance, where sugar

based fermentations are being compared to starch-based feedstocks, the fermentation and thus the available sugar profiles are different. The yeasts have a great preference for monosaccharides (glucose or fructose) over disaccharides (maltose) or trisaccharides and in starch-based fermentations this sugar profile is managed through enzyme optimization. In sugar-based fermentations, the mixture can contain significant levels of sucrose, the yeast produces an enzyme called invertase that splits the sucrose into glucose and fructose. Traditional thinking was that high invertase levels would result in good fermentations however work has demonstrated that although low invertase does not result in effective fermentations, mid-range invertase production produce the most effective sugar-based fermentations by reducing osmotic stress on the yeast through a slower release of monomers from the sucrose. Choosing the right yeast There are many varieties of yeast so therefore, the correct choice of yeast strain needs to be matched to fermentation conditions and feedstock choice. Some yeasts handle high stress conditions better than others, and some yeasts are better suited to specific substrates suchas starch vs. sugar. Recent developments in yeast technology have resulted in the first commercial genetically enhanced yeasts that create differentiated benefits compared to typical yeasts being used in the industry. The first version of this yeast, TransFerm 1.0, expresses its own glucoamylase (GA) supplementing the commercial enzymes added to the process. In commercial fermentations, this yeast has enabled reductions of GA of between 50-75%. This creates a significant cost benefit to a

plant. This yeast has regulatory compliance in the US through a Generally Recognised as Safe designation, as well as being listed in the definition of the Association of American Feed Control Officials for the inclusion of Distillers Dried Grains. The next version of the this yeast is expected to be released during 2013, and initial testing has shown in addition to glucoamylase reduction, a 3-4% yield improvement has been shown in both laboratory and pilot plant tests Looking forward to the next 18 months to 2 years developments, it is clear that technology is going to be developed and introduced to the industry that will drive yield potential beyond the currently expected norm. If the new yeasts can indeed demonstrate a 3 to 3.5% yield improvement this would create an overall benefit in excess of $8 million per annum for a 100 million gallon plant However in some regions of the world, yield is not always the key driver. For instance, in India, the high level of drought areas and limited water resources, increasing the fermentation and process efficiency to allow higher final alcohol content creates significant water utilisation. In one plant increasing the alcohol by 3-4% alcohol by volume resulted in the saving of 100,000 gallons of water per day. In addition most of the Indian plants are not zero discharge and this resulted in a corresponding reduction in effluent discharge per day matching the water savings. Therefore to conclude, significant process improvements can be achieved through good manufacturing practices covering 1. Hygienic control 2. Fermentation management 3. Yeast handling practices 4. Yeast strain selection. l For more information: This article was written by Chris Richards, Lallemand Biofuels and Distilled Spirits,

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Tips to remove bottlenecks


ith high feedstock prices in the US, high bagasse prices for steam in Brazil and low ethanol prices across the board, the ethanol industry is struggling to stay profitable. The market is not seeing major investments in plant capacity, but one way plants can improve their overall profitability, is to remove existing bottlenecks and reduce the operational costs of ethanol production. Through relatively low capital investments producers can boost production capacity and reduce steam – taking back more control of the profitability of their plant and mitigating external market factors. Reducing steam

The production of bioethanol takes place in several stages. The first involves crushing and fermenting the feedstock to generate a ‘beer’ with ethanol content of around 8-10%. To increase the ethanol content, the mixture is then distilled through to hydrous ethanol. This process consumes a significant proportion of steam but only achieves a physical purity limit of 9596% due to the formation of a low-boiling water-ethanol azeotrope. Hydrous ethanol is used as a product in certain markets but, in order to mix it with gasoline for use in combustion engines, more water needs to be removed. This is achieved through a dehydration process. Until recently, there were two major dehydrating techniques available to ethanol producers. The first, called extractive

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Whitefox dehydrating modules disrupt the status quo in ethanol production by offering higher energy/water efficiencies and opening up avenues for client profitability

distillation, involves the addition of a hazardous and pollutant chemical such as cyclohexane. The alternative more efficient approach is a technology using molecular sieve units (MSUs) which adsorb the water in the feed in ceramic beads. Both processes have a number of inefficiencies. Extractive distillation with cyclohexane is energy intensive (typically consuming 5kg steam/ litre of ethanol) and requires the use of hazardous chemicals. The technology is now only prevalent in Brazil, where historically steam was seen as ‘free’ due to the vast availability of bagasse and therefore energy efficiency was not a priority. Nowadays however, with the move towards capacity expansion and energy production as a revenue stream, all major plants are seeking to reduce energy consumption in the ethanol production process to use spare steam

for power cogeneration. MSUs operate in a cyclical adsorption/desorption mode that requires a number of recycle loops. The recycle stream in an MSU can equate to 15-20% of the anhydrous product of the entire plant capacity and is used to regenerate the water-saturated zeolite beads involved in dehydration. At the end of this process, the regeneration stream is enriched with water and needs to be passed back into the upstream distillation column. This recycle stream takes capacity in distillation and consumes steam in order to get the recycle stream up to the azeotrope before it goes back through the MSU. Moreover, to optimise the efficiency of the MSUs and cyclohexane distillation, fusel oil entrainments must be avoided. The fusel oils are therefore decanted from the ethanol mixture before dehydration, a process which requires large amounts of

water. It is also prone to frequent process upsets that can lead to lengthy interruptions of the ethanol production process. Until now, it was not considered possible to deal with these recycle streams in a different way and therefore, while they create bottlenecks, a producer would not necessarily be considering alternative ways of dealing with them. UK-based engineering group Whitefox Technologies disrupts this status quo by providing new membranebased solutions that work alongside existing technology (cyclohexane or MSUs) to improve the overall efficiency of the plant. Think membranes Membranes separate molecules using the principle of solution/diffusion across a semi-permeable layer, a process that is commonplace

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biofuels retrofit in nature. In addition, the technology does not require regeneration loops in the same way as ceramic beads do and circumvents the need for additional toxic chemicals. The process is also continuous. Since Whitefox employs membranes with a high tolerance to water, the dehydration process can begin at 75% ethanol purity – that is without having to reach the azeotrope. This flexibility opens up a number of solutions to retrofit existing facilities. Whitefox membranes can be used in tandem with MSUs. The membrane’s tolerance to fusel oils and to water-rich feeds of up to 75-80% ethanol can be exploited to reduce the load on decantation, upstream distillation and the MSUs. This makes increases in plant capacity possible, while also providing concurrent water/energy savings. In 2012 a North American company wanted to see if a retrofit could improve the returns of its corn-based ethanol plant by increasing its energy consumption. Whitefox

considered the existing production process, which was based on MSU dehydration. The plant had a reasonably large fusel oil decantation section and the recycle stream from the MSU took up capacity in the distillation sections. A two phase approach was proposed. The first phase involved installing a bank of membrane modules alongside the existing infrastructure and dehydrating the fusel oil stream directly rather than going through decantation – this removed a large volume of water, reduced steam consumption and would enable an increase of capacity by around 4%. The second phase was to take the regenerate stream from the MSU and dehydrate it directly through a bank of membrane modules, rather than sending this stream back to the distillation sections. This modification would increase capacity from 250,000 LPD to 315,000 LPD while also reducing the overall distillation/dehydration steam consumption from 2.64 kg/L of ethanol down to 2.54 kg/L

of ethanol. This increase in product output would enable the customer to increase its revenue per year by around $13 million (€10 million) per year (at $2.24/Gallon1). A key benefit of this approach is that the existing production output is not interrupted. A skid built system can be offsite, then connected to the fusel oil or MSU regen tank, minimising any disruption to existing operations. Creating new opportunities For Brazilian plants using cyclohexane, Whitefox efficiency brings steam consumption down from 5 kg/L of ethanol to 2.5 kg/L of ethanol produced. If a higher level of integration is introduced then the technology reduces the steam consumption further still to only 1.4 kg/L of ethanol. In addition to the immediate water and energy savings, this can also open up new avenues for client profitability, namely for cogeneration and selling excess electricity

to the national grid. Gillian Harrison, CEO of Whitefox Technologies, recalls a feasibility study for a sugar-based ethanol facility in Brazil in 2012: ‘Due to the high steam consumption of the azeotropic distillation, the ethanol plant had a deficit of about 20,000 tonnes of bagasse a year, which it had to buy to run its boilers. ‘Introducing our system alongside the existing distillation section instead of the cyclohexane column would cut the steam consumption by 50%: this would provide the plant with a surplus of almost 30,000 tons of bagasse. This producer could consider reducing their costs of buying bagasse or even consider producing more electricity from the surplus and increasing annual revenues by nearly $5 million (€3.8 million).’ l

For more information: 1 Ethanol price per gallon quoted from CBOT

Whitefox Technologies MSU retrofits recover fusel oil and regeneration streams

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Changing market circumstances lead to new challenges for existing biodiesel plants that were originally designed to process vegetable and waste oils

Keeping up with the times


iodiesel standards are becoming more stringent (prEN14214:2013) and at the same time feedstock qualities are getting worse (the FFA content in used cooking oils for example is above 10%, and sulfur in animal fats is up to 100ppm and above). Both factors have an negative impact on the production economics for many plants. Just over a year ago Austria-based BDI – BioEnergy International was contacted from such a biodiesel producer in southeast Europe. The plant was built in the middle of the last decade with German technology, and albeit fully operational, something needed to be done to address these future needs. First, a comprehensive project development phase took place. Within a plant inspection, BDI analysed the existing process, installed equipment and available production data. The intention was to use the existing, valuable resources as far as possible while inserting modifications only where necessary. Next, together with the customer different options regarding technology and capacity were evaluated in order to achieve the overall goals: • Exclusively operating the plant on used cooking oil and animal fats, • fulfilling EN14214, and • keeping the investment within limits of the scheduled budget.

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Based on these targets, the producer selected an upgrade with BDI’s advanced esterification and BDI’s ecodistillation. BDI’s esterification allows continuous processing of used cooking oils with highFFA content and guarantees the process will meet the input specification of the following existing transesterification. The eco-distillation as a finale purification step assures highest yields, maximum heat recovery and lowest operating costs. As a next step, BDI was engaged to carry out preengineering work. The battery limits were defined, the main equipment pre-designed, utilities configured and the precise arrangement of all

equipment within the given spatial conditions clarified. When retrofitting an existing plant, the process integration of new equipment is always the key factor for success. A chemical plant reacts sensitive if the overall chemistry is changed, plus a number of given side-constraints, like available space, process design need to be considered. A solution was worked out to recycle side streams in order to avoid waste streams while securing the functionality of the rest of the plant. Consequently, the design was not declared final before a well engineered and tailor made solution was found, addressing all of the customer’s needs. As a next

step all data for the permitting was worked out by BDI and the customer applied for all necessary approvals. In parallel an innovative financing solution was arranged. BDI’s experience together with valuable process guarantees were of great help in finding attractive finance conditions. BDI’s retrofit programme focuses on using as much of the existing equipment as possible and attention to details during the installation ensures plant downtimes are kept as low as possible. l

For more information: This article was written by Hermann Stockinger and Stefan Diviak at BDI – BioEnergy International,

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Renewable fuels company JatroFuels gives an insight into the current state of jatrophabased transport fuel

Jatropha: flying forward?

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better than, JP-8 or Jet A1 fuel. As a drop-in biofuel, it is fully compatible with conventional jet fuel and can be used within aircraft engine fuel systems or the fuel distribution network without any adaptation. Jatropha-based biokerosene has been certified in accordance with the ASTM International standards (ASTM D 7566) and the UK Defence Standardisation (DStan) which are binding for the application of a fuel within the international civil aviation sector. There is growing consensus that if significant emission reductions in the transport sector are to be achieved, biofuel technologies must become more efficient in terms of net lifecycle GHG emission reductions while at the same time being socially and environmentally sustainable. The length of the lifecycle consists of the raw material cultivation, seedling production and planting, plantation operation and management, fruit harvesting, separation of seeds from husks, the transportation of the raw material to the extraction facility (fuel plant), jatropha oil extraction and fuel production, conversion into Jet A1 fuel and its end-use in aircraft. The width of the lifecycle includes all essential activities, processes and material inputs which have a significant impact on the result. There are a large number of parameters to be

Source: JatroFuels


ecognising the challenges of sustainability, biodiversity and delicate ecosystems, it is important to differentiate between the various types of biofuels. There are huge differences concerning both the sustainability compliance and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potential of biofuels depending on the feedstock, cultivation method and other factors. Leaving aside the potential impact of land use change, the best options can reduce GHG emissions by between 70-100%. Advanced biofuels from jatropha hold considerable promise for eventually providing sustainable fuel types, with GHGs savings better than palm oil or sugarcane ethanol. Crude jatropha oil has less than 5% of the sulfur content of alternative biofuels, resulting in significant reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions – a major contributor to acid rain-related environmental impacts. From a purely technical perspective there are many biomass feedstocks that can be used to produce jet fuel, but jatropha has proven to be the most costeffective and sustainable feedstock. Jatropha oil is more advantageous along a number of parameters than other competing biooils like oil palm or soya. Bio-synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SPK) derived from jatropha has routinely performed as well as, or

Proof in the pudding: a scale model of the Airbus A321 which has flown over 1,000 times on jatropha-based kerosene

considered, both concerning the handling of input data and the calculation methodology. Expected seed and oil yields, required cultivation inputs and existing site conditions must be closely examined in assessing the sustainability of any proposed jatropha biofuel production project. GHG reduction potential Biojet fuel created from jatropha seeds has demonstrated in numerous flight operations that hydrotreated renewable jet fuel reduces carbon emissions (CO2) by up to 85% compared to conventional petroleum jet fuel. The decrease is attributed to the high cetane number and the presence of oxygen in the molecular structure of the jatropha fuel. It is fair to acknowledge that the positive effect on CO2 emission reduction alone translates into

significant GHG savings. All other things being equal, the magnitude of this GHG reduction alone justifies the gradual transition towards a green fuel blend in the aviation industry. Add to this the basically sulphur-free fuel properties and jatropha-based bio-kerosene demonstrates a better environmental performance than fossil fuel. Jatropha by-products When calculating the environmental performances of bioenergy crops and biofuels, the focus cannot be limited to the biofuel alone. Instead, the indirect environmental impact of all by-products needs to be calculated and included in any analysis. Along the lifecycle of jatropha oil and jatrophabased bio-kerosene, a number of by-products are generated. During the

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biofuels lifecycle analysis conversion to liquid biofuels, about 70% (by weight) of the jatropha fruit capsule emerge as residues. The featured table gives an overview of these by-products and their multiple potential uses. During the process of expelling oil from jatropha seeds, only 30% of the seeds (equaling 46% of the de-shelled seed kernels) is expelled oil. The remaining seed shells and cake contain minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, fibrous material (lignin), oil and various other molecules. The separation and/or extraction of these, and their subsequent treatments through thermal, chemical, catalytic, biochemical (enzymatic) and other methods, yield desirable value added products. Seedcake Jatropha seedcake (the residue after the oil is extracted from the seeds) is a rich organic source that can be applied as fertiliser. Depending on the geographic source of the oilcake Jatropha bio-fertiliser

can be made up of: • 5.0–6.5% nitrogen • 2.0–3.0% phosphorus pentoxide • 1.0–1.5% potassium oxide • 0.6–0.7% calcium oxide • 1.3–1.4% magnesium oxide

Recycling of jatropha residues will thus reduce the need for fertilisers which, in turn, will decrease the leakage of methane and nitrous oxide.

Due to the presence of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, the organic nutrient sources in seed cake are even higher than that of chicken or cow manure. Moreover, the seed cake still contains the compositions of primary and secondary elements required for plant growth. The use of seed cake as a natural organic fertiliser is well-known. The de-fatted seeds can be put to use in their raw form or by being processed to yield higher value chemicals and other materials. This reduces the need for chemical inputs, helping to lower the carbon footprint for growers, reducing impact on surrounding ecosystems and insulating growers from volatile petrochemical markets. The increased use of seedcake can replace much higher valued chemical fertilizer.

The fruit husks of jatropha have a high energy content (15MJ/kg) and heating value. The chemical composition of the husk (3.9% ash, 71% volatile matter and 24.9% fixed carbon) is similar to other biomass energy sources hence they can be converted into energy pellets for and used for direct combustion or co-firing. The fruit husks may also be dried, ground to a powder and formed into fuel briquettes. The proven calorific value of jatropha fruit husks justifies a market value of at least $100 per tonne. Alternatively, husks may also be used to complement chemical fertilisers.

as a combustible fuel. The calorific value of the seed shells is comparable to fuel wood (Prosopis juliflora) and considerably higher than rice husks (14MJ/kg), both of which are the main energy sources in rural areas. The chemical composition of jatropha shells suggests that it is a good feedstock for energetic conversion. Several conversion technologies have been studied using seed shells as an energy feedstock, including briquetting and direct combustion, pyrolysis and bio-methanation. The combustion of jatropha shells is possible without previous processing and so the fuel costs can be kept low. However, pelletising or briquetting will achieve a reduction of volume and a further increase of energy density. Related to the gross energy content, 2.1kg of shells is equivalent to 1kg of fossil oil. While this would justify a market value of at least $350 per tonne based on specific fuel densities and related energy unit conversions, a discounted seed shell value of $140 should allow for related conversion costs.

Fruit husks

Seed shells Jatropha seed shells have an even higher heating value (19.5MJ/kg) and greater bulk density which makes them more valuable

Jatropha by product commercialisation

Carbon sequestration

Energetic value and revenue potential per hectare Source: JatroFuels

At some point in this biofuel lifecycle, the CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere by the growth of the jatropha trees must be credited as a reduction in GHG emissions from the biodiesel system. Data that defines the rate at which jatropha plants sequester carbon are not well established. However, it is estimated that one hectare (ha) of jatropha cultivation could result in CO2 emission reductions of 10 tonnes per year. Accordingly, a commercial jatropha plantation of around 20,000 ha is estimated to generate about 600,000 tCO2e over the course of its lifetime for reforestation alone.

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Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC)

As the crucial definition of marginal depends on many qualifiers, a panel of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has identified two common threads that run through the definitions on marginal lands. Broadly defined, they are:


to displace 10% of all petroleum based Jet-A1 fuel in the aviation sector. However, in the absence of strictly enforced regulations preventing the use of currently cultivated lands for Jatropha plantations, the better economics of higher yields could induce some conversion of prime agricultural land to jatropha plantations. If this were to occur, then ILUC would become an issue of greater potential significance for altering the GHG benefits of jatropha bio-kerosene.

:J oF a tr


ue ls

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opportunities (spices, flowers, vegetables, special fibres).

ce ur

Another aspect to consider is the possible direct and indirect impacts on the change of land use due to the increased production of biofuels. Recent insights show that, for some biofuels, GHG emissions may increase rather than decrease when incorporating the ILUC effect. Most of the models predict a net increase of GHGs when incorporating the ILUC effect for biodiesel, especially as regards feedstock for first generation biofuels made from rapeseed, sunflower, soyabean, maize and palm. When ILUC is taken into account during feedstock sustainability evaluation neither European-based biofuel feedstock nor Malaysian or Indonesian palm oil will qualify as an eligible bio-kerosene base. Indirect (market-mediated) land-use change is not likely to be strongly linked to jatropha production, as long as previously abandoned agricultural, or otherwise degraded or marginal lands are considered as jatropha production zones. Land cover changes related to biofuel production create carbon debts which is carbon caused by conversion of arid and semi-arid lands to jatropha. It varies largely as a function of the biomass carbon stocks of the land use types in these regions. Based on global ecosystem carbon mapping, marginal areas show to have biomass carbon stocks of 4–8 t C ha−1 on average. Conversion of these lands might not cause a carbon debt, but still might have a negative impact on other sustainability dimensions like biodiversity or socio-economics. Terms which relate to marginal areas are frequently used interchangeably and often without definition. The difficulty in formulating a clear definition stems from the fact that productivity varies according

to the type of land use. A tract of land that is marginal for crop production may be well suited for grazing. The range of possible uses of land is so wide and socio-economic conditions are so diverse that no definition can encompass all the relevant factors. However, in order to ensure a common understanding, the general terms used in this project proposal are

The shells of jatropha seeds can be used as a bountiful by-product

briefly described below. Land can be marginal depending on: • Its use (what is marginal agricultural land may be highly productive forest land for example) • Its natural biophysical characteristics (which can be altered by investment) • Its location relative to infrastructure such as roads, railroads, harbours, and cities (a road into a region can completely alter the economic returns from land near the road) • The institutional and policy context which influences access of inhabitants to land, water, credit, markets, outside inputs (development of market access can completely alter the economics of land use) • Taking advantage of niche

1) A concern with poverty under the assumption that most of the rural poor live on marginal lands; thus a concern for marginal lands is a proxy concern with poverty alleviation for those who happen to live on the myriad forms of less favoured areas of the world 2) A concern with vulnerable and fragile lands and the problems of irreversible destruction or degradation of sensitive natural areas includes the problems of desertification, deterioration of mountain environments, the destruction of other natural environments such as mangroves and natural forests, plus pollution or destruction of biodiversity. The availability of these lands appears to be plentiful and nearly equal to that required to produce enough jatropha-based biodiesel

Jatropha-based bio-kerosene shows promise for achieving significant GHG emission reduction goals. The increasing focus on sustainability, related feedstock and biofuel lifecycle assessments will pave the way for the further rise and positioning of CJO as a future commodity. Palm oil as such, and in particular its usage in industrial applications and fuel chambers, is dropping more and more out of favour for lack of sustainability and insufficient fuel characteristics. As a consequence, the world market is anticipated to become increasingly dependent on crude jatropha oil for biodiesel and jet fuel production in the years ahead. Once fully commercialised, CJO is best positioned to take over the leading role inside the portfolio of advanced biofuels while most first generation biofuels, with the exception of sugarcane ethanol, will likely have a limited role in the future transportation fuel mix. A study by the IEA called Sustainable Production of Second-Generation Biofuels shows that by 2030 45-60% of the projected biofuel demand could be met from 10% of global agricultural and forestry residues using advanced biofuel technology. l For more information

This article was supplied by Christoph Weber, CEO of JatroFuels www. +49 6192 3092642

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biofuels oilseed extraction In today’s unpredictable and volatile marketplace, a flexible facility can avoid foreclosure and bankruptcy

Successful community oilseed project – key considerations


here is growing opportunity to successfully develop community-scale oilseed processing facilities to supply cost-effective feedstocks to the biofuel industry. There are a number of strengths that are found in well-designed and resilient community plants and, if these had to be summarised in a word, it would be flexibility. To be sustainable through market swings and instability, decentralised facilities can be designed to incorporate myriad processing and marketing options that span the entire range of the value added processes they operate in. Because of these market fluctuations and policy gaps, plants that want to stay in this industry long-term will need to utilise a diverse set of biomass and energy inputs that can supply vegetable oil-based products to numerous markets including renewable diesel, human food and animal feed markets. A community-scale oilseed expelling facility can be defined as one that could process up to about 100 tonnes per day of prepared biomass. While facilities larger than this can still leverage decentralised advantages and be considered ‘community-scale’, they must be carefully tailored to the available resources and markets to ensure sustainability in the hard times as well as the good. Another defining aspect of a

Solid shaft machines are easy to operate and can also be operated in a portable manner that brings the machine to the seeds

community-based facility is the opportunity for local ownership and investment. The one who owns the plant is the one that ultimately benefits the most. In the case of local ownership, the community model would ideally include ownership by local feedstock growers, animal feed consumers, fuel consumers and others who can benefit from being owners in the business and be directly involved. Local ownership makes a huge difference in terms of the economic development

footprint compared to a comparable facility that would have corporate and/ or distant ownership. The latter usually tends to bring in its own staff and use its own suppliers and contractors. In the US Midwest in general, economic development built around a decentralised sustainable biofuels industry in rural areas, where biomass energy abounds and jobs are scarce, would be a tremendous benefit. Flexibility, a paramount feature of the successful

community-based plant, should be integrated throughout the process from types of biomass that can be processed to the markets that the value added materials will be sold to. The unpredictable and volatile marketplace of today can turn a profitable enterprise into tomorrow’s foreclosure and bankruptcy unless the facility has both the knowledge base and infrastructure to quickly shift markets to one that would provide better returns for the materials.

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A market shift would typically appear when one item loses profitability but the facility is able to create another opportunity by switching operations to meet the requirements of a new, promising market. For example, a market drop in the value of vegetable oil sold to the biofuel industry could spell disaster for a large monolithic facility designed to make only one product. But an agile decentralised facility can shift processing steps around and access the other markets that would still be available if this oil could be refined and sold into food markets or converted into biodiesel directly, or if a cheaper feedstock could be accommodated into the raw materials. Having the ability to directly access a variety of biomass resources on the inputs and having products that can be sold into a variety of markets is the best insurance that can be taken out to ensure a facility keeps on running through periods of market and policy volatility. Being able to process the full spectrum of oilbearing biomass available in a particular area is as simple as including these considerations in the design of the seed pre-treatment section of the facility and installing the right equipment for the biomass most likely to be encountered in that area. It is here that the feedstock preparation and extraction technology selected for the facility can play a role. Generally speaking mechanical crushing of oil bearing seeds is the only cost-effective method of operating in the capacity range under consideration in this article. Chemical extraction on a small-scale is not cost-effective and gas extraction methods are only showing viability for high value materials at very small scales. Many variables must be deliberated when considering equipment to perform the

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The benefits of community-scale facilities • Utilise abandoned, under-utilised or otherwise debilitated agricultural processing facilities to house their oilseed processing facilities, utilising existing infrastructure and zoning while driving economic development in rural areas • Community scale oilseed processing facilities will promote development of specialty, organic and high value crops in rural areas. Flexible types of processing capabilities that accept a variety of seeds generally do not exist for people to take high value materials to for processing. • These facilities would have the opportunity to add further value to the processed oil through conversion to fuel or food grade oil through refining processes. The oilseed facility is also an excellent location to integrate algal oil production that utilises waste streams from the plant • In Nebraska, the production of oil through facilities such as this would support the decentralised production of renewable energy. Only a small fraction of the oilseeds grown in Nebraska is processed by such crushing facilities and 100% of liquid fuels are imported. • Because of commodity vegetable oil values and even higher values for specialty and organic oils, crush margins are volatile and diversifying market opportunities will be a key to future success. When properly established, these facilities could grow rapidly in any region where biomass feedstocks are available.

critical steps of the process including cost, manpower, ease of flexibility, variability, efficiency, expandability and maintenance. In some regions labour is not a big issue, in others it is. These variables must be taken into account in the context of the specific example being studied. Of the mechanical expelling technologies available, there are myriad choices but the most common type are the machines with larger sectional, horizontal screws of varying pitch surrounded by cage bars separated by spacers of a selected thickness to allow oil release when the oil bearing biomass is put under pressure in the cage. Chinese types are unique and not considered in the US as they are best suited for individual producers. Although the horizontal bar machines as invented and patented by Valerius Anderson in 1901 still dominate this industry, smaller, solid shaft machines can offer distinct advantages over these units. These solid shaft machines do not require the expertise of experienced operators to run efficiently like the horizontal bar machines do. In fact, these solid shaft machines are meant to operate without any supervision and boast much

greater efficiencies. Solid shaft machines, best exemplified by the Komet machine produced by IBG-Montforts, cost more per tonne of rated capacity but are often the most costeffective units when all things are considered, as they are able to properly develop the agile and sustainable plant meant to adjust to instability in the markets. US oilseed processing systems provider Nebraska Screw Press has often noted the importance of this step in eliminating the question of ‘What came first the chicken or the egg?’ In other words, the agricultural producer will not grow a potentially risky new crop unless he knows for sure there will be a local outlet for his seed and the seed processor is loathe to invest in a processing facility until he knows that the seed he needs will be planted. A community facility can directly address these issues and answer the question with ‘They were both created at the same time’. Locally-owned facilities are generally better capitalised and have less debt and interest on loans to keep the facility at risk. If lenders cannot be paid because of an unforeseen shift in the market, the facility will end up at auction for

pennies on the dollar. Nebraska Screw Press saw this play out between two facilities that were started in Nebraska in 2008. The smaller, locally-owned facility was much better able to survive the market conditions of 2008 than the larger, corporate facility. The large, inflexible facility sits idle after being sold off at auction and the smaller plant simply reorganised and is operating today using a different feedstock and serving a different market than what it was originally set out for, but the leadership, infrastructure and storage flexibility has kept it in the game. With the ever increasing cost of transportation, the community facility will be far less impacted than the large facilities that not only depend on large areas for their feedstocks, but are often dependent on distant markets with the resulting increase in costs for shipping. This factor will play a much larger role in the future and favour decentralised production that uses local materials to serve local markets. l For more information This article was written by Robert Byrnes, CEO of Nebraska Screw Press; +1 402 307 0280, rbyrnes@

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heading pre-treatment biofuels feedstock

Pretreatment of wheat straw using superheated steam


on-food feedstocks such as wood, straw and grass have obvious advantages. However they mainly contain lignocellulose, a complex of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, which makes traditional fermentation difficult. Most fermentation production strains require mono- or disaccharides as substrates, therefore cellulose and hemicellulose first should be hydrolysed. To improve the accessibility of these polysaccharides for hydrolysis catalysts, such as enzymes or acids, the lignocellulose is pretreated. In a pretreatment process the bonds between the three polymers are broken and cellulose is partly decrystallised. More than 10 different pretreatment methods are in development worldwide based on physical, physico-chemical, chemical or biological action, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Pretreatment by heating at low pH seems to be most popular. Under these

conditions the hemicellulose can be hydrolysed, which saves on catalyst addition in the subsequent hydrolysis operation. In the ‘dilute acid’ method acid is added to biomass and subsequently heated, plus in the ‘liquid hot water’ method biomass is heated and acidification takes place by the production of acetic acid as a result of the hydrolysis of hemicellulose. Steam explosion and the Organosolv process also use high temperatures and its performance can be improved by adding acid. In case heating is carried out by steam injection, in most applications such steam is stagnant and saturated. Challenges in pretreatment One of the problems, in particular when combining high temperatures and low pH, is the production of by-products resulting from degradation of xylose and glucose, e.g. furfural and 5-hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF), which are known to

inhibit microorganisms. Other challenges in pretreatment are: reaching higher dry matter concentrations, minimising reaction time, costs for heating and chemicals, maximising hydrolysis yield in the subsequent enzymatic hydrolysis stage and reducing enzyme costs. The use of superheated steam Higher dry matter concentrations in pretreatment reduces the heating costs and chemical costs (lower amounts of acid required to reach high acid concentrations) and may be beneficial in the fermentation and down stream processing (higher substrate and product concentrations). The Netherlands-based research organisation TNO is exploring the possibilities of pretreatment at higher dry matter concentrations, while minimising reaction time and temperature. For that purpose TNO uses dilute acid treatment in combination with continuously passing superheated steam

(SHS) through heaps of biomass. SHS is steam at a temperature higher than water’s boiling point. It is also called unsaturated steam or dry steam. It is possible to dry materials using SHS. At TNO experience was gained via food drying and food frying (with french fries) using SHS and lately the method was introduced in biomass pretreatment. When heating biomass using SHS, heat transfer occurs by convection instead of condensation. Therefore, the biomass is not further diluted, but concentrated during pretreatment, and as a consequence the catalyst (the acid) in peripheral zones of the biomass particles is not diluted. That is important when efficiencies near 100% must be reached. A continuous flow of superheated steam through the material is important as well: to keep the steam superheated and to distribute the hot steam evenly over the biomass material. The biomass should be dry enough to allow spaces between the biomass pieces.

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Pieces of straw and grass naturally act as spacers: these allow steam ventilation near to every piece of biomass. Pilot plant tests A pilot plant was used to test the performance at different reaction conditions. The test section of the pilot consisted of a stainless steel pressure vessel with an inner diameter of 480mm and an internal height of 800mm. Steam was obtained from an in-house 6 bara steam pipeline and superheated in an indirect electrical heater. The superheated steam flew downwards, once through the vessel, with no recirculation. It was shown that the temperature of the biomass reached its setpoint within 30 seconds, which is sufficiently fast when using reaction times of a few minutes. Cooling down took place by releasing the steam pressure and opening the reactor door. TNO tested wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse, corn stover and hard wood chips. The material was first soaked in a solution of dilute acid and subsequently drained by gravity: this yields 20-30 % biomass dry matter content. Higher concentrations could be attained by pressing, even to 60% dry matter. This material was transferred to the SHS reactor and then tested. One of the test was the accessibility of the cellulose and hemicellulose to hydrolytic enzymes. For this test an enzyme cocktail was used from Novozymes (NS50010, NS50013 and NS50030) in

Type of material

Glucose (g/g wheat straw DM)

Enzymatically hydrolysed original wheat straw


Enzymatically hydrolysed wheat straw soaked in 2% w/w H2SO4


Enzymatically hydrolysed acid soaked wheat straw steamed at 160°C for 3.5 minutes 0.33 Theoretical maximum amount of glucose that can be released from wheat straw

Table 1: Amount of glucose as monosaccharide in wheat straw after various process steps and subsequent enzymatic hydrolysis

mixture at pH 5 and 50°c that was incubated for a period of 72 hours. The sample were analysed on monosaccharides. Table 1 shows that hydrolytic enzymes release only small amounts of glucose from fresh wheat straw and acid soaked wheat straw. Only when acid-soaked wheat straw has been heated large amounts of glucose can be produced by the enzymes, indicating the improved accessibility of the cellulose for enzymes. Enzymes are required for such hydrolysis since after heat and acid pretreatment only 0.013 g glucose was released per g wheat straw dry matter. Hundreds of tests have been carried out with wheat straw at different reaction conditions. The set of experiments shown in Table 2 is most informative. By evaporation of water the final dry matter content can be increased to values between 30 and 60% w/w. The amount of water evaporation can be adjusted by the pressure. A flexibility in sulfuric acid concentration has been observed as well. The user can choose between less acid and longer reaction times or more acid and shorter times. The process can be carried out within a few minutes and a temperature

of 160°C: sufficient to make cellulose accessible for enzymes. Even a biomass concentration as high as 65% still yielded acceptable results. Hemicellulose already was hydrolysed during the pretreatment: xylose was found as a monomer at a yield of more than 90% of the theoretic value (the xylose amount contained in wheat straw). After SHS treatment 0.1mg HMF, 0.6mg furfural and 8.3mg acetic per gram of wheat straw dry matter was found, levels of inhibitors which will not cause problems in most fermentation processes. A few samples have been successfully subjected to ethanol fermentations using Saccharomyces cerevisiae which were carried out at a wheat straw dry matter concentration of 38%. Preparing for full scale The process can be carried out in processing equipment working with superheated steam. Superheated steam dryers are already on the market at the sizes required for lignocellulose biorefineries/cellulosic ethanol production, although they should be adapted to shorter residence times and higher

Temperature Reaction Sulphuric acid Final dry matter (°c) time (min) concentration content (%) (%)

Glucose produced after enzymatic hydrolysis (yield % of theoretical maximum)

165 15 0.4







1.5 1.5


3.5 2.0

190 180

3.5 2.0 1.5 2.0 3.5 2.0

28 44 49 65

84 92 81 81

Table 2: Overview performance: wheat straw soaked in dilute acid (20-24% DM), heated with 5.5-6 bara SHS

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pressures. This guarantees fast implementation. In such systems the continuous feed in and out of relatively dry pieces of biomass through the superheated steam process, against a pressure drop of 6 bara, must be realised; the inlet and outlet systems can build on proven technology for lower pressure differences. Energy consumption A provisional estimation of the energy required for a plant that produces 30 million litres of bioethanol per year: • 12.7 tonne wheat straw dry matter is required per hour • initial dry matter concentration: 30% w/w • final dry matter concentration: 37% w/w • a superheated steam unit is required with recirculating steam (a steam loop with a heater and fan) • it is estimated that 180°c and 5.5 bara steam is required to reach the desired evaporation • 6800 kW is required for heating from 10°c to 180°c of which 2300 kW can be recovered from flashing and reused • 3900 kW is required for the evaporation of water. This energy can be recovered in form of produced steam and is the amount required for ethanol distillation and rectification in the same plant • therefore, the nett energy consumed is 4500 kW, which is 8% of the higher heating value of the original wheat straw. l For more information: This article was written by Johan van Groenestijn, senior scientist at TNO,

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biofuels viscosity

Pumping and mixing the mash


eedstocks for biofuels, whether food-based or otherwise (grass/ straw and waste sludge-like materials), must be pumped and mixed during processing. Particulate material, sometimes fibrous in nature, populates the liquid mix with variable amounts of solid to liquid concentration. Understanding the flow behaviour of these mixtures is important, especially as the concentration of solids increases. Using a viscosity test as a benchmark method to categorise different formulations is one approach to consider. Pumping/mixing requirements must also take into account these variations in solids concentration and correctly determine the torque and power needed to drive the process equipment. Tests for yield stress and viscosity can provide relevant data for these calculations. Traditional methods for measuring viscosity, such as the rotational bench top viscometer with disc type spindle, will be useful for the liquid portion of the sample material. Vane spindles may provide a more effective method for making the viscosity and yield stress measurements on heterogeneous feedstock mixtures. Figure 1 shows the workhorse instrument used in the test lab (both R&D and QC) for conventional viscosity measurements. The rotational viscometer can handle homogenous liquids which may range well above 100,000 centipoise; in other words relatively ‘thick stuff’. The

Figure 1: Rotational viscometer with Brookfield disc type spindle

against the mixture that is outside the circumference shown in Figure 3. Therefore, the measured viscosity values are more realistic because they simulate what actually happens in the process where liquid and solid material move together. For best results, the vane spindle should rotate within a chamber that is slightly larger in diameter. Two important considerations in creating viscosity tests are to define the relevant shear rates and process temperatures. For example, the startup torque required for a pump that delivers an ambient temperature feedstock to a mixing tank will move material that is essentially at rest. Therefore a low shear rate, perhaps 1 reciprocal second, is the right choice. Once the pump is at full throttle delivering product at a steady volume flow, the shear rate could be two to three times higher, therefore between 100

spindle measures resistance to rotation when immersed in the liquid and converts the torque reading to a viscosity value. When particulates or fibres are added to the mixture, the rotational movement in the vicinity of the spindle is likely to capture the liquid portion, but perhaps not the solid material. This causes concern for the validity of the data generated from such a test. The vane spindle in Figure 2 offers an important alternative because it entraps liquid and solid material within the circumference of the circle that defines its geometry. As the liquid/solid mix rotates with Figure 2: Vane spindle for viscosity the spindle, it shears measurement of liquid/solid mixtures

Figure 3: Illustration of material movement with rotating vane spindle

and 1,000 reciprocal seconds. Once in the tank, the mixture may continue movement to some degree due to agitators. The second consideration is to simulate the process temperature. In some cases, the tank remains at ambient conditions, in others elevated temperatures may be required. Therefore, maintaining temperature of the test sample, while being mixed at a defined shear rate is an equally important control parameter in designing a meaningful test. Positioning the vane spindle in a chamber that contains the test sample and provides temperature control is the recommended approach. Figure 4 shows an apparatus with jacketed chamber that can heat the sample and maintain elevated temperature while the spindle rotates. An important consideration is to make sure that the solid materials remain suspended during the test. Running the spindle at high rotational speed before commencing the viscosity test is one way to make sure that this is the case. Once the appropriate test apparatus has been set up,

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viscosity measurements can be made on different mixtures with variable solid/ liquid ratios. Note that the viscosity behaviour of the mash is shear rate dependent. Anticipated behaviour is to observe high viscosity values at low shear rates and lower

viscosity values at higher shear rates. This type of flow curve is referred to as ‘pseudoplastic’ or ‘shear thinning’, which means that the mixture reduces in viscosity as it moves faster. Figure 5 illustrates the type of graph that test labs observe when measuring a pseudoplastic material. Processing the mash at elevated temperature will also influence the viscosity behaviour, perhaps causing an increase at first. Although higher temperatures will generally cause a liquid to become ‘thinner’, the effect at first can be just the opposite Figure 4: Jacketed chamber provides elevated depending on temperature control during viscosity test the nature of the

Figure 5: Pseudoplastic flow curve shows shear thinning viscosity behavior

feedstock and the process reaction of the solid material at high temperature. The viscosity test gives a clear picture of the transition that takes place and, in some cases, can also provide end point determination for the process. Although vane spindles have been used for years, they still await discovery by test labs that are wedded to long-established methods involving disc-type

spindles. Viscosity data is most meaningful when the test truly simulates the process and uses spindle geometry that can correctly handle the mixture. For biofuel feedstocks the vane spindle may well be the better alternative. l

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EU BC&E 2013

21st European Biomass Conference and Exhibition Setting the course for a biobased economy

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3 - 7 June 2013 3 - 6 June 2013

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Our fermentation experts offer custom made recommendations to adapt to your process, your needs & your economics. From the selection of the yeast strain to the definition of its format up to onsite training of your staff, Fermentis offers your ethanol plant a global fermentation approach to maximize your efficiency & profitability. For more information, visit or email

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Biofuels International  

Biofuels International is brought out 6 times a year and is the leading global publication in the market. Designed to appeal to those who wi...