An Insider’s Take on the Ethanol Industry

Biofuels: Panacea or Pandora's Box? Last night, I attended a talk in the Rocky Mountain Institute's "Quest for Solutions" lecture series titled "Biofuels: Panacea or Pandora's Box?"  We were told that a video of the event will soon be up on RMI's website.  Most of us were probably there to hear Amory Lovins speak, and no doubt most of the news coverage of the event will focus on him.  Amory is a visionary as well as an engaging speaker, and Tom Foust of the National Renewable Energy Lab helped shed light on the science of biofuels, but for stock...
ethanol ups and downs

Fortunately, Unfortunately: The Spring Saga of American Ethanol

by Jim Lane The ethanol signals from Washington DC are more inexplicably mixed than cocktails with names like Sex on the Beach. Let’s parse through the wigwagging over the future of American biofuels supply and demand — ethanol and otherwise. Fortunately: Trump backs year-round E15 ethanol blends In Washington, President Trump endorsed year-round E15 ethanol availability as an emerging compromise between oil refiners and US farm sector. The Renewable Fuel Standard is a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the United States to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. The RFS originated in a bi-partisan Congress with the Energy Policy Act...

Codexis: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Address: 200 Penobscot Drive Redwood City, CA 94063 Year founded 2002 Annual Revenues: $107 million (2010) Company description: Codexis serves major worldwide markets where clean technology can make a positive economic and environmental impact. Codexis CodeEvolver ™ directed evolution technology accelerates development of high value sustainable products. Our focus is on the cost-effective conversion of renewable resources into transportation fuels, pharmaceuticals and biobased chemicals, and on the development of new technologies for effective air and water treatment. Stock: CDXS; NasdaqGS Type of Technology(ies): Directed evolution – CodeEvolver™ directed evolution...

Are Ethanol Companies Risky Investments?

By Neal Dikeman, Partner, Jane Capital Partners LLC, and Founding Contributor, Cleantechblog.com. He has no investments in or financial incentive related to ethanol or ethanol stocks. Are ethanol stocks risky long-term investments? We think they are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of ethanol blended fuels for a whole host of reasons, I just don’t like ethanol as an investment. Here are six solid reasons to be very, very cautious. 1. Demand vs. supply – As with most regulatory driven markets, the demand has come on very fast behind the advent of renewable...
Steve Hartiq

North American Outlook on Biofuels Challenges and Opportunities

Challenges and Opportunities in Biofuels By Steve Hartig, Former VP of Technology Development at ICM The North American biofuels market can be split into three main segments all of which have major dynamics.  What I would like to do is give a high-level overview of what I see as some of both the challenges and opportunities across these. Ethanol which is a produced from corn and sorghum in about 200 plants mainly across the Midwest and blended at about 10% with gas.  Majors such as POET, Green Plains, Flint Hills, Valero, ADM and Cargill do a bit more than half of the 16...

No Eeyores for KiOR

Jim Lane Analysts are bullish as KiOR’s (KIOR) drop-in biofuels technology transitions to commercial phase – what factors are driving all the good vibes? There are a lot of Eeyores around the advanced biofuels space these days – well, around the United States and to a great extent the EU as a whole, really. Gloomy, pessimistic, chronically depressed. Investors have been, in a similar mood, hammering advanced biofuels and biobased material stocks – in some cases to within a few bucks of cash on hand. KiOR, by contrast, has been generally able to create and sustain its...

Will Petrosun’s Algae Biodiesel Grow on Investors?

by Tom Konrad Celluslosic Ethanol is all the rage.  A less noticed, but significant "Biofuel 2.0" is biofuel based on algae. Follow the Biomass As I have consistently argued (see these recent articles on John Deere, Biogas, Cellulosic Ethanol vs Biomass Electricity, and Renewable or Green Diesel)  the people most likely to make money from biofuel are not the processors and distributors (who compete directly with petroleum or other fossil fuel-based products, and so have little pricing power), but the producers of feedstock, which, like oil, is in very limited supply, and so they will have pricing power....

Biochar’s Likely Market Impacts

Biochar is still mostly a research and cottage industry, yet it has the potential to impact returns for a broad range of investors. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA Biochar, or amending soil with biomass-derived carbon, shows great potential to improve the productivity of soils, as well as to increase the utilization of fertilizers by plants, while sequestering carbon to reduce the drivers of climate change.  On August 10, I went to the 2009 North American Biochar Conference to look at the potential for investors.  Before I went, I took a look at the publicly traded companies...

Giant Appeals Court Victory For Biofuels

Jim Lane As DuPont’s (DD) Jan Koninckx put it in his understated way, July 28th was “a good day for biofuels.” But it was the biggest victory in the courts for biofuels, ever. Specifically, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of Americans for Clean Energy and other renewable fuels advocates, agreeing with the petitioners that the Environmental Protection Agency erred in how it interpreted and used the “inadequate domestic supply” waiver in the Renewable Fuel Standard law in setting low renewable fuel volumes for 2014-2016. In Americans for Clean Energy et al v. Environmental Protection...

Codexis and Shell Redraw the Advanced Biofuels Map

Jim Lane Codexis, Shell redefine relationship; Codexis gains global rights; will lay off 133 staff; adopts anti-takeover measures; what does it mean for Shell, Raizen, Iogen, Codexis and Dyadic? What does it say about strategic investors in advanced biofuels? In California, Codexis (CDXS) announced that Shell has granted Codexis a royalty-bearing, non-exclusive license to develop, manufacture, use and sell cellulase enzymes developed under the companies’ Amended and Restated Collaborative Research Agreement. The scope of the New Agreement is worldwide, except Brazil, for enzymes used in the biofuels field. Codexis already has exclusive rights to commercialize its cellulase enzymes...

EPA Slashes Corn Ethanol Targets Under Proposed Renewable Fuel Standard

Renewable Diesel Takes Smaller Cut Jim Lane “EPA continues to assert authority under the general waiver provision to reduce biofuel volumes based on available infrastructure,” says BIO. “This is a point that will have to be litigated. It goes against Congressional intent.” In Washington, the EPA released its proposed standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016 and volumes for renewable fuels. The volumes, as widely expected, include substantial reductions from the statutory standards in the original 2007 Energy Independence & Security Act. The EPA also released a 2017 proposed standard for biomass-based diesel. Yet, while attracting significant...

Gevo and Butamax Make Peace

Jim Lane In Delaware and Colorado, Gevo (GEVO) and Butamax have entered into worldwide patent cross-license and settlement agreements, ending a patent dispute related to technologies for the production of bio-based isobutanol. This settlement ends all of the lawsuits and creates a new relationship between the companies, aimed at leveraging each other’s strengths and accelerating development of competitive supply for bio-based isobutanol. The cross-license agreement grants both parties patent licenses to all fields for isobutanol and is structured to develop robust and sustainable isobutanol markets. The license will be royalty bearing for Butamax in certain fields...

The Hydrogen Problem

Jim Lane HydroMan may do his hydrogen-shift thing via water, at will – but outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have some hydrogen issues. Psst! Like cutting out a fossil hydrogen dependency for many biofuels. But, new pathways ensure that the status hydroquo may not last for long. A numbers of readers responding to “Biofuels from a raging fireball” (on research work with the raging fireball, Pyrococchus furiosus, to make biofuels and renewable chemicals from hydrogen gas and CO2) raised the question, where is all the hydrogen going to...
biofuel dispenser

Trump Takes Down Ethanol in Pincer Move

by Debra Fiakas, CFA The Trump Administration is using tariffs on China goods as a trade war tactic to pressure China into relenting to U.S. trade policy demands.  Unfortunately, the fallout has been heavy and widespread.  Farmers have taken the heaviest hits as China has dropped orders for corn and soybeans.  Ethanol producers have been ensnared in the trade war skirmish as well and in recent weeks have been caught an uncomfortable ‘pincer-like’ squeeze by the Trump Administration. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency has continued its practice of granting waivers to oil and gas refiners, eliminating the requirement to blend biofuel with the refiners’ petroleum...

Codexis, Shell to Part Company

Jim Lane Codexis expects to lose all of Shell funding, win freedom to operate globally (excepting Brazil). Pyrrhic victory or the necessary price of freedom? In California, Codexis (CDXS) announced that it expects to obtain rights from Shell to market its CodeXyme cellulase enzymes to other cellulosic biofuels developers, (excluding Brazil) and that Shell will discontinue its $60 million enzyme R&D program, which will result in the loss of 116 full-time jobs, or a third of the company’s staff. Raizen, the Shell-Cosan JV, will remain Codexis’ largest shareholder. Yesterday, as the company reported Q2 earnings, Codexis CEO John...

Solazyme: Return On Dream (and ROI Next Year)

Jim Lane   Signature AkzoNobel deal expansion highlights Solazyme’s Q2 results. But there’s something more to this company than the cash that sustains it, though sustain it cash does, and necessarily so. In California, Solazyme (SZYM) and AkzoNobel announced that they have expanded their multi-year agreement with supply terms targeting 10,000 MT annually of algal oils for a new proprietary surfactant and with funding for the joint-development. The parties said that they expect Solazyme’s algal oil to replace both petroleum- and palm oil-derived chemicals. Product development is expected to commence immediately, and the parties anticipate...
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