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...

EPA Reneges on Trump’s Biofuels Deal

by Jim Lane “EPA Reneges on Trump’s Biofuels Deal”, said the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association in reacting to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s new plans for fulfilling federal renewable fuel requirements. EPA released a proposed supplemental rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard today, and the bioeconomy is up in arms, and the outrage is centered in farm country, once a Trump bastion of support. “IRFA members continue to stand by President Trump’s strong biofuels deal announced on Oct. 4, which was worked out with our elected champions and provided the necessary certainty that 15 billion gallons would mean 15 billion gallons, even after...

Green Plains’ Cattle Drive

As quickly as the ethanol producer jumped into the cattle business, Green Plains (GPRE:  Nasdaq) has sold off half of its Green Plains Cattle Company to a group of investment funds for $77 million.  Operating at six locations in Colorado, Kansas, Texas and Missouri, the company has the capacity to feed 355,000 head of cattle each year.  The cattle business contributed $271 million to total revenue in the most recently reported quarter ending June 2019, delivering a modest operating profit near $7.3 million. There has been considerable stress in the feed cattle industry.  The number of cattle in feedlots is down compared to last year, an unusual development...
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...
Mirai

Beyond ZEVs: The Negative Emission Vehicle

by Jim Lane Wandering the halls at the BIO World Congress and later to be seen again at ABLC NEXT this November, we ran across one of the most interesting technologies relating to ethanol production and markets we have seen in a month of Sundays, perhaps two months’ worth. The problem First, let’s revisit the problem. There’s simply too much ethanol being produced for the markets to absorb, given the Trump Administration’s massive cutbacks in US ethanol targets —In the resulting massively oversupplied market, the inevitable has happened, ethanol producers, growers and the Midwestern economies are being crushed. And they thought they...
yeast feast

Enzyme Breakthroughs From The Majors

by Jim Lane Three big product announcements just in… DSM (e) breaks through on yield, efficiency with new yeast, enzyme offerings for corn fiber conversion. Novozymes (Copenhagen:NZYM-B; OTC:NVZMY) launches breakthrough techs “Fortiva” and “Innova Force”. DuPont (DD) extends with corn oil extraction tech. In Indiana, DSM leads the news out of the Fuel Ethanol Workshops with their latest yeast and enzyme offerings, eBOOST GT and eBREAK 1000F. Up to 60 percent GA reduction We’ve seen the eBOOST brand over the past year — so here’s a significant cost savings opportunity in the form of a line extension. eBOOST GT, which has been tested and qualified at commercial...
ADM HQ

ADM Separates Ethanol Business

Prelude to a spin-off? by Jim Lane The Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) is breaking news of breaking off their ethanol unit…and a tumbling 40% decline in profit. In Chicago, Archer Daniels Midland Company reported their financial results for the quarter ended March 31, 2019, but most interesting to us, they are looking at separating their ethanol business with the option of spinning it off completely. They are also taking other actions to restructure and deal with challenges they say include weather issues and trade pressures. ADM announced a “series of measures to continue to underpin long-term-value creation” which included: “First, to meet growing customer...

Biofuels Industry Reacts To The New RVO Requirements

by Jim Lane What a whirlwind weekend after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced their final renewable volume obligations (RVO) under the Renewable Fuel Standard program for 2019. “It’s just numbers,” some say, but oh no, not in the biofuels world. It’s never just numbers. This time it’s about waivers, fixing the damage done, and ensuring a bright future for biofuels. It’s about hollow chocolate bunnies and two steps back for some. French mathematician Rene Descartes is best known for “I think, therefore I am,” but he also said “Perfect numbers, like perfect men, are rare.” So true in this case as not...
GasolineGate

Report Alleges EPA Tests Skewed Against Ethanol By Oil Industry Influence

by Jim Lane In Washington, researchers for a report published by the Urban Air Initiative contend that “technical data that shows the nation has been exposed to decades of flawed test fuels and flawed driving tests, which in turn means flawed emissions results and mileage claims”.  The complete Beyond a Reasonable Doubt series from UAI is available here. Further, EPA emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that, according to a report from Boyden Grey & Associates, the Agency appears to have directly solicited financial contributions and technical input, “especially on the fuel matrix,” from an oil industry controlled research organization. Of the...
fractionation of corn

Corn Fractionation Improving Ethanol Production

Ethanol and isobutanol producer Gevo, Inc. (GEVO:  Nasdaq) is installing equipment in its Luverne, Minnesota plant to improve efficiency in corn processing.  The company is leasing a proprietary corn fractionation or slicing process developed Shockwave, LLC based in DesMoines, Iowa.  The new equipment is intended to increase by-product output, including feed protein products and food-grade corn oil.  With sales of more valuable by-products Gevo expects to improve overall profit margins.  Shareholders can expect to see results after the first quarter 2019, when the equipment installation is expected to be complete. Shockwave keeps a low profile with no corporate website and no one to answer phone calls.  However,...
American Coalition for ethanol logo

US Ethanol Industry Upset With 2019 Renewable Fuel Standard Proposal

The 2019 proposed US Renewable Fuel Standard proposed volumes attracted a major raspberry from the ethanol industry. As the American Coalition for Ethanol noted: “Unfortunately, EPA continues to take actions which undermine the letter and spirit of the statute and harm the rural economy. While refiners are reporting double-digit profits, the heart of America is being left behind. Farmers are losing money while refiners have the best of both worlds: fat profit margins and minimal RFS compliance costs. EPA needs to discard its refiner-win-at-all-costs mentality and get the RFS back on track.” “While the proposed rule purports to maintain the 15-billion-gallon conventional...
Aemetis logo

Biofuels & Biobased Earnings Roundup: Aemetis

by Jim Lane The Top Line. In California, Aemetis (AMTX) reported that Q2 revenues increased $4.3 million and gross margins increased by $1.1 million compared to the second quarter of 2017. Similarly, during the first half of 2018, revenues increased $15.7 million and gross margins increased by $3.5 million compared to the first half of 2017. Revenues were $45.0 million for the second quarter of 2018 compared to $40.8 million for the second quarter of 2017, driven by an increase in ethanol sales volumes from 15.6 million gallons to 16.4 million gallons and by stronger wet distillers grain and glycerin demand and pricing. Operating loss...
cattle feeding

More Than Ethanol at Green Plains

Last week ethanol producer Green Plains (GPRE:  Nasdaq) reported financial results for the quarter ending June 2018.   As expected the company reported a net loss, but actual results were far better than expected.  The news gave traders a reason to celebrate with bids that led to a gap higher at the opening on the first day of trading following the announcement.  Cooler heads came into the market as the day wore on and the stock closed below the open on heavy volume. Nonetheless, the stock finished the week higher and appears prepared to challenge lines of volume-related price resistance in the trading sessions ahead.    There may...
corn pile

A Simple Fix To Farmer’s Tariff Woes?

by Jim Lane As most know by now, the US and China have fired opening salvos in a trade war, with the US targeting a range of commodities including steel and aluminum, and China retaliating with, to date, stiff tariffs on a range of agricultural products, but primarily hitting soybeans and corn because of the volume of trade in those agricultural goods. Overall, China imports $24 billion of agricultural goods from the US and is a leading export market for the US. The trade wars prompted North Dakota farmer Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association, to state: “Farmers are...
Refinery exemptions RFS

Did Trump’s EPA Cost Corn Growers $3.65 Billion In 2017?

by Jim LaneIn Washington, new evidence has appeared that a Trump Administration shift on US low carbon fuel policy may have cost US corn growers an estimated $3.65 billion. The mechanism? A secretive effort by Administration officials installed at the US Environmental Protection Agency that destroyed an estimated 1.37 billion gallons of annual demand for low-carbon renewable fuels, in favor of fossil fuels. Officials at the agency exploited a loophole in US low carbon fuel legislation that allows small oil refineries to gain hardship waivers in cases of severe distress from complying in full with US low carbon fuel laws.  Now, evidence...

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt Resigns

by Jim Lane In Washington, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned. US President Donald Trump announced the exit on Twitter, commenting, “President Donald Trump announced Pruitt’s exit, saying on Twitter “I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this.” Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler becomes acting administrator. The Digest’s Take Elsewhere in the media, it is widely reported that Pruitt was undone by a growing number of controversies and investigations relating to his conduct as EPA Administrator, particularly relating...