Lessons From Tesla: Building An Ethanol Market

Jim Lane  E85 ethanol? Been stuck with low sales for years – with producers pointing to “no market access”.  Yet, Tesla was faced with “no market access” and built its own market. What lessons can be learned? Last week, Tesla Motors (NASD:TSLA) announced the completion of its transcontinental US Supercharger Corridor, a network of stations that enable Model S owners to (somewhat) rapidly recharge their Teslas on a cross-country drove. And intrepid Tesla blgger Hamish McKenzie relayed the news last week that two Tesla Model S sedans completed a 76-hour coast-to-coast all-electric crossing. The news follows...

The Proof in Ceres’ Pudding

by Debra Fiakas CFA Judging by stock prices, investors have decided Ceres, Inc. (CERE:  Nasdaq) is the favorite horse in the cellulosic ethanol race  -  at least among those that have publicly traded stocks.  Ceres develops and sells sorghum, switch grass and miscanthus seeds to feedstock growers that supply cellulosic ethanol mills. The stock is selling for a buck and change, which is far more impressive that the stocks of most companies that could be included in the “cellulosic biofuel” sector. Ceres announced fiscal second quarter 2014 results at the beginning of this month.  The company...

Corn Ethanol On The Chopping Block: Can Green Plains Escape?

by Debra Fiakas CFA Legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate has put corn-based ethanol fuel on the chopping block.  The bill’s title says it all – Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2013.  Put into place in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard required refiners and blenders to use 16.6 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2013, of which approximately 13 billion gallons will be met through ethanol made from corn.  Support for the legislation is coming from all quarters.  It is not surprising that poultry, dairy and beef people would think this is a good idea,...

The Other Cellulosic Fuel

by Debra Fiakas CFA In an article posted in November I incorrectly named the product of Kior, Inc. (KIOR:  Nasdaq) as cellulosic ‘ethanol’.  Kior does indeed use cellulosic biomass -  wood chips to be exact  -  but the company’s catalytic pyrolysis technology turns out crude oil that can be further refined into gasoline or diesel.  Ethanol, on the other hand, is the product of a fermentation process.  There is nothing new about catalytic pyrolysis  -  superheating in a container with no oxygen.  Oil refiners have been fracturing large, complex hydrocarbons using heat and catalysts for...

Sweetwater and Pacific Ethanol Strike Supply Deal

Jim Lane In New York, Sweetwater Energy and Pacific Ethanol (PEIX) announced a project to supply customized industrial sugars for the production of cellulosic ethanol. The agreement supports the construction of a cellulosic biorefinery, contingent upon Sweetwater Energy obtaining the necessary financing and permits, at the Pacific Ethanol Stockton facility capable of producing up to 3.6 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually. Pacific Ethanol operates and manages four ethanol production facilities, which have a combined annual production capacity of 200 million gallons in Boardman, Oregon, Burley, Idaho and Stockton, California, and one idled facility is located in Madera, California....

Why Have Ceres’ Sorghum Plans Soured?

Jim Lane Sorghum Bicolor photo by Matt Lavin As Ceres points towards minimal plantings of its sweet sorghum hybrids in its key market of Brazil for next year, investors ask two questions. Will sweet sorghum realize its vast potential, and when? Just when many observers hoped that Ceres, Inc. (CERE) would dramatically expand hectares planted with its Blade hybrid sweet sorghum, the 2014 planting outlook was released last week and the total hectares crashed from 3000 in 2013 to 1000 in 2014. It’s a far cry...

Green Plains, Green Profits

by Debra Fiakas CFA Green Plains Renewable Energy, Inc. (GPRE:  Nasdaq) is one of the few U.S. ethanol producers to turn a consistent profit.  The company is half way through its fifth consecutive profitable year.  Sales in the most recently reported twelve months totaled $3.4 billion, on which the company earned $40.5 million in net income.  During this period Green Plains generated $100.0 million in operating cash flow. Tracing Green Plains profits requires a bit of effort by investors.  The company channels its products through a marketing and distribution division.  Thus while, ethanol production...

The Andersons: E14 Ethanol Blend

by Debra Fiakas CFA The Andersons (ANDE: Nasdaq) is not one of the first companies that comes to mind as an alternative energy company.  However, ANDE has been in the Ethanol Group in our Beach Boys Index for some time.  Ethanol is one of six revenue sources for The Andersons, contributing $743 million to the top line in the year 2012.  That represents about 14% of The Anderson’s total revenue base.  The company produces ethanol in four plants located in the Midwest with a production capacity of 330 million gallons per year. ...

California’s Other Ethanol Producers

by Debra Fiakas CFA In the last two posts Pacific Ethanol (PEIX:  Nasdaq) and Aemetis, Inc. (AMTX:  OTC/BB) got all the attention.  Both companies have crafted their facilities to accept lower-cost sorghum as an alternative feedstock, opening up the door to lower carbon intensity measures for their ethanol output.  There are other ethanol producers in the state, which we believe are still relying on corn as feedstock.  Which companies will remain in operation in California is not yet clear.  Standards sets by California Air Resources Board (CARB) for the carbon intensity of alternative fuels favors local producers and...

The Battle for California’s Ethanol Market

by Debra Fiakas CFA For all the fuss, investors might think California’s ethanol market is another Gold Rush.  The Midwest-based ethanol producers are up in arms over California’s attempt to set standards for renewable fuels sold in the state.  My recent post, describes legal maneuverings by South Dakota-based ethanol producer Poet, LLC and others to block a ‘carbon intensity’ standard imposed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).    Under the CARB standard the carbon intensity of alternative fuels includes elements for power and other inputs as well as transportation and distribution.  The formula CARB is...

Ethanol Producers Vs. California Air Resources Board

by Debra Fiakas CFA Sometime back Poet, LLC, the private producer of ethanol based in Sioux Falls, SD (my home state), filed a lawsuit against the State of California, strenuously objecting to rules related to ‘carbon intensity’ adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) When the dust settled, the California rules were still standing and Poet skulked off to the appeals court.  The appeal was filed this week in the California’s Fifth Appellate District in Fresno. Originally approved in 2009, California’s ‘low carbon fuel standard’ (LCFS) is aimed at sorting apples and oranges in the renewable...

Biobased and Biofuel Investments: A System

Jim Lane A Biofuels and Biobased investment primer: An 18-combination, 8-character system for classifying bio investments Here’s our investment primer on how to size up the risks and the rewards and tune them to meet your goals. And, a system for organizing opportunities. So, you’re thinking about investing in bio? Here’s the good news – you’re not alone. Here’s the bad news – you’re not alone. There are retail, private equity, hedge fund, sovereign wealth, strategic, grower, VC and institutional investors snooping around too, and making active investments. For one thing, carbon’s making a comeback as the...

The API Bushwhacks Ethanol

Jim Lane Who’s right, in the fight of their lives over E15 ethanol blending? Whose data’s a Looney Tune, whose is from the real-world? Yesterday the American Petroleum Institute, in an apparent impression of Yosemite Sam, held a press conference in DC to highlight a new report from the Coordinating Research Council on E15 ethanol blends. The report is here. The API: Blast your scuppers, now I gotcha, ya’ flea-ridden riff-raff! Use of the ethanol gasoline blend E15 may endanger fuel systems in millions of 2001 and newer vehicles,...

Eight Upsides of the New Ethanol

Jim Lane Eight technologies, seven public stocks – who’s adopting what, who’s in the lead? Perhaps you have written off ethanol as a bum investment. That’s understandable. Though, as a general rule, all acts of mind-closing should be made while chanting Michael Dell’s mantra from 1997, writing off Apple as a bum investment. It’s a good chant, you could try it. Here’s how it goes. “What would I do?” Hari Rama. “I’d shut it down.” Rama Krishna. “And give the money back”. Krishna Rama. “To the shareholders.” Rama Rama. Missing the biggest gold rush. Krishna Hari....

7 Bleeding-Edge Technologies Reinventing First-gen Ethanol Plants

Jim Lane The US Ethanol Fleet reinvents as super-advanced technologies target the old fleet for new purposes. Ethanol Plant Photo via BigStock For some time, perhaps one of the toughest assets to manage in the Western World possibly the Milky Way Galaxy or even the local galaxy group has been a starch ethanol plant. They’ve been through it all, just about. Food vs fuel, indirect land-use change, the ethanol blend wall, attacks on the RFS from cattle and dairy interests, attacked on ethanol tax credits,...

Dyadic: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Dyadic International, Inc. is a global biotechnology company that uses its patented and proprietary technologies to conduct research, development and commercial activities for the discovery, development, manufacture and sale of products and solutions for the bioenergy, industrial enzyme and biopharmaceutical industries. Address: 140 Intracoastal Pointe Drive Suite 404 Jupiter, Florida 33477 Year founded: 1979 Stock Ticker: Pink Sheets: DYAI Type of Technology(ies) Patented and proprietary C1 platform technology based on a unique fungal microorganism which is programmable and scalable in producing enzymes and proteins in large quantities ...