Gevo To Supply Lufhansa With Renewable Jet Fuel

Jim Lane   In Colorado, Gevo (GEVO) has entered into a heads of agreement with Lufthansa to supply Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet fuel from its first commercial hydrocarbon facility, intended to be built in Luverne, MN. The terms of the agreement contemplate Lufthansa purchasing up to 8 million gallons per year of ATJ from Gevo, or up to 40 million gallons over the 5 year life of the off-take agreement. Gevo utilized the enthusiasm generated in financial markets yesterday to raise $15.6M in cash and to convert $11M in debt to equity. What the deal means in the short term...

What I Sold: Pacific Ethanol (NASD:PEIX)

This entry continues a series on companies I sold as part of a portfolio cleanup prompted by the mess on Wall Street.  In the first entry I describe what I plan to do with the cash, and the second was about Carmanah Technologies.   UQM Technologies was one I didn't sell. In May of last year, I took a look at competitive forces in the corn ethanol industry.  While I was rather negative on the industry at the time, when ethanol stocks fell in the summer and fall of 2007, I called the bottom much too soon, and...

Novozymes Ignites Yeast Wars

Novozymes (Copenhagen:NZYM-B; OTC:NVZMY) moved into yeast this week with a new organism, Innova Drive. It’s saccharomyces cerevisae — the workhouse yeast that has been powering wine fermentation since the days of Noah and the Ark. But here’s a new strain engineered to cut fermentation times up to two hours, and yield boosts of up to two percent. A 2% yield increase and a 5% faster rate of production — let’s illustrate it — would mean something like 7.1 million gallons per year of more ethanol from the same standard 100 million gallon nameplate plant. Retailing at up to $10 million dollars, per year (yes,...

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...

KiOR and the Compression Spread

Jim Lane You’ve heard about the crack spread, and the crush spread as means to value oil refining and crop refining. Let’s think about biomass densification and compression, and in that context, a little about KiOR. You might have heard a little or a lot about KiOR, Inc. (Nasdaq: KIOR) which is currently commissioning its first commercial-scale (11 million gallon) biofuels plant in Columbus, Mississippi. Now, the oil industry might, via the American Petroleum Institute, be currently talking down the validity of the Renewable Fuel Standard but it is not entirely...

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...

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...

They’ll Put the Cellulose in Cellulosic Ethanol

One of the keys to staying ahead of the game in money management is lateral thinking.  I start with the trend, and then try to think of industries or companies that might benefit, but are not on everyone else's radar.  With Peak Oil-driven demand for biofuels, regular readers know that I consider the people who produce the feedstock (farmers, and industries whose waste can fairly easily be converted into biofuel) to be the most certain winners.  One direction this chain of logic has taken me is to forestry companies.  I'm far from a forestry analyst, so I decided to...

Cosan: No Haven for Ethanol Investors

by Debra Fiakas CFA The stark reality of basing their business model on a food commodity has been brought into sharp focus for ethanol producers.  The drought settling across the U.S. corn crop is helping drive up corn prices for hog producers, chicken farms and ethanol plants alike.  Investors who simply must have a position in ethanol might think the sugarcane-based ethanol producers could offer a safe haven against the supply and margin squeeze that is certain to hobble GreenPlains Renewable Energy (GPRE:  Nasdaq), Pacific Ethanol (PEIX:  Nasdaq) and Poet (private), among others relying on corn feedstock....

Rentech’s Wood Saw Hits a Knot

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week Rentech, Inc. (RTK:  NYSE) revealed plans to idle its wood pellet production facility in Wawa, Ontario Canada.  To operate efficiently the plant requires additional repairs and upgrades beyond the replacement of conveyors that was completed in Fall 2016.  Beside the fact that the additional repairs were not included in the regular capital budget, Rentech management has apparently determined the expenditure is not economic given profits from Wawa.  When Rentech reports financial results for the fourth quarter ending December 2016, shareholders will be treated to an asset impairment charge for the Wawa facility....

Current Structure of the US Ethanol Industry “Problematic”, Says the IMF

The International Monetary Fund released its Spring 2007 World Economic Forecast today. Fuel Vs. Food There is a short sub-section in Appendix 1.1 ("Recent Developments in Commodity Markets") that I thought might be worth sharing with you. If you download the PDF version of the report and scroll down to page 44, you will find the said sub-section under the heading "Food and Biofuels". In it, the IMF notes that food prices (as measured by its own food price index) rose by 10% in 2006, driven partly by a poor wheat crop in certain countries but...

Alternative Energy Companies Posting Large Returns

Alternative energy companies delivered compelling returns for investors.  A look at Crystal Equity Research’s ‘indices’ of renewable energy, conservation and environmentally-friendly technology companies found some exceptional price moves.  We review five companies here that have experienced top price moves from 52-week lows. Codexis, Inc. (CDXS:  Nasdaq) has gained 257% from its 52-week low. The company won a place in our Beach Boys group through development of proteins for a mix of applications from biocatalysts for industrial enzymes, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.  While the company has started generating revenue from its technology, it has yet to post a profit.  Codexis delivered a smaller than expected loss in the...

Fiberight: A Deep-Dive Into Trash To Find Cash

by Jim Lane. Biofuels Digest This week Fiberight secured $70 million for a municipal solid waste center that should be in operation by this May. The high-tech facility will convert 180,000 tons of trash each year from more than 100 Maine towns into biofuel at a 144,000-square-foot steel frame facility that began construction last July. We visually profile the technology and company in our Multi-Slide Guide here. The underlying facility is what’s known as a Dirty MRF, or materials recovery facility. That’s where the receiving happens and the sortation begins — and the process of recovering value back from the waste stream begins. The bottom line...
for and against oil refinery bailouts

Billionaire Bailouts v. Biofuels

Trump in a pickle: support his beleaguered EPA Administrator over oil refinery bailouts, or rally his Midwestern farm-state base? In Washington, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa tweeted: “I’ve supported Pruitt but if he pushes changes to RFS that permanently cut ethanol by billions of gallons he will have broken Trump promise & he should step down & let someone else do the job of implementing Trump agenda if he refuses.” Grassley explicitly called on Pruitt to back a key campaign pledge from 2016 that helped unlock farm state support and propel Trump into the White House. 1/19/16 Trump at IA Renewable fuels summit: EPA...

Gevo Restarts Production

Jim Lane As Gevo recommences the switchover to bio-based isobutanol at its first commercial plant, we look in-depth at 2012′s contamination issues and the prospects and path forward. In Colorado, Gevo, Inc. (NASD:GEVO) announced that it has resumed commercial production of isobutanol at its Luverne, Minn. plant in single train mode, successfully utilizing its proprietary Gevo Integrated Fermentation Technology (GIFT). “I am pleased to report that we have been successful in operating our full scale fermentation and our GIFT separation system that separates the isobutanol from the fermentation broth. This serves to further validate our...

The Dawn of the New Algae: cleaning up and enriching biofuels, with biofuels

Jim Lane Iowa algae and corn ethanol project points the way towards optimizing delivery of feed, fuel, carbon reduction. In our 10-part series, the Bioenergy Project of the Future, based on extensive interviews with industry leaders, we outlined what is expected to be the multi-product, multi-input structure of biofuels and biomaterials projects in the future. In step 1, we identified the acquisition of an existing first-generation ethanol plant as an appropriate base, because it had so many assets already in place, including a feedstock aggregation system, relations with growers and customers, rail lines, roads, water, power and so on. In...
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