Synthetic Fuels and Drop-in Biofuels

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,...

Velocys Thinking Big with Microreactors

by Debra Fiakas CFA Keep the applause down!  Contain your enthusiasm for yet another biomass- or gas-to-liquids company.  Over the past several weeks I have written about a number of privately-held developers of one technology or another intended to produce a drop-in renewable fuel from biomass or natural gas.  There are more,  In this post we check in on Velocys (VCL:  London), which stands out from the rest as a public company.  No matter that it's technology looks like that of the very next renewable fuel company, it is accessible to minority investors. Until recently Velocys was...
oil price spurs biofuels

The Return of Advanced Biofuels

by Jim Lane For several years now we have seen a significant number of players pivoting from biofuels towards smaller but higher-value markets in chemicals, nutrition,  nutraceuticals, pharma, materials, flavorings, fragrances, cosmetics and more. We’ve reported on the proliferation of applications both in the Digest and in What’s Nuu? and indeed there’s been so much that’s Nuu, it’s been dizzying at times with all the spinning and twirling. Capital costs and policy uncertainty have played their part, but the foot on the pedal for many has been oil prices. The scale of operations to compete with oil prices in the 2014-2017 period...

Betting On Renewable Diesel: Valero or Darling?

Valero Energy (VLO:  NYSE) recently disclosed ongoing discussions to expand its renewable diesel production to a second plant that would be built and managed by its Diamond Green Diesel joint venture with Darling Ingredients (DAR:  NYSE).  The proposed plant that would be located in Port Arthur, Texas and turn out 400 million gallons of renewable diesel and 40 million gallons of naptha per year.  As a food by-products processor Darling has easy access to low-cost used cooking oils and animals fats that serves as the feed stock for Diamond Green’s renewable diesel production.  Valero management has cited increasing global demand for low- to no-carbon...
biodiesel operating margins

Renewable Energy Group’s New CEO: C.J. Warner

by Jim Lane In Iowa, white smoke has emerged from the Renewable Energy Group (REGI) conclave: Tesoro EVP and former Sapphire Energy CEO C.J. Warner has been named chief exec of Renewable Energy Group, at a pivotal moment for biodiesel in Washington and around the world and amidst a boom for renewable diesel like the world has never seen. REG has been making good progress with Wall Street under interim CEO Randy Howard and its share price has been on the rise, and the plants have been humming along nicely churning out hundreds of millions of gallons of biodiesel and the liquid gold...

Gevo Soars: The Story Behind the Rise

by Jim Lane What in the world has gone right with Gevo? For years now, Gevo (Nasdaq:GEVO) has remained true to a vision of low-carbon, advanced renewable fuels, when so many others pivoted away to the world of ABF — Anything But Fuels. Some tried chemicals, cannabis, algae, natural gas, nutraceuticals, vegan foods — lately, protein has been all the rage. Gevo was one of the few true believers and paid the price of stock price punishment and near-extinction, for years. While they weathered a debilitating patent battle with DuPont, until it settled and DuPont imploded. And the collapse of oil prices...

Milestone for Gas-to-Liquids Fuel Plant

Syntroleum Corp (SYNM) commemorated the successful production of more than 140,000 gallons of ultra-clean fuels at its gas-to-liquid (GTL) fuels plant at Port of Catoosa, Oklahoma. The plant also manufactured 60,000 gallons of additional products, such as syncrude. Gathered to mark the occasion were representatives from Syntroleum, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Marathon Oil Company and Integrated Concepts and Research Corporation (ICRC).

Rentech After Fischer-Tropsch

by Debra Fiakas CFA A long article appearing in early March 2014 on Biofuels Digest about Emerging Fuels Technology (EFT) gave me pause.  The article has since been removed from the site but it was an interesting primer on Oklahoma-based EFT’s use of the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert carbon-based feedstock to liquid fuel, otherwise called Gas-to-Liquids. While Emerging Fuels Technology has been listed in Crystal Equity Research’s Alternative Chemicals Group of the Beach Boys Index of companies trying to harness energy from the sun through biomas, I must admit the company had not been taken seriously.  ...
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...
lump of coal

Biofuel Industry Reacts To EPA New Renewable Fuel Standard

Yay or Nay for EPA? RFS Volumes out for 2020, Biodiesel for 2021 – What’s the reaction from industry? by Jim Lane What’s the reaction from industry? Coal for Christmas? Should Santa bring coal for EPA’s stocking this year? Do the biofuels and agriculture industries think the EPA just put coal in their stocking? Is it thumbs up or thumbs down from biofuel industry advocates on last week’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency renewable fuel volumes? What about the exempted volumes? The Ruling – Rotten or Respectable? First, a bit on the EPA ruling that establishes the required renewable volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for...

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....
butanol

Biofuels Rocking The Boats (and Ships)

Companies that rock the boat often end up leading the way for others. While some companies have paved the way for road transportation and others reached high in the sky for aviation, there are some big boats out there that are also looking for alternative renewable fuels. Here are some companies that are answering the call for the maritime and shipping sectors with viable biofuel alternatives, the technologies and innovations, the rough waves that still lie ahead, and how they can reach that destination on the horizon. Gevo and Butanol We start with Gevo (GEVO) and their butanol. Why butanol? It...
low-sulfur Diesel Crisis

The Low Sulfur Diesel Crisis of 2020 And How To Prevent It

“The global economy likely faces an economic crash of horrible proportions in 2020, not for want of a nail but want of low-sulfur diesel fuel,” writes renowned energy analyst Phil Verleger in a note this month titled “$200 Crude, the Economic Crisis of 2020, and Policies to Prevent Catastrophe”. Not good timing for a White House re-election effort if, as expected, the blame falls on lack of preparedness in the 2017-2020 run-up to the projected crisis.. It’s a dire scenario but there’s hard data behind it, and though few go as far as Verleger, almost every expert is warning of a...
rice straw

Making Cash From Rice Trash

by Jim Lane In our three-part series this month on utilizing waste resources, we’ll turn to rice straw, which is a major headache for Chinese and Indian emissions. Praj and Gevo are working hard on perfecting a technology to address this. Specifically, in the past month, Gevo (GEVO) also executed an agreement with Praj to develop jet fuel and isooctane from rice straw and other feedstocks. Gruber noted that “we believe this second-generation technology combination has great potential to address India’s rice straw burning problem and related air pollution, while generating low-carbon hydrocarbons for jet fuel and gasoline. Praj is a leader...

Aviation Biofuels: The Year of the Tree

by Jim Lane When the world’s leaders for sustainable aviation fuels have a general meeting the week before the COP24 global climate sessions (this year in Poland), you can bet that the focus will be breaking the “You Can Have Two out of Three Conundrum” of aviation fuels. Which is to say: affordable, available at scale, and sustainable, pick any two of the three. Fossil fuels are (usually) affordable and always available at scale. Sustainable jet fuels that are available at scale have generally not been affordable to date, and affordable sustainable fuels have been mostly explored at bench scale, so...
To Renewable Diesel

Conversions To Renewable Diesel

by Helena Tavares Kennedy The seasons are changing in many parts of the world right now, but what really is changing this autumn is how the world is looking at renewable diesel. Phillips 66 and REG’s announcement about a new renewable diesel plant on the U.S. West Coast planned for 2021 comes after a notable increase in refineries that are being converted and changed over to renewable diesel. Change is good, especially in this case. As Bob Dylan sang, “For the loser now, Will be later to win, For the times they are a-changin’.” And who knew he was singing about the RFS...
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