Solid Play in Solid Waste

by Debra Fiakas CFA The last article “Advanced Disposal Services:  Hauling a Heavy Load” on July 18th inspired a closer look at the solid waste management sector in which it competes.   The solid waste industry is growing at a good pace between 1.6% and 2.0% per year, largely on population growth and the human penchant for consumption and waste.  In the U.S. solid waste collection is still populated by many localized, family-owned businesses, despite the emergence of several large consolidators that now command as much as 55% of the revenue in waste handling and disposal.  Fragmentation creates...

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....

What Trump’s Victory Means For The Bioeconomy

Jim Lane In Washington, Donald Trump captured the US Presidency in an upset victory that confounded pollsters and political pundits even as it delighted supporters of his maverick candidacy based on themes of immigration and trade reform coupled with a message that government policies of the past generation had failed for too many Americans. An unexpected series of wins across US Midwestern states – capturing Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio which had gone for Obama in 2012 – provided a comfortable margin of victory in the Electoral College and the popular vote. 5 Themes Some immediate themes emerge...

Biochar and Activated Carbon Markets

Biochar and Activated Carbon Markets by Hugh McLaughlin, PhD., PE Biochar is an emerging market; growing rapidly, still in its infancy, but with gigaton market potential when we, as in humanity, start addressing the climate crisis. Activated carbons are a mature market of about one million tons annual production, which is growing slowly. They are basically like fraternal twins; they have a lot in common, they share the same world, and they are different. First, let’s explain the basic difference between THREE materials: activated carbon, charcoal and biochar. Activated carbon, also known as activated charcoal and several...

Darling Ingredients’ Bean Stalk

by Debra Fiakas CFA Once upon a time there was a boy named Jack, Who lived with his widowed mother On their small farm in the country. Benjamin Tabart, The History of Jack and the Bean Stalk Jack made a mistake or two on the road to fixing his family’s income problems, but in the end Jack’s bean deal prove lucrative.  We are wondering if Darling Ingredients' (DAR:  NYSE) acquisition of VION Group in early 2014, will prove as beneficial to the food by-products processor.  The VION operation was a division of VION Holdings N.V....

Shock Rise In Corn Production A Boon To Biofuel Producers

Jim Lane In grains, the big news has been the USDA prospective plantings report, which has corn up to 93 million acres in 2016, up 5 million over last year, and it was an unexpected gain given that stock levels of grain are high now. Big stocks plus a big planting equals even bigger ending stocks and prices have declined substantially for corn as a result, down 15 cents per bushel on the report. The USDA report? Officially, here’s what USDA had to say: Corn planted area for all purposes in 2016 is estimated at 93.6 million...

Darling Soldiers

by Debra Fiakas CFA This week Darling Ingredients (DAR:  NYSE) reported financial results for the quarter ending December 2015, demonstrating management’s collective ability to manage margins in a period of low inflation.  The fourth quarter 2015 top-line was $809.7 million, providing $84.4 million in net income or $0.52 per share.  Revenue was 19.1% lower than the same period last year, but net income increased by 20.7% year-over-year.  Weak commodity prices led to lower sales volumes and selling prices that translated into lower year-over-year revenue.  At the same time the commodity market compression also reduced raw materials...

The Great Algae Flour Fight: Solazyme Wins Again

Jim Lane After the bizarre attempted heist detailed in The Great Algae Robbery, Roquette tries the US courts but comes up short, in its quest to get a hold of Solazyme’s (SZYM) algae tech. On a slow news day just before Christmas, those of us on the industrial biotechnology beat have no need to stop by the firehouse to ask if there is a breaking story to report, because we always have the lively docket of Judge Sue Robinson, Federal District Judge for the District of Delaware. This Christmas she did not fail us, for in our Christmas news...

Enviva: Wood Pellets Into Dividends

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week Enviva Partners, LP (EVA:  NYSE) reported financial performance for its wood pellets business in its quarter ending September 2015.  Sales totaled a whopping $116.6 million, representing a 53% increase compared to $40.5 million in the same quarter last year.  The big jump in revenue resulted from higher volumes to larger customers.  Distributable cash flow totaled $12.6 million compared to $8.2 million in the year ago period.  Quarter performance made possible a declared cash distribution of $0.44 per common unit, which is 7% higher than the minimum quarterly distribution. At its...

King of the Cow Pats

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week Bion Environmental Technologies, Inc. (BNET: OTC/QB) announced that the company has applied for patent protection of a process to recover nitrogen from livestock waste.  The process yields a crystalline, water-soluble fertilizer product that is about 12% to 15% nitrogen.  Since the nitrogen is extracted from the livestock waste without the use of chemicals and leaves behind potentially toxic salts, metals and minerals, the company is also applying for certification as an organic material. The company believes there will be a strong demand in the agriculture sector for its products. ...

Ceres Focuses On Food & Feed After Bioenergy Disappoints

Jim Lane In California, Ceres (CERE) announced the a realignment of its business to focus on food and forage opportunities and biotechnology traits for sugarcane and other crops. As part of the realignment, the company will restructure its Brazilian seed operations and is exploring discussions with additional local partners and collaborators to support the continued development and commercialization of its technology in Brazil. Earlier, the Company announced that due to the economic challenges faced by the Brazilian ethanol industry as well as changes in the global energy market, it had expanded the number of market opportunities available for...

With Oil Price Drop, Ceres Looks To Food

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week Brazilian agriculture technology developer Ceres (CERE:  Nasdaq) made formal plans to shift its focus to seed traits and the food and feed markets and away from energy.  Ceres is not abandoning biofuels as such, but with oil prices at historic low levels, it is not economic enough to justify working capital not to mention new investments.   The company is restructuring operations and reducing personnel in both its U.S. and Brazilian operations.  Ceres management estimates the changes will save between $6 million and $8 million next year. The question investors need to...

Darling Ingredients: At the Margin

by Debra Fiakas CFA This week Darling Ingredients (DAR:  NYSE) reported earnings of $100,000 on net sales of $874.7 million in the first quarter ending March 2015.  Darling is a recycler of sorts, collecting by-products of the food production industry and recycling the left-overs and waste into proteins, fats and leathers.  Nothing goes to waste.  Every last chicken feather, hide, gallon of used cooking grease and cake crumb gets up-cycled to a usable material for feed, food, fuel or clothing.  Its customers include pet food producers, personal care manufacturers and textile users, among others. Darling used...

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.  ...

Earnings Round-Up: ADM, Green Plains, Syngenta

Jim Lane Green Plains In Nebraska, Green Plains (GPRE) announced net income for the quarter was $42.2 million compared to net income of $25.5 million for the same period in 2013. Revenues were $829.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to $712.9 million for the same period in 2013. Net income for the full year was $159.5 million compared to $43.4 million for the same period in 2013. Revenues were $3.2 billion for the full year of 2014 compared to $3.0 billion for the same period in 2013. Fourth quarter 2014 EBITDA was $90.7 million compared to...

Cellulosic Feedstock: The Gap Between Switchgrass And High Yield Corn

Jim Lane  As the first wave of cellulosic biorefineries launch is there really enough affordable feedstock for the next wave? Can growers make enough money to justify the switch…and risk? For several years, the questions that have perplexed actors in the advanced bioeconomy have revolved around policy stability and the effectiveness of the new technology: can new advanced fuels be affordably produced and will there be a market for them? Years ago, these were the same questions that were asked about petroleum. Today, when people talk about petroleum and long-term availability (when they choose not to...