Forestry Stocks and ETFs: The Back Door to Cellulosic Biofuels Investing

Probably the safest way to invest in cellulosic biofuels is by investing in cellulosic feedstocks.  Two Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) make this easy and inexpensive, although three individual stocks give better exposure to just biomass. Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA It's the Biomass, Stupid! Although they have considerable political momentum, cellulosic ethanol and advanced biofuels are not the best way to use biomass in order to reduce carbon emissions.  Greater carbon reductions can be had at lower cost by cofiring the same biomass in existing coal plants.  If the goal is more ethanol to displace gasoline, wouldn't it make more...

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.  ...

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....

Solazyme: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Year founded: 2003 Annual Revenues: $38 billion (DuPont overall for 2011) $1.2 billon (Industrial Biosciences unit for 2011) Company description: Solazyme, Inc. is a renewable oil and bioproducts company that transforms a range of low-cost plant-based sugars into high-value oils. Headquartered in South San Francisco, Solazyme’s renewable products can replace or enhance oils derived from the world’s three existing sources – petroleum, plants and animal fats. Initially, Solazyme is focused on commercializing its products into three target markets: (1) fuels and chemicals, (2) nutrition and (3) skin and personal...

Bio-Power Shows Competitive Edge

David Appleyard   IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, has published a study on the costs of biomass power generation, concluding that the most competitive projects can generate electricity at a cost as low as US$0.06/kWh. Bio Power Plant With Storage Of Wooden Fuel photo via BigStock Around the world, large quantities of agricultural and forestry wastes go underutilised and the agency argues that using these wastes as a feedstock to provide power and heat can cost less than electricity from the...

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. based in the Netherlands that just like Darling collects...

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...
Topsoil lost in flood of the Guadalupe river,

Vagrants on the Earth: Implications of Topsoil Loss

“When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” -Genesis 4:12* In 1970, an agronomist named Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  He advocated hybridization of grains for higher crop yields, ushering in a new era of industrialized agriculture.  The Nobel Committee recognized Borlaug’s work as instrumental in saving a billion people from starvation.  Unfortunately, intensive farming that is part and parcel of the industry may be fostering an acceleration of another big problem. Unsolved it could leave humanity wandering like vagrants on the earth…with very empty bellies. Topsoil...

Ag Goddess Smiles Favorably on Ceres, Investors Frown

by Debra Fiakas CFA Recently, in compiling our lists of remarkable small-cap stock trades, I was surprised to find the shares of Ceres, Inc. (CERE:  Nasdaq) among stocks setting new 52-week lows.  Ceres has only been trading since its initial public offering in February 2012, when the company sold 5.0 million shares at $13.00 per share.  After a brief trade higher in the early spring, Ceres shares have been steadily losing ground, finally setting an all-time low of $6.02 last week. Named after the Greek Goddess of Agriculture, Ceres is a self-styled energy crop producer.  Ceres...

PetroAlgae’s IPO: The 10-Minute Version

Jim Lane Can PetroAlgae find a market for its feed among the aficionados of alfalfa and fishmeal, with fuels on the side? In its recent IPO revision, it says “sure can”. In Florida, PetroAlgae (PALG.PK) has filed a massive revision to its S-1 registration for a proposed initial public offering. The company is currently ranked #55th in the world among the Hottest Companies in Bioenergy. The rankings recognize innovation and achievement in fuels and are based on votes from a panel of invited international selectors, and votes from Digest subscribers. PetroAlgae, which in the year...

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...

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...

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...

$3 Billion For Cleantech & Alt Energy

Charles Morand The DOE made public earlier today the amount of money that will awarded to clean power projects in lieu of the usual tax breaks: $3 billion. This will allow project proponents to receive a direct cash grant now instead of a Production Tax Credit or an Investment Tax Credit later on. The guidance document notes the following: "Section 1603 of the Act’s tax title, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act, appropriates funds for payments to persons who place in service specified energy property during 2009 or 2010 or after 2010 if construction began...

Focus On Clean Power Income Trusts

Last week, Tom brought you a piece on the Algonquin Power Income Fund (AGQNF.PK), in which he opined that shift in investor attention away from capital gains toward yield might eventually provide a catalyst for the prices of yield-focused securities such as income trusts to rise. So-called utility trusts, or income trusts where the underlying corporation is engaged in utility activities such as power generation, are a common feature of the Canadian income trust sector (the mother of all income trust sectors). A sub-set of utility trusts is the clean power utility trust, where the power generation...

Ceres, Inc.: a 5-Minute Guide

Jim Lane Address: 1535 Rancho Conejo Blvd., Thousand Oaks, CA 91320 Founded: 1996 Annual Revenues: $6.6 million (Fiscal Year ended Aug. 31, 2011) Type of technology: Plant biotechnology, gene marker-assisted breeding and other genomics Fuel Type: Biomass is the common denominator to advanced biofuels, biopower and bioproducts and is independent of the end-fuel molecule. Major investors: Ceres is a public company. Its common stock trades on the Nasdaq Global Market under the ticker symbol CERE. Pre-IPO investors include Warburg Pincus, Soros Private Equity Partners, GIMV and Oppenheimer. Past milestones: Completed IPO...