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,...

A Decade Of Unexpected Curves In The Bioeconomy

By Jim Lane Over the years we’ve all seen a lot of curveballs in the advanced bioeconomy. You see companies like Valero, which lobby the United States Congress with unbridled intensity to get rid of the Renewable Fuel Standard, on the verge of becoming the single-biggest producer of RINs in the United States (with news that they might take capacity at Diamond Green Diesel up to 540 million gallons). You see companies like Solazyme which love the Renewable Fuel Standard and drive up to nearly a billion-dollar post-IPO valuation based on delivering fuels at volume, then announcing that there are even...

Green Plains to Adopt Syngenta’s Enogen Corn Ethanol Tech Across Fleet

by Jim LaneGood news arrives from Minnesota that Syngenta has partnered with Green Plains (GPRE) to expand its use of Enogen corn enzyme technology across GPRE’s 1.5 billion gallon production platform. The Enogen backstory Enogen corn enzyme technology is an in-seed innovation available exclusively from Syngenta and features the first biotech corn output trait designed specifically to enhance ethanol production. Using modern biotechnology to deliver best-in-class alpha amylase enzyme directly in the grain, Enogen corn eliminates the need to add liquid alpha amylase and creates a win-win-win scenario by adding value for ethanol plants, corn growers and rural communities. We reported in January that Syngenta had reached...

EPA’s 2018 Renewable Fuel Targets Disappoint Producers

In Washington, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final Renewable Fuel Standard renewable volume obligations for 2018. The agency finalized a total renewable fuel volume of 19.29 billion gallons , of which 4.29 BG is advanced biofuel, including 288 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel. As the Renewable Fuels Association explained: “That leaves a 15 BG requirement for conventional renewable fuels like corn ethanol, consistent with the levels envisioned by Congress in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. The 2018 total RFS volume finalized today represents a minor increase (10  million gallons) over the 2017 standards, and a modest increase...

DowDuPont To Exit Cellulosic Biofuels

by Jim Lane In Delaware, DowDuPont (DWDP) announced that it intends to sell its cellulosic biofuels business and its first commercial project, a 30 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. The Nevada project is still going through start-up. In an official statement, the company said: As part of DowDuPont’s intent to create a leading Specialty Products Company, we are making a strategic shift in how we participate in the cellulosic biofuels market. While we still believe in the future of cellulosic biofuels we have concluded it is in our long-term interest to find a strategic buyer for our...

Renewable Fuels’ Dunkirk

by Jim Lane It’s been a very busy week in Washington DC, the high point being a letter to seven senators sent late Thursday by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who took significant (and as of a few days ago, unexpected) steps toward strengthening the foundation for ethanol and renewable fuels. The truth? It’s a Trump Administration back-down. EPA overreached on de-clawing the Renewable Fuel Standard on behalf on some grumpy oilpatch donors (known as GODs), and the Trump Administration managed to revive a Grand Alliance around renewable fuels — one that now includes almost 40 members of the United States Senate,...

Ethanol Blends: High Octane, Low Carbon, High Controversy

by Jim Lane, Biofuels Digest For every ethanol blend everywhere these days, there seems to be a war on. A war in India over 22% blends. A war in Brazil over exactly what baseline blend ratio (somewhere int he 20s) is ideal. A war on in Europe to roll back first-gen ethanol to around 2% blending. A war in New South Wales, Australia over whether there should be any ethanol mandating at all. A war in the US as conservatives aim to haul belnding down to 9.7% while ethanol producers have clearly aimed at a 15% baseline blend. And so on and...

REX American: Culturally Frugal

by Debra Fiakas CFA Among the surviving public ethanol producers in the U.S. is REX American Resources (REX:  NYSE).  Based in Ohio, REX American is an ethanol fuel producer with owned nameplate capacity near 215 million gallons per year.  Additionally, the company distributes by-products of the ethanol production process, including distiller grains and non-food grade corn oil.  REX has full or partial ownership in six ethanol production plants located in the Ohio, South Dakota, Illinois and Minnesota. The company relies on corn feed stock for its dry milling ethanol production process.  Like any other ethanol...

Ethanol and Biodiesel: Production Cost and Profitability

For a number of years, this (now old and outdated, but) very useful chart has been in circulation in energy circles, mapping the supply of energy to the world by looking not at prices, but at production costs. For one thing, it goes a long way to explaining why the price of oil can tumble so quickly when there is a fall off in demand, and explains why OPEC is troubled by unconventional oil in a way it is not so bothered by other energy sources such as renewable fuels. Renewables not only have been traditionally at the...

Corn Ethanol Emissions Savings Skyrocket

Jim Lane In Washington, an explosive new peer-reviewed report from ICF found that greenhouse gas emission reductions from typical corn-based ethanol production have soared to 43 percent compared to 2005-era gasoline. The report projects that by 2022, corn-based ethanol will achieve a 50 percent reduction, and could reach “76 percent in 2022 if there is more widespread adoption of optimal crop production and biorefinery efficiency.” The report, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, based its revolutionary emissions math on a November 2014 study by researchers at Iowa State University, which found that farmers around the world have...

Why Only Ethanol?

Where are butanol and other substitutes for gasoline? Jim Lane A reader writes: I’d hoped that the biofuels crowd would have gotten beyond ethanol by now. The industry has made progress creating all kinds of specialty chemicals from renewable sources and more or less successfully brought them to market. There’s jet and diesel in commercial use whether or not they’re yet profitable. However they have made zero commercial progress on anything other than ethanol for gasoline. All the major advances have involved better and better ways to crank out ethanol. I don’t see the auto industry co-operating...

Green Plains Nabs 3 Ethanol Plants On The Cheap

Jim Lane In Nebraska, word has arrived from Green Plains (GPRE) that it will purchase the Madison, Ill., Mount Vernon, Ind. and York, Neb. ethanol facilities from Abengoa (ABGOY) Bioenergy with combined annual production capacity of 236 million gallons per year, for approximately $237 million in cash, plus certain working capital adjustments. The company said it was the successful bidder on three ethanol plants for sale conducted under the provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Upon completion of the acquisitions, Green Plains will own and operate 17 dry mill ethanol facilities with combined production capacity of nearly 1.5...

Tax On E85 Renewable Fuel Soars

Jim Lane The US passed a dubious and historic milestone this week. The tax rate on E85 renewable fuels now exceeds 100% in some formulations. By comparison, the tax rate on E10 renewable fuel is running at an estimated 41% and the tax rate on straight gasoline is running at an estimated 35%. As Shakespeare observed in Measure by Measure, “some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall”. Now, the idea of a carbon tax is that governments are supposed to collect more tax against high-carbon fuels. Yet, policy in practice works the other way. The less carbon...

Green Plains Primes The Pump

by Debra Fiakas CFA Ethanol producer Green Plains Renewable Energy, Inc. (GPRE:  Nasdaq) announced today plans to build a fuel terminal point in Beaumont, Texas.  The terminal will be located at a facility owned by Green Plains’ partner in the venture, Jefferson Gulf Coast Energy Partners.    It will be helpful to have a friend in the project that is expected to cost $55 million to complete just ethanol storage and throughput capacity.  Planned storage capacity is equivalent to 500,000 barrels, with the potential to expand to 1.0 million barrels.  Capacity to handle biofuels or other...

Aemetis acquires Edeniq for $23.7M

Jim Lane In California, Aemetis (AMTX) will acquire all of Edeniq’s outstanding shares in a stock plus cash merger transaction. In 2015, Edeniq generated approximately $20 million in revenue and $6 million in positive EBITDA. Headquartered in Visalia, California, Edeniq has 30 employees working at advanced research and development facilities, as well as pilot plants funded through grants from the DOE and the California Energy Commission. Under the terms of the agreement, Aemetis expects to issue between one and two million shares of its common stock (depending on whether Edeniq stockholders elect to receive part of their consideration...

EPA increases US Renewable Fuel Standard Volumes, But Only Slightly

Jim Lane In Washington, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard program today for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and final volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2014 to 2017. This rule finalizes higher volumes of renewable fuel than the levels EPA proposed in June, boosting renewable production and providing support for robust, achievable growth of the biofuels industry. “The biofuel industry is an incredible American success story, and the RFS program has been an important driver of that successcutting carbon pollution, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and sparking...