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For a number of years, this (now old and outdated, but) very useful chart has been in circulation in energy circles, mapping the supply of energy to the world by looking not at prices, but at production costs.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...

The Green Plains Way

Jim Lane As the renewables industry searches for effective business models, a strong one emerges in its midst. We look at Green Plains (GPRE) and its businesses. A recurring theme among the 300+ delegates at ABLC Next this week in San Francisco is the recognition that successful companies change the world not science projects, or failed companies and that any route that leads across the Valley of Death to commercial success is the first step towards a sustainable economy, and that strong lead products are the oxen that get settlers across the desert. Renewable...

Ethanol Sector Consolidation or Salvation?

by Debra Fiakas CFA The drumbeat of deals in the ethanol industry is sounding louder, or so it seems from the proliferation of notices in my e-mail inbox.  I received no less than four messages in one morning from ethanol producer Green Plains, Inc. (GPRE: Nasdaq) heralding the purchase of the Hopewell Ethanol plant in Virginia from FutureFuel, Inc. (FF:  NYSE).  The acquisition represents the ninth transaction for Green Plains in the last five years, adding another 60 million gallons in annual production capacity to Green Plains’ existing total capacity of 1.02 billion gallons.   Indeed, Green...

Green Plains Bets on Ethanol Recovery

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week the Chief Executive Officer of Green Plains Renewable Energy, Inc. (GPRE:  Nasdaq), Todd Becker, revealed during conference calls following its quarter earnings report that the company has been in discussions to sell ethanol to industrial users in Mexico.  It is news that could be music to shareholders ears.  U.S. storage tanks are brim full of ethanol as producers like Green Plains stock pile inventories waiting for better selling prices.  Green Plains has made claims to Mexico sales before, but has never revealed customer names or volumes.  None were named...

Where Are The Cellulosic Ethanol Gallons?

Jim Lane  We've seen a number of high-profile cellulosic projects open in recent years, and not much ethanol being produced? Wondered why? Here are answers to your questions. As Jack Webb used to say on Dragnet, just the facts, ma’am. Fact one. There’s not much ethanol being produced at the new generation of cellulosic projects. Fact two. We have seen significant changes in senior leadership at a number of key developers. Industry rumor going around: Psst! These facts are linked! For sure, Dorio Giordano has been appointed CEO at Beta Renewables, Dan Cummings has been...

EPA Slashes Corn Ethanol Targets Under Proposed Renewable Fuel Standard

Renewable Diesel Takes Smaller Cut Jim Lane “EPA continues to assert authority under the general waiver provision to reduce biofuel volumes based on available infrastructure,” says BIO. “This is a point that will have to be litigated. It goes against Congressional intent.” In Washington, the EPA released its proposed standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016 and volumes for renewable fuels. The volumes, as widely expected, include substantial reductions from the statutory standards in the original 2007 Energy Independence & Security Act. The EPA also released a 2017 proposed standard for biomass-based diesel. Yet, while attracting significant...

Cosan’s Crush

by Debra Fiakas CFA Last week Cosan Limited (CZZ:  NYSE) revealed a decision to delay the spin-off and recapitalization of its natural gas distribution network, COMGAS.  Management cited unfavorable capital market decisions.  Cosan has a mix of businesses, of which we have been most interested in its Raisen Energia sugar cane agriculture and ethanol production.  Raisen is a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell that was initiated in 2011.  The operation squeezes over four million tons of sugar from cane grown in its fields and two billion liters of ethanol each year. The ethanol is sold through Shell’s...