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....

Velocys: A Key To Advanced Biofuels At Scale

Jim Lane Four new technologies approach scaled operations, all with one element in common – Velocys (VLS.L) technology on the back-end. Why Velocys, why now? The Digest investigates. In Oklahoma, Southeast Oregon, Eastern Ohio, and a site near London we’re about to see the commercial-scale debut of Velocys technology, a smaller scale gas-to-liquids processing technology that converts natural gas or biomass into premium liquid products, such as diesel and jet fuel. In this case, specifically designed for smaller scales, resulting in standardized modular plants that are economic, easier to ship and faster to install, at lower risk,...

Linc Energy: Making Synthetic Crude From Coal Downunderground

by Debra Fiakas CFA Gas-to-liquids is back on my radar screen after an article appearing in early March 2015 on Biofuels Digest described progress Emerging Fuels Technology (EFT) has made in perfecting the Fischer-Tropsch process to convert carbon-based feedstock to liquid fuel, otherwise called Gas-to-Liquids.  Fischer-Tropsch often referred to as FT for short is a series of chemical reactions to convert carbon monoxide and hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbons.  The reactions are triggered by a catalyst, usually cobalt or iron, and managed under high temperatures in a chamber or reactor.  Some might consider it a neat trick...

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.  ...

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...

REG Enters Renewable Diesel With Syntroleum Purchase

Jim Lane In Oklahoma, and Iowa, Renewable Energy Group (REG; NASD:REGI) announced that it would acquire substantially all of the assets of Syntroleum Corporation (NASD:SYNM), and assume substantially all of the material liabilities of Syntroleum, for 3,796,000 shares of REG common stock worth $40.08 million at today’s market close. The purchase price subject to reduction in the event that the aggregate market value of the REG common stock to be issued would exceed $49 million or if the cash transferred to REG is less than $3.2 million). “This will help us grow our advanced biofuel business, enhance our intellectual...

The Hydrogen Problem

Jim Lane HydroMan may do his hydrogen-shift thing via water, at will – but outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have some hydrogen issues. Psst! Like cutting out a fossil hydrogen dependency for many biofuels. But, new pathways ensure that the status hydroquo may not last for long. A numbers of readers responding to “Biofuels from a raging fireball” (on research work with the raging fireball, Pyrococchus furiosus, to make biofuels and renewable chemicals from hydrogen gas and CO2) raised the question, where is all the hydrogen going to...

Senator Inhofe: 9x Cost for Biofuels Is Too Much, but 29x Was OK for...

Jim Lane Arch-critic of the cost of military biofuels Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe comes under scrutiny over earmarks for natural gas-based military fuels that cost 29 times more than conventional fuels. In Washington, the battle over advanced military biofuels took a turn for the bizarre this week, amidst revelations that a leading Senate sponsor of legislation to restrict Navy purchases of advanced biofuels, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, had previously secured earmarks for Syntroleum Corporation (SYNM) to produce natural gas-to-liquid alternative fuels which were priced 29 times higher than conventional fuels. Overall, Syntroleum reported receiving nearly $6...

Rentech Retrenches

by Debra Fiakas CFA Clean energy solution provider Rentech, Inc. (RTK:  NYSE) is scheduled to report second quarter 2012 results the first week in August.  Usually the seasonally strong period, this year the June quarter has shareholders sweating.  That is because the warm weather conditions sent farmers out into fields earlier than usual to prepare fields.  Orders for fertilizer products from Rentech’s East Dubuque, Iowa facility were coming even before the end of the March quarter.  The net effect was to pull sales forward.  The question now is whether June will now present...

The Best Peak Oil Investments, Part VI: Barriers to Substitution

Tom Konrad CFA There are two types of solution to the liquid fuels scarcity caused by stagnating (and eventually falling) oil supplies combined with growing demand in emerging economies.  The most obvious is to find a substitute to replace oil.  These substitute have barriers to their use as a replacment petroleum based fuel.  Understanding those barriers also leads us to the investment opportunities that arise from these substitutes.  As I wrote the first five parts of this series, looking into potential substitutes for gasoline and diesel, it was clear that many potential substitutes would need...

The Best Peak Oil Investments, Part IV: Gas-, Biomass-, and Coal-to-Liquids

Tom Konrad CFA There are many proposed solutions to the liquid fuels scarcity caused be stagnating (and eventually falling) oil supplies combined with growing demand in emerging economies.  Some will be good investments, others won't.  Here is where I'm putting my money, and why.  This fourth part takes a look at the possibility of converting coal,  natural gas or Biomass into gasoline or diesel we can use in unmodified vehicles. In the first three parts of this series, I looked at various substitutes for oil based transportation fuels: Biofuels and Biochemicals Vehicle Electrification...

War With Iran? Buy Alternative Energy Stocks.

September is starting out as the month of speculation about a massive three day air strike on Iran.  Is Bush ready to attack Iran while our troops are still trying to stabilize both Afghanistan and Iraq?  In February, administration officials were denying it.   The preparations now going on could simply be the stick part of a negotiating strategy; the bad cop to Russia's good cop.  But Bush's chances of successful cooperation with Putin could be better. What if? If Bush does launch a massive three day air strike on Iran, what will that mean for alternative energy stocks?  I...

The Future of Alternative Fuels: Coal-to-Liquids

Last week I wrote a post about the future of ethanol. In it, I promised a sister piece on the future of coal-to-liquids (CTL). This comes a bit later than initially promised…I apologize to those who had been holding their breaths. I already wrote a post discussing the future of CTL not very long ago. I’m thus not going to repeat myself here, but rather supplement that post with some new info. CTL In The News As stated at the outset of the ethanol article, what drove me to write a series of posts on alternative...

The Future Should Be Bright for Coal-to-Liquids

You are at a cocktail party somewhere, and, after joining a random group of revelers, you utter the following words: “If I say alternative fuel, what’s the very first thing that comes to mind…don’t even think about it, just answer!��? If this fiesta was taking place last night, 9 folks out of 10 would have answered “ethanol��?. The remaining 10% would have probably made-up a mix-bag of “biodiesel��?, “hydrogen��?, and, in extremely rare cases, “synthetic fuels��?, also known as synfuels. Ten years from now, I bet you anything that far more than 10% of the general public will be...

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).