Archive for May, 2009

S.C. Passes Ethanol Law Challenged by Oil Companies

Posted on May 31, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Blender's Tax Credit | Tags: , , , , |

S.C. passes ethanol law challenged by oil companies

By Seanna Adcox, Associated Press Writer

USA Today

June 26, 2008

 

 

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina fuel distributors must have access to pure gasoline needed to make their own ethanol blends under a law that supporters say is first in the nation and will save customers at the pump.

Industry experts say other states could enact similar laws. More than a dozen states, largely in the South, will likely consider such legislation next year, said Daniel Gilligan, spokesman for Virginia-based Petroleum Marketers Association of America.

But oil companies moved quickly to stop it here and vow to do so elsewhere: They filed a lawsuit in the state’s Supreme Court on Thursday — one day after the measure became law — claiming it violates the state constitution.

Supporters say oil companies want to sell the gas pre-blended so they can keep federal ethanol credits, which can top 8 cents a gallon, and prevent competition from distributors who would pass some of those savings onto customers.

The new law requires oil companies to offer raw gasoline to South Carolina distributors so they can blend it themselves into E10, or 90% gasoline and 10% ethanol.

Distributors began pushing for the law after BP surprised them this spring with a letter denying them the ability to blend the product themselves. Other oil companies began to follow suit.

“What the oil companies attempted to do is a travesty to the consumers of South Carolina,” said Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, a former fuel distributor and gas station owner. “I have never seen such an unfair pricing strategy. By blending it and selling a blended product, they’re trying to take what should belong to the retailer.”

Oil industry advocates deny the accusations and say the law will result in higher gas prices.

The lawsuit, filed by American Petroleum Institute and BP Products North America Inc., argues the law would prevent refiners from complying with federal law that requires annual increases in ethanol use from 9 billion gallons by the end of this year to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

The law “will likely require BP Products to change the manner in which it had planned to comply with federal mandates,” the company claims in the suit. Failure to meet the mandates could bring daily penalties of $32,500.

The suit asks the court to prevent the law from being enforced pending a decision.

“In light of the legal challenge, we won’t be offering unblended gasoline at our terminals and have no comment,” said BP spokesman Scott Dean.

An executive for American Coalition for Ethanol agreed suppliers are under certain mandates but said that doesn’t mean they can completely shut out market competition.

Even before the tax credits, ethanol is cheaper per gallon than gasoline. But where oil companies have sold only pre-blended fuel, they’re not passing along the savings, said Ron Lamberty, a vice president of the South Dakota-based group.

“We want to stop the big oil takeover of ethanol,” Lamberty said. “We need an independent product to keep the refiners honest. If they buy ethanol and overcharge, it hurts our sales.”

Fuel suppliers contend South Carolina’s law is illegal because it was tacked on in late May to an unrelated bill establishing sales tax holidays.

Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell warned legislators as they overrode Gov. Mark Sanford’s veto Wednesday that it violated the single-subject rule and would end up in court. The state Supreme Court has previously struck down such “bobtailing” measures, most recently last week.

“This was the clearest example of bobtailing I’ve seen in 18 years here,” said Rep. Doug Jennings, D-Bennettsville.

Supporters of the law said they didn’t have time to get a separate bill through legislative committees after BP’s letter to distributors. If the state Supreme Court strikes the measure down, the distributors and retailers are ready for round two.

“We will have bill ready to go before the session opens in January,” said Sam Bell, president of Echols Oil Co. and the South Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association. “I hope the oil companies work with us over the next few months to come up with something that will work. That would be the smart thing.”

 

 

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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Why Big Oil Should Not be Allowed to Monopolize the Blender’s Tax Credit

Posted on May 31, 2009. Filed under: Blender's Tax Credit, Field-to-Pump, Hydrous Ethanol | Tags: , , , , |

Why Big Oil Should Not be Allowed to Monopolize the Blender’s Tax Credit

By Brian J. Donovan

Renergie

May 31, 2009

 

 

The issue is whether state legislatures should allow oil companies, or affiliates of oil companies, to have a monopoly on blending fuel ethanol with unblended gasoline.

The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 established the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (“VEETC”), also known as the “Blender’s Tax Credit.” Excise taxes on highway fuels have been a dedicated source of funding for the Federal Highway Trust Fund since its creation in 1956. The Federal Government levies a tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on domestic gasoline sales. The blender’s tax credit provides a credit against federal gasoline taxes that is worth 45 cents for every gallon of ethanol blended into the gasoline pool.

The excise tax credit is fully refundable. To receive a refund, a blender must first apply the excise tax credit against any excise tax liability for a particular taxable year. To the extent the blender has any excise tax credit remaining after applying the credit against its excise tax liability, the blender may request a refund of the excess credit or may apply the excess credit against its income tax liability.

It was never the legislative intent of the U.S. Congress, nor the intent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to allow oil companies to be the sole beneficiaries of the blender’s tax credit. Section 6426 of the Internal Revenue Code creates a credit against the excise tax on taxable fuels. The excise tax credit is generally available to any person that blends alcohol or biodiesel with taxable fuel in a mixture. To qualify for the credit, a qualifying mixture must either be sold by the producer to a buyer for use by the buyer as a fuel or be used as a fuel in the trade or business of the producer.

If U.S. ethanol producers are able to be blenders of fuel ethanol and unblended gasoline, and thereby receive the 45 cents-per-gallon tax credit, small-capacity ethanol producers would be able to enter the market. The result would be fair and healthy competition in the marketing of ethanol blends.

The benefits of allowing ethanol producers to blend and directly market ethanol blends to the consumer are the following:

(a) Rural economic development and job creation would be maximized. Increased investments in plants and equipment would stimulate the local economy by providing construction jobs initially and the chance for full-time employment after the plant is completed. On average, an ethanol plant supports 45 full-time jobs and nearly 700 jobs throughout the entire economy;

(b) The resulting increase in local and state tax revenues would provide funds for improvements to the community and to the region; and

(c) Federal and state renewable energy technology grants for ethanol would not be required. The blender’s tax credit and the market would reward the ethanol producer/blender.

In 2008, ExxonMobil reported the largest annual profit in U.S. history. ExxonMobil’s annual profit jumped 11%, or $5.2 billion, to $45.2 billion on the back of record oil prices. ExxonMobil returns most of its profit to shareholders, distributing about $40 billion in 2008 in the form of share buybacks and dividends. Chevron was also up more than $5 billion for the year, to $23.9 billion. A substantial portion of Chevron’s increase came in a fourth-quarter jump in its profits for refining and marketing of gasoline and other fuels.

Currently, oil companies are refusing to sell unblended gasoline to ethanol producers. The sole beneficiaries of the 45 cents-per-gallon blender’s tax credit are the oil companies, blenders affiliated with oil companies, and oil company shareholders. As a result, the farmers/landowners, ethanol producers and consumers never realize any benefit from the blender’s tax credit; rural economic development is ignored; and U.S. jobs are not created.

State legislatures should not permit only oil companies and their affiliates to blend and receive the 45 cents-per-gallon blender’s tax credit. This monopoly impairs fair and healthy competition in the marketing of ethanol blends. U.S. ethanol producers have the legal right, and must be assured the availability of unblended gasoline, to blend fuel ethanol and unblended gasoline to receive the blender’s tax credit and be cost-competitive.

Rural development and job creation, not the maximization of oil company annual profits, should be the focus of our state legislatures.

 

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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Getting Ethanol Right

Posted on May 24, 2009. Filed under: Blender's Tax Credit, Field-to-Pump, Hydrous Ethanol | Tags: , , , , |

Getting Ethanol Right

The New York Times

Editorial

May 24, 2009

Representative Collin Peterson is furious that the Environmental Protection Agency is doing its job. The Minnesota Democrat says the agency is trying to kill off the biofuels industry — to the dismay of the corn farmers and ethanol producers he represents. He has vowed to vote against any bill, including climate change legislation, that might require the involvement of the E.P.A.

What inspired this tirade was an E.P.A. draft proposal showing how it intended to measure the greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol and other renewable fuels. The agency said it will not make any final rules until it completes further research, but its preliminary findings were not flattering to corn ethanol.

The E.P.A. was only doing what Congress ordered in the 2007 energy bill, which required a quadrupling of annual ethanol production to 36 billion gallons by 2022. In practical terms, this meant more traditional corn ethanol, until other more advanced forms of ethanol could make their way out of the labs. Scientists believe that various grasses and scrub trees that do not compete with food crops can someday be turned into fuel.

Congress hoped the ethanol mandate would produce a more climate-friendly fuel that could help reduce oil imports. But just to make sure, it stipulated that ethanol from any source be cleaner than conventional gasoline. It handed the job of measuring emissions to the E.P.A., and told it to consider the fuel’s entire life cycle.

This included counting the greenhouse gases released when forests or grasslands are plowed under and planted to make up for the crops used to make ethanol. When the E.P.A.’s scientists counted these indirect effects, corn ethanol emitted more greenhouse gases than gasoline over a 30-year period.

The E.P.A. says its analysis needs refinement, and in any case the 2007 bill grandfathers in existing corn ethanol plants or those under construction. That means there will not be any reduction in corn ethanol production; indeed, there could be more. Mr. Peterson and his farm bill colleagues are still steamed, because any adverse finding diminishes corn ethanol’s appeal.

Lisa Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator, can expect heavy pressure in the months ahead. The ethanol industry and its Congressional champions will argue that the science is unclear, that indirect effects cannot be measured accurately, and so on.

Ms. Jackson should stand her ground. Biofuels have an important role to play, and some will eventually be produced without pushing up food prices or increasing emissions. It is the E.P.A.’s duty to give the most unbiased accounting it can of their strengths and defects.

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan and Mr. Michael J. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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Automakers Support Obama Administration’s Development of National Program for Reducing Carbon Emissions and Fuel Consumption

Posted on May 19, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Field-to-Pump, Hydrous Ethanol | Tags: , , , , |

Automakers Support Obama Administration’s Development of National Program for Reducing Carbon Emissions and Fuel Consumption

Green Car Congress

18 May 2009

 

The US auto industry, via the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is lining up to support a new national, harmonized program to reduce carbon emissions and fuel consumption that President Obama will announce on Tuesday, 19 May.

EPA and NHTSA will initiate a joint rulemaking that reflects a coordinated and harmonized approach to implementing the Clean Air Act and the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The rulemaking is expected to include several elements important to automakers, including:

  • Preserving Vehicle Diversity: Harmonized NHTSA and EPA standards would be attribute-based, or based on a vehicle’s footprint. This approach allows for a range of sizes of vehicles to meet consumer needs for passenger and cargo room.
  • Providing Certainty for Long-term Planning: Automakers would know what standards will be through 2016, which is critical in an industry where bringing a product to market typically takes 5-7 years. The National Program is intended to give automakers sufficient lead-time to incorporate technology as part of existing vehicle design schedules, so manufacturers would not have to incur added costs from redesigning all their models at one time.
  • Providing Flexibility in Achieving CO2-Reduction Goals: EPA and NHTSA would consider a range of compliance flexibility measures, such as earned credits, credit trading, air conditioning credits, and credits for using additional technologies that reduce carbon dioxide (CO2).

A national program is a priority to automakers because a national fuel economy program allows manufacturers to average sales nationwide, avoids conflicting standards from different regulatory agencies, and gives automakers much needed certainty for long-term product planning. (Earlier post.)

For seven long years, there has been a debate over whether states or the federal government should regulate autos. President Obama’s announcement ends that old debate by starting a federal rulemaking to set a National Program. What’s significant about the announcement is it launches a new beginning, an era of cooperation. The President has succeeded in bringing three regulatory bodies, 15 states, a dozen automakers and many environmental groups to the table. We’re all agreeing to work together on a National Program.

—Dave McCurdy, president and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers

In addition, said the Alliance, a national program delivers overall greenhouse gas reductions equal to or better than those that would be realized under separate programs by different regulatory bodies.

The debate over who sets CO2 and fuel economy standards for autos has been decided, but there is still more to talk about. We have the broad outlines of an agreement, but we will need to work closely with NHTSA, EPA and California in the rulemaking process to resolve multiple issues, trying to fit all the elements together into one program. There is a strong commitment from everyone to move past any hurdles that may arise as we work through differences in the way these two federal agencies set standards

We want to finalize a national program so we can move on to policy discussions on what the future of sustainable mobility looks like and how we can get there faster. Alliance members are supporting measures that reduce carbon dioxide even more, like low carbon fuels, advancements in battery technology and consumer incentives to get more advanced technology autos on our roads.

—Dave McCurdy

Autos represent 17% of all anthropogenic CO2 in the US, according to EPA.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is a trade association of 11 car and light truck manufacturers including BMW Group, Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

 

 

 

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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Thune: EPA rules may ‘kill’ ethanol in America

Posted on May 15, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Blender's Tax Credit, Field-to-Pump | Tags: , , , , |

Thune: EPA rules may ‘kill’ ethanol in America

Members of South Dakota’s congressional delegation on Wednesday lashed out at what they perceive as “questionable” and “ridiculous” land-use models that they feel could devastate the American biofuels industry.

By: Korrie Wenzel

The Daily Republic

May 14, 2009

 

Members of South Dakota’s congressional delegation on Wednesday lashed out at what they perceive as “questionable” and “ridiculous” land-use models that they feel could devastate the American biofuels industry.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, in a statement sent to the media, and Sen. John Thune, during a conference call, both derided an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to determine the carbon footprint left by the biofuels industry, and especially in relation to ethanol production. The delegates say the EPA’s proposed standards are based on unscientific, “indirect” uses and would create a much larger carbon footprint than the industry truly has.

If the standards are implemented, they both predict doom for the biofuels industry.

“These new EPA rules … would effectively kill renewable fuels in South Dakota and across the country because of environmental extremism within the EPA,” said Thune, a Republican who grew up in Murdo. “By destroying our biofuels industry, the EPA is undoing a great domestic energy achievement by ensuring our energy dependence on hostile regimes.”

As part of implementing the national Renewable Fuels Standard — which requires the use of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 — the EPA has issued a proposed rule that ethanol plants produce 20 percent less carbon than the gasoline industry. The problem, Thune and Herseth Sandlin said Wednesday, is that the EPA now wants to factor in not only the direct greenhouse gases that result from actual ethanol production, but also the impact of indirect land uses around the world that the EPA has linked to ethanol.

“That could include any changes for any reason that may not have anything to do with ethanol production,” Thune said. “For example, some ethanol detractors incorrectly feel that producing corn for ethanol results in less grain available to feed people and less grain for exports. They believe, then, that if another country tills additional land to raise corn for food, this is an indirect land use (related to ethanol) … and therefore should be calculated into the ethanol industry’s carbon footprint.”

By using such vast indirect land use calculations, Thune said the EPA has concluded that the carbon footprint of the corn ethanol industry is actually 5 percent higher than that of gasoline — not 20 percent lower, as required by the energy bill’s RFS.

Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat from Houghton, calls it a “controversial proposed rule” based on a “questionable model.”

“Simply put,” she said, “EPA’s proposal threatens the progress our nation has made over many years in advancing clean-burning, homegrown biofuels. The future of biofuels, and the many jobs the industry has created, is at stake.”

Thune called the EPA’s proposed standards “ridiculous measurements” based less on science and more on “science fiction.”

South Dakota’s ethanol industry has exploded in recent years. According to statistics from the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council’s Web site, more than 14,000 South Dakotans have invested in some form of ethanol production, and the state’s production is peaking toward 1 billion gallons per year.

Twelve production plants have opened throughout South Dakota, including one in the small town of Loomis, just outside of Mitchell. The Corn Utilization Council notes that the plants have produced approximately $400 million in capital investment for South Dakota.

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., said Wednesday that the first step should be to “get the science right.”

“There is widespread agreement on the need to measure the emissions of all types of fuels. That is the whole point of ethanol being marketed as a low-emission fuel,” Johnson said in a conference call Wednesday. “What I support is forming a panel of experts to review EPA’s initial assessments and make modifications to how the agency is calculating the emissions from international agriculture practices.”

In addition, the EPA recommends biodiesel plants must be 50 percent cleaner than the gasoline industry, which Thune says is unrealistic.

 

 

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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Ethanol Bankruptcy Filing a Blow to Biofuels Industry

Posted on May 12, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Blender's Tax Credit, Field-to-Pump | Tags: , , , , |

Ethanol bankruptcy filing a blow to biofuels industry
Bumpy road for ethanol
By BRETT CLANTON
Houston Chronicle
May 11, 2009

 

The bankruptcy filing last week by Texas’ largest ethanol producer deals yet another blow to the state’s struggling biofuels sector and is part of a broader industry downturn that analysts say may claim other victims before it is done.

Dallas-based White Energy said a Chapter 11 filing became necessary after high raw material costs coupled with low ethanol prices led to “minimal or nonexistent profit margins.” It also blamed significant debt payments and an inability to raise capital from frozen equity markets.

The move comes just three years after the privately held firm entered the business and on the heels of bankruptcy filings by ethanol powerhouse VeraSun Energy Corp. and Dallas-based Panda Energy, which in January placed its plant near Amarillo in Chapter 11.

“It’s clearly a challenging environment,” said Bob Thompson, partner in the Kansas City law office of Bryan Cave, who advises companies investing in renewable fuel and energy projects. “But the reality is that most of these ethanol producers are dealing with are problems that were created last year.”

In recent months, the industry has been pummeled by volatile corn and oil prices, seen funding dry up for new projects and watched demand stall as slowing gasoline consumption and lower pump prices reduce the incentive for blending the fuel with gasoline. Some producers have stayed afloat by cutting output or idling plants.

About 16 percent of the nation’s 12.6 billion gallons of corn ethanol production capacity is currently shut down, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol trade group.

Two out of four

Among Texas’ four plants, just two are operating, while one is temporarily shut and another still under construction.

In January, White Energy halted production at its 100- million-gallon-per-year plant in Plainview, citing poor market conditions, but has continued production at a plant of similar size in Hereford and a 45-million-gallon-per-year plant in Kansas.

White officials did not return calls seeking comment but said in court papers filed Thursday that they intend to continue normal business operations in Chapter 11.

In its bankruptcy filing, the company listed assets and liabilities in the range of $100 million to $500 million and said its operations produced over $500 million in revenue in 2008.

In the U.S., ethanol is blended with gasoline to help reduce dependence on oil and improve air quality in densely populated areas like Houston and Dallas.

Slow growth expected

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires greater usage of ethanol and other biofuels in coming years, growing to 36 billion gallons in 2022 — or about 25 percent of the 140 billion gallons of gasoline U.S. drivers now consume annually. This year, the law requires 10.5 billion gallons of grain ethanol in the fuel supply.

But the U.S. Energy Information Administration expects the growth in U.S. ethanol plant capacity and production over the last few years to slow dramatically in 2009 as lower gasoline prices depress ethanol production profits, and financial market constraints impede construction plans and bring plant shutdowns.

Thompson said the tough conditions will likely mean more ethanol company bankruptcies, but he believes the industry is about to stabilize.

Currently, the ethanol industry is pushing hard to raise the federal limit on the amount of ethanol that can be blended in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.

Such a move would create a bigger market for the fuel, but critics argue higher blends could harm engines, which the ethanol industry disputes.

The industry is also challenging a decision last week by the EPA to enact the first-ever greenhouse gas performance standards for biofuels. The standards would take into account all emissions created in the process of making ethanol, rather than just emissions from burning the fuel.

But the industry has taken issue with how the government measures emissions under the proposed program.

 

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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Biofuel Production And Water Scarcity: A Drink-Or-Drive Issue?

Posted on May 11, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Field-to-Pump, Hydrous Ethanol | Tags: , , , , |

Biofuel Production And Water Scarcity: A Drink-Or-Drive Issue?

 

Dr. Joel G. Burken, professor of environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T), in his greenhouse at Missouri S&T, where he studies the use of poplar trees to remove pollutants from soil. (Credit: Photo by B.A. Rupert/Missouri University of Science and Technology)

 

ScienceDaily (May 11, 2009) — Federal requirements to increase the production of ethanol has developed into a “drink-or-drive issue” in the Midwest as a result of biofuel production’s impact on water supplies and water quality, says an environmental engineering researcher at Missouri University of Science and Technology in the latest issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In an analysis of the water required to produce ethanol from various crops, Dr. Joel G. Burken, a professor of environmental engineering at Missouri S&T, and colleagues from Rice University and Clarkson University find that ethanol could become a costly proposition in terms of “gallons per mile” and other water quality issues. They describe the Midwest’s water needs and impacts as the ’water footprint’ in their cover feature for the May 1 issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

The researchers report that ethanol derived from corn grown in Nebraska, for example, would require 50 gallons of water per mile driven, when all the water needed in irrigation of crops and processing into ethanol is considered. Fuel derived from irrigated sorghum grown in that state would require even more water to produce – as much as 115 gallons per mile.

Moreover, increasing production of biofuels from row crops will likely result in more water pollution due to soil erosion and the increased use of pesticides to grow enough crops to meet federal mandates for more ethanol, the researchers say. The mandated production using the current technology has driven the use of ethanol production from corn and biodiesel from soybeans as these are the currently available technologies.

In their Environmental Science & Technology article, the researchers suggest that federal regulators take a closer look at how a push for bioenergy will affect water resources.

“Developing a sustainable national biofuels program requires careful consideration of logistical concerns … and of unintended environmental impacts,” write Burken and his co-authors, Rosa Dominguez-Faus and Dr. Pedro J. Alvarez of Rice University and Dr. Susan E. Powers of Clarkson University, in their article, “The Water Footprint of Biofuels: A Drink or Drive Issue?”

To arrive at their gallons-per-mile figures, the researchers first looked at the amount of water required to produce a single gallon of ethanol. In Nebraska, for example, it takes 800 gallons of water – from crop irrigation through final processing into ethanol – to create a single gallon of the corn-derived transportation fuel. Divide that by an average mileage of 16 miles per gallon (or two-thirds the average for gasoline-powered cars, a standard average for ethanol-powered vehicles), and the result is 50 gallons of water per mile.

While previous studies have examined biofuel production’s impact on air quality, land use and net energy value, “the effect of increased biofuel production on water security has not been subjected to the same scrutiny,” the researchers write. The main focus of previous studies looked at environmental trade-offs to fossil-fuel usage and not other aspects of biofuel production, according to the researchers.

“The overall water footprint associated with biofuels must recognize the impact of increased agricultural activity on water quality as well as water consumption,” they write. With the federal Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 calling for a dramatic ramp-up in ethanol production by 2015, Burken and his colleagues foresee additional water quality problems due to “increased agricultural activity such as tilling more land for row crops and higher fertilizer and agrichemical application.”

The Energy Independence and Security Act requires the United States to produce 15 billion gallons of corn-derived ethanol annually by 2015 and 16 billion gallons of fuel from cellulosic crops, such as switchgrass, by 2016. The researchers note that 44 percent of all the corn produced in the United States from 2007 would be required for ethanol production to meet the 2015 goal.

“The decision to mandate ethanol production may look great initially as we all like the concept of biofuels,” Burken says, “but really our difficult energy position and reliance on foreign oil is the result of our lack of an energy policy and investing a decade ago in biofuel technologies. Biofuel production is part of our energy future, but it needs to be considered as part of a portfolio of energy sources and technologies.”

While it’s unlikely the EISA will be repealed, Burken hopes lawmakers and regulators at the state and federal levels “consider a life-cycle analysis before implementing future mandates” for energy sources. Lawmakers and regulators need to consider all of the economic and environmental trade-offs – not just reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for instance. “Otherwise, we may be thinking we’re addressing one environmental issue while in fact sacrificing another,” Burken says.

Burken and his colleagues suggest that “drought-tolerant, high-yield plants grown on little irrigation water” would have less impact on water resources. One such crop, Burken says, is miscanthus, a fast-growing perennial grass that “grows so dense you can’t walk through it and grows about 9-10 feet a year.” Currently, however, no technology is available to convert the cellulosic biomass and produce it in large quantities. Once alternative biofuel production crops and processes are developed, selecting the best crop for individual settings will help to optimize biofuel production and minimize the environmental impacts of the production, Burken says.

“Developing the crops and distribution of crop production took about 100 years to get to where it was a few years ago,” Burken says. “Redeveloping this production with the goal of biofuel production will take time and effort of farmers and engineers. While miscanthus may or may not be a part of our biofuels future, we at least need a little time and investment to develop the best solutions for our future.”

Quoting Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, whom Burken met on April 22 during the Missouri Energy Summit, Burken says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the next best time if you didn’t is today.”


Journal reference:

  1. Dominguez-Faus et al. The Water Footprint of Biofuels: A Drink or Drive Issue? Environmental Science & Technology, 2009; 43 (9): 3005 DOI: 10.1021/es802162x

 

Missouri University of Science and Technology (2009, May 11). Biofuel Production And Water Scarcity: A Drink-Or-Drive Issue?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 11, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/05/090501204627.htm

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How Much Oil Have We Used?

Posted on May 9, 2009. Filed under: Advanced Biofuel, Field-to-Pump, Hydrous Ethanol | Tags: , , , |

How Much Oil Have We Used?

Green Car Congress

9 May 2009

 

Estimates of how much crude oil humans have extracted from the planet vary wildly (as do estimates on how much remains). UK researchers have published a new estimate of total crude oil extracted in the International Journal of Oil, Gas and Coal Technology that suggests we may have used more than we think.

In 2008, chemists Istvan Lakatos and Julianna Lakatos-Szabo of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences theorized that less than 100 billion tonne of crude oil has been produced since 1850 and that the average annual production rate is less than 700 million barrels per year.

They compared proven reserves and estimates of yet-to-find (YTF) resources and echoed the sentiment that we will soon face oil shortages even though a substantial part of those reserves remain in the ground untapped.

Now, John Jones in the School of Engineering, at the University of Aberdeen, UK, suggests that the figures cited by Istvan Lakatos and Julianna Lakatos-Szabo for which they give no references grossly underestimates how much oil we have used already. Jones says that we have used at least 135 billion barrels of oil since 1870, the period during which J.D. Rockefeller established The Standard Oil Company and began drilling in earnest.

The oil industry now spans several generations, says Jones, and has historically been as uninterested in how much oil has been drawn as were economists, day-to-day and annual figures being of much greater concern. However, in 2005, The Oil Depletion Analysis Centre (ODAC) in London provided a total figure of almost 1 trillion barrels of crude oil (944 billion barrels) since commercial drilling began. Even that figure does not add up, Jones explains.

He has calculated an estimate by using the volume of a barrel (42 US gallons, or 0.16 cubic metres) and a crude oil density of 0.9 tonnes per cubic metre. ODAC’s 944 billion barrels is thus the equivalent of 135 billion tonnes.

Jones explains that this figure is of the same order of magnitude as the estimate offered by Lakatos and Lakatos-Szabo, but is nevertheless 35% higher than ODAC’s figure. “Their assertion that less than 100 billion tonnes has been produced is significantly inconsistent with the ODAC,” says Jones. The implication is that either ODAC or the Hungarian team are incorrect in their estimates, and suggests that clarification of this important figure is now needed.

Resources

  • J. Jones (2009) Total amounts of oil produced over the history of the industry. Int. J. Oil, Gas and Coal Technology, 2009, 2, 199-200 doi: 10.1504/IJOGCT.2009.024887
  • Lakatos and Lakatos-Szabo (2008) Global oil demand and role of chemical EOR methods in the 21st century. Int. J. Oil, Gas and Coal Technology, 2008 1, 46-64 doi: 10.1504/IJOGCT.2008.016731

 

 

 

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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Valero May Close Memphis Plant if State Law Passes

Posted on May 9, 2009. Filed under: Blender's Tax Credit, Field-to-Pump | Tags: , , , , , |

Valero may close Memphis plant if state law passes

By Janet McGurty

May 8, 2009

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The future of Tennessee’s only oil refinery is in jeopardy if a law passes the state’s general assembly on May 13 that would require it to supply unblended gasoline to fuel wholesalers.

Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N: Quote, Profile, Research), which owns and operates the 195,000-barrel per day refinery in Memphis, has said the cost of complying with the bill does not make sense in the poor refining economics environment.

“Passage of the bill would result in Valero being forced to seriously consider closing the Memphis refinery with an immediate loss of employment for over 500 Tennesseans,” said Rich Marcogliese, Valero’s executive Vice President, in a May 4 letter to Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen.

Valero, which has contracts to supply already blended gasoline, estimates it would cost between $130 million and $150 million to duplicate the storage tanks, piping, pumps, wiring, and modify the truck rack to provide facilities for unblended fuel as House Bill 1517 is requiring.

The bill, which has already passed the Senate as Bill 1931, will be voted on in the general assembly subcommittee on May 13.

Federal law mandates each gallon of gasoline sold contains a percentage of renewable fuel such as ethanol. It gives the tax credit to the blender, which in Tennessee is now Valero but, if the law passes, will be whoever blends the fuel.

Adding in the loss of tax credits, Valero estimates it will cost 5 cents per gallon — in an weak demand economy where refiners are shuttering or cutting back on runs.

“The impact on refining is real — there is weekly speculation among industry analysts as to which refineries maybe closing because of weak demand coupled with geographic or regulatory disadvantages,” Marcogliese wrote.

The Memphis refinery, which Valero bought with other refineries from independent refiner Premcor back in 2005, distributes products to the Midwestern markets primarily via truck-loading racks at three product terminals, barges, and a pipeline directly to the Memphis airport.

Fedex (FDX.N: Quote, Profile, Research), the world’s largest airline, is located in Memphis.

“We have alternate arrangements and don’t believe it will have an impact on Fedex,” said Jim McCloskey, a spokesman for the airline.

He would not speculate on the cost of the alternate arrangements.

In 2006, Valero had conducted an strategic review of its assets and put Memphis on the sales block before taking it off as the refining business and prices for refinery assets began to decline.

The Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Association, which represents fuel wholesalers and convenience store operators, said there is no support for Valero’s contention.

“The facts do not support Valero’s claims that the legislation would require expensive new equipment or that the company has been hard hit by the recession,” said Jonathan Edwards, president of TFCA and president of Edwards Oil Company, which is headquartered in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.

Edwards says there’s no evidence to support Valero’s claim that it would cost between $130 and $150 million to buy new equipment to store unblended ethanol. According to legislative testimony from Valero representatives, the company spent $7 million to install ethanol storage tanks and blending equipment, the TCFA said.

Tennessee’s legislators Jamie Woodson, who sponsored the bill in the state’s senate and Charles Curtis, who is the house sponsor were not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Janet McGurty; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

 

 

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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Laboratory Will Not Certify Pumps for Gas With 15 Percent Ethanol

Posted on May 9, 2009. Filed under: Blender's Tax Credit, Field-to-Pump | Tags: , , , , |

Laboratory Will Not Certify Pumps for Gas With 15 Percent Ethanol

By CHRISTOPHER JENSEN

The New York Times

May 10, 2009

 

GROUPS representing the nation’s service station operators say they fear the possible legal and economic consequences of increasing the amount of ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent, from 10 percent, a change that ethanol producers have urged the Environmental Protection Agency to make.

The station owners say they fear lawsuits from customers claiming their cars were damaged by the E15 fuel. But they also note that existing pumps are not certified by Underwriters Laboratories as safe for use with E15 — and U.L., which certifies the safety of a wide range of products, says it will not provide that certification.

John Drengenberg, U.L.’s consumer safety director, said previous testing showed that the existing pumps were safe for up to 15 percent ethanol. But U.L. will not guarantee them for 1 percent more, he said.

That means E15 certification cannot be given because there can be slight variations in the mixture of gas and ethanol, Mr. Drengenberg said — E15 might actually include 16 percent ethanol. “It cannot ever be said that this is exactly 15 percent.”

Furthermore, while U.L. says 15 percent ethanol would be acceptable, it cannot retroactively and officially certify the existing pumps for dispensing E15, a spokesman, Joseph Hirschmugl, said.

That is a problem because state and local fire codes usually require stations to use equipment that a third party — typically U.L. — has certified as compatible with the fuel being sold. A fuel with much higher ethanol content, E85 — which can be used only in flexible-fuel vehicles — is dispensed through a different type of pump, which the U.L. has approved.

That leaves service station owners wondering what they will do if E15 is approved.

Those retailers will have two choices, said John Eichberger, vice president for government relations at NACS, an association for convenience stores and gas stations. “One, sell a product with noncompatible equipment, violate those rules and open themselves up to gross-negligence lawsuits,” he said. “Or try to find compatible equipment and replace their entire system. Unfortunately there are no dispensers certified for E15.”

Joseph Hirschmugl, a spokesman for U.L., said his organization knew of no specific problem but must be cautious because adequate testing had not been done.

For the gas station owners, the scary thing is the possibility of an accident or mishap that could result in a lawsuit, said Tim Columbus, general counsel for another service station trade group, the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America. Then people might start asking why uncertified equipment was being used, he said.

In Growth Energy’s request to the Environmental Protection Agency to allow an increase to E15, it insists that service stations won’t have a problem. It says U.L.’s research “supports that existing dispensers may be used successfully with ethanol blends up to E15.”

But Mr. Drengenberg of U.L. says that is not true. U.L. approves of using up to 15 percent ethanol in existing dispensers, he said, but it does not approve of E15.

 

About Renergie

Renergie was formed by Ms. Meaghan M. Donovan on March 22, 2006 for the purpose of raising capital to develop, construct, own and operate a network of ten ethanol plants in the parishes of the State of Louisiana which were devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Each ethanol plant will have a production capacity of five million gallons per year (5 MGY) of fuel-grade ethanol.  Renergie’s “field-to-pump” strategy is to produce non-corn ethanol locally and directly market non-corn ethanol locally. On February 26, 2008, Renergie was one of 8 recipients, selected from 139 grant applicants, to share $12.5 million from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grants Program.  Renergie received $1,500,483 (partial funding) in grant money to design and build Florida’s first ethanol plant capable of producing fuel-grade ethanol solely from sweet sorghum juice. On  April 2, 2008, Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s economic development organization, selected Renergie as one of Florida’s most innovative technology companies in the alternative energy sector.  On January 20, 2009, Florida Energy & Climate Commission amended RET Grant Agreement S0386 to increase Renergie’s funding from $1,500,483 to $2,500,000. By blending fuel-grade ethanol with gasoline at the gas station pump, Renergie will offer the consumer a fuel that is renewable, more economical, cleaner, and more efficient than unleaded gasoline.  Moreover, the Renergie project will mark the first time that Louisiana farmers will share in the profits realized from the sale of value-added products made from their crops.

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    Renergie created “field-to-pump," a unique strategy to locally produce and market advanced biofuel (“non-corn fuel ethanol”) via a network of small advanced biofuel manufacturing facilities. The purpose of “field-to-pump” is to maximize rural development and job creation while minimizing feedstock supply risk and the burden on local water supplies.

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