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National Renewable Energy Laboratory tests mid-level blends, finds no show-stoppers

A sub-heading in a news report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) sums up recent testing there on blends of ethanol beyond 10 percent – “the cars don't seem to mind.”

The vehicles used in the lab's tests on E15 and E20 represent a cross-section of cars currently in use, 16 vehicles ranging from model years 1999 through 2007 with odometers reading from 10,000 to 100,000 miles.

"So far nothing has jumped out at us and vehicles don't show a significant impact with ethanol blends of 15 and 20 percent," said Keith Knoll, senior project leader for NREL's Fuels Performance Group.

Testing shows that as ethanol content increases, tailpipe emissions stayed largely the same, with carbon monoxide emissions declining for all of the ethanol blends. The article states that, generally, the tests have shown no big surprises or short-term effects when using greater blends of ethanol in existing cars.

A link to the full article can be found on ACE’s blog, www.ethanol.typepad.com.

Department of Energy awards POET $6.85 million for corn cobs

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded South Dakota-based POET a $6.85 million funding increase to an existing grant, the first of two funding increases meant to help establish a market for corn cobs. The second, expected next year, is estimated to provide an additional $13.15 million. Corn cobs are the feedstock for the company’s Project LIBERTY, an existing corn ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa receiving a 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol addition.

The additional funds will be used to develop the feedstock infrastructure for cellulosic ethanol production. POET will work with equipment manufacturers to help speed the process of getting cob-harvesting technology into fields around Emmetsburg and will incentivize early adopters of cob harvesting.

POET reports that 14 farmers in the Emmetsburg area will run cob harvests this year with prototype equipment from a variety of manufacturers.

UK’s first cellulosic ethanol plant completes first year of operation

TMO Renewables Ltd., a leading developer of a new process for converting biomass into fuel ethanol, has successfully completed the first year of operation of its process demonstration unit (PDU), the first cellulosic ethanol demonstration plant in the UK.

TMO says its “second generation” process uses common bacteria, developed from a strain found in compost heaps, to produce ethanol from cellulosic, woody biomass materials. The PDU has proved the company’s unique pre-treatment and fermentation technology to be commercially viable beyond the laboratory, as a fully integrated stage within a continuous ethanol production process.

Since its completion in the summer of 2008, TMO’s plant, located at Dunsfold Park near Guildford in Surrey, has been running successfully 24 hours a day, seven days a week to process a wide range of cellulosic feedstocks. These feedstocks – including grasses, wheat straw, newspaper, municipal waste, and distillers grain – have all been converted by TMO into a “beer” for distillation into fuel ethanol.

TMO has been operating the plant with the aim of refining the company’s patented cellulosic ethanol process and tailoring the process to feedstock samples provided by its development partners, including major U.S. biofuel companies. In particular, the PDU has shown that TMO’s process is ideal for retro-fit to existing corn ethanol plants, typically improving their yields by up to 15 percent, as well as being suited for new-build ethanol applications.

ACE submits comments on RFS2

The American Coalition for Ethanol recently submitted official comments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the proposed rule for the Renewable Fuels Standard.

This "RFS2" has been a point of concern, specifically the EPA's inclusion of the controversial "international land use change" (ILUC) theory in the proposed rule. ACE is also concerned that the Agency has appointed Tim Searchinger, the lawyer who is the very architect of the ILUC theory, a seat on the peer-review panel. These so-called "indirect effects" are new, untested, unreliable, and controversial computer-generated predictions that are, at this time, being selectively applied only to corn ethanol.

In the organization’s comments, ACE asked that EPA insist on greater scientific consensus and real-world data before moving forward to apply these penalties to biofuels in the final rule. And if EPA insists on applying indirect effects, these effects should be applied to all fuels – not just ethanol. This includes undertaking a complete lifecycle assessment of the indirect emissions association with petroleum. Sound science and a fair playing field are needed.

Chippewa Valley Ethanol announces new GM

Mike Jerke has been appointed General Manager of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, a 48 million gallon per year, farmer-owned ethanol company with production facilities located in Benson, Minnesota. He assumed the new role in mid-October.

Jerke has seven years experience in ethanol plant management with Quad County Corn Processors, a 29 mgy farmer-owned ethanol company located in Galva, Iowa. He was hired as Quad County GM in 2001 and held that position through plant construction, startup, and throughout its seven years of operation. He currently serves as Vice President of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, as Director of the Renewable Fuels Association, and as Chairman of the Renewable Fuels Foundation.

Before his tenure with Quad County, Jerke held management positions with several cooperative grain companies in Iowa and Illinois. He is a 1989 graduate of Iowa State University with a B.S in Agricultural Business Management.

“The CVEC Board of Directors is very pleased to have selected Mike Jerke as our new General Manager,” said CVEC Chairman Dale Tolifson. “We believe that Mike brings a strong combination of ethanol industry experience and farmer-cooperative values that make him a good fit with our company”.

Over its 13 year operating history, the CVEC plant has continually worked to improve its productivity through increases in production capacity, yields, and efficiencies. CVEC has also developed a diverse array of product revenue streams and marketing programs, including beverage and specialty alcohol products, direct E85 marketing, corn oil, and its newest investment in biomass gasification technology through its ownership position in Frontline BioEnergy.

“CVEC is a recognized leader in the ethanol industry, understanding early on that diversification and efficient operations were keys to long term success,” Jerke said. “I appreciate the visionary leadership of Bill Lee and the CVEC board of directors. I am looking forward to working with the employee team and members of CVEC to build on the solid foundation that has been put in place.”

Study finds ethanol boosts Nebraska economy

According to research compiled by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), ethanol is strengthening Nebraska’s economy to the tune of more than $3 billion in economic activity and more than 3,000 jobs, when direct and indirect effects are tallied.

A recent Nebraska Ethanol Board survey also found that the state’s ethanol plants now have more full-time employees than during 2008.

“Aside from saving drivers money at the pump, ethanol is creating new jobs and economic activity right here in Nebraska,” said Ethanol Board Chair Mike Thede. “Plants that were closed have reopened, other plants are producing at a higher rate, and that means more economic activity for Nebraska and more ethanol for the U.S.”

NPPD estimates that the ethanol industry and its indirect effects have added $2.13 million to household income and generated over $63.3 million in new tax revenues.

Mascoma announces feedstock processing and lignin supply agreement with Chevron

Mascoma Corporation has announced that it has entered into a feedstock processing and lignin supply agreement with Chevron Technology Ventures (CTV), a division of Chevron U.S.A., Inc.

Under terms of the agreement, CTV will provide various sources of lignocellulosic feedstock to Mascoma. Mascoma will then convert the feedstock to cellulosic ethanol through its proprietary process, which produces lignin as a by-product. Mascoma will provide this lignin to CTV for evaluation.

“The upgrading of our byproduct lignin to high value transportation fuels is an important step in our effort to prove the effectiveness of integrated biorefineries. It has been our goal all along to make our process as integrated and sustainable as possible,” said Dr. Jim Flatt, Mascoma President.

Lignin is a complex chemical compound derived from woody biomass. After biomass has been converted through Mascoma’s proprietary Consolidated Bio Processing method, which breaks down the sugars in the cellulose and turns it into ethanol, energy-rich lignin is left over.

The project will last for two years, and Mascoma is hopeful that the developed technology may be suitable for a wide variety of feedstocks.

 
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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