Posts Tagged ‘biofuel’
Verenium Corporation (Nasdaq: VRNM) a developer of next-generation cellulosic ethanol from biomass and high-performance specialty enzymes, reported a net second quarter loss for the period ending June 30 of $28.9 million on declining revenue and higher operating expenses.
Slightly more than $8.9 million of the total loss was attributed by Verenium to its “non-controlling interest in consolidated entities,” so the net loss on the part of the Cambridge, MA, company was $19.9 million. That was an increase of nearly 30 percent over the comparable period in 2008.
Despite the losses as the company’s joint venture with BP, called Vercipia Biofuels, gets underway and as it gears up to eventual commercial biofuel production, Carols Riva, president and CEO, told analysts that Verenium continues to make “significant progress on many fronts.”
He said the company has continued its aggressive expense management initiatives to control operating expenses and to conserve cash,. Verenium also amended financial covenants related to its 8 percent convertible notes to eliminate some of their “onerous restrictions.” Riva says that will simplify its financial structure and give the company financial flexibility.
Riva said that despite significant challenges that the ethanol industry has endured over the past three years, government support for biofuels ”remains strong as our government leaders realize that an overdependence on imported oil remains a critical weakness in our economy.“
The $300 million Vercipia 50/50 venture was selected in June to proceed with due diligence on a Department of Energy loan guarantee for Venerenium’s first commercial project in Highlands County, FL. That project is scheduled to break ground in 2010.
Riva says the guarantee “could extend the project debt covering up to 80 percent of eligible costs.”
The company is also making progress on the “optimization phase” at its demonstration plant in Jennings, LA, and has operated the plant on sugarcane bagasse and energy cane.
Riva says that Verenium remains optimistic that the markets for its products “will stabilize and improve as economic activity recovers.” He acknowledged that softening market conditions have affected revenues, which declined 11 percent to 16.3 million during the quarter. The revenue deline was mainly on the enzyme side of the business, regarding a change in “revenue recognition,” and the discontinuation of two product lines.
BP is also forging aheead on another biofuels front with the announcement earlier this week that it has entered a $10 million joint venture with Martek Biosciences Coporation to develop microbial oil for biofuels. BP and Martek said they will work together to develop a “step-change technology for the conversion of sugars into biodiesel.
Under the terms of the multi-year agreement they said they want to establish “proof of concept” for large-scale, cost-effective microbial biodiesal production through fermentation. The sugar-to-biodiesel plan converts sugars derived from biomass into lipids using unique fermentation mico-organisms. The lipids are then converted into fuelmolecules through chemcial or thermocatalytic processes.
Or is it? Is it more than the typical and familiar corporate lip service using green lipstick? For that answer, stay tuned. It might take awhile.
Dow, Exxon and more recently the Department of Energy are giving algae biofuel major street cred while gaining huge PR benefits in the mainstream press and (ahem) the blogosphere.
Earlier this month Dow announced a hook-up with Algenol Biofuels Inc. to construct and operate a pilot-scale algae-based integrated biorefinery that will convert CO2 into ethanol. The planned location covers 24 acres at a Dow site in Freeport, Texas. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Algenol has developed a third generation biofuel that makes ethanol directly from CO2 and seawater using hybrid algae in sealed clear plastic photobioreactors, a process the Bonita Springs, FL company has patented as its “Direct to Ethanol” technology. This process produces more than 6,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year. That smokes the 400 gallons of ethanol per acre produced from corn.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Georgia Institute of Technology and Membrane Technology & Research, Inc. are also involved in the project mix with Dow and Algenol. They are contributing science, expertise, and technology to the pilot project, which they say will create a “breakthrough process for ethanol production.”
Algenol has also applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct the pilot. Upon approval of the grant, Dow and the other collaborators will work with Algenol to demonstrate the technology at a level that proves it can be implemented on a commercial scale.
Meanwhile DOE last week announced funding of up to $85 million over a three-year period from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the development of algae-based biofuels and advanced, infrastructure-compatible biofuels. The department said it wants leading scientists and engineers from universities, private industry, and government “to collaborate in developing a thriving domestic biofuels industry.” The collaborations “will allow different sectors in the biofuels industry to work together on new technologies for producing advanced biofuels that can be brought to market without requiring major modifications to the existing fueling infrastructure.”
The collapse of the forest products industry, especially in Canada, has idled many paper and pulp mills but out of that continuing disaster comes an opportunity for biofuels and bioenergy.
There’s some evidence of that this week from the Government of Saskatchewan, even if it is a vaguely worded. The Canadian province reached an agreement with Iogen Energy and Domtar, a major Canadian paper and wood products company, which “sets the stage for the potential redevelopment of the Prince Albert mill site as a cellulosic-based ethanol plant and bioenergy facility.”
Under the agreement Iogen, a biotechnology firm based in Ottawa, would convert the Domtar pulp mill – idle since 2006 – into a facility that would convert cereal straw to cellulosic ethanol. If a final investment decision is positive, the province says, the multi-million dollar project, in partnership with Royal Dutch Shell, would also include a power plant generating electricity from forest and ethanol plant residues. Shell and Iogen are linked through a commercial alliance.
The money/investment part is also vague at this point because Iogen/Shell won’t make a final investment decision on the project until design and feasibility work is completed. If the project then proceeds Iogen will buy the mill assets from Domtar.
The Saskatchewan government would then assume ownership of the remaining mill property not involved in the Iogen bioenergy initiative, and take responsibility for the existing environmental cleanup obligations associated with the decommissioning of the pulp mill site. In exchange, Domtar would pay an environmental settlement fee to the province as compensation for its share of the environmental site obligations.
The quote, from Bill Boyd, Saskatchewan’s energy and resources minister: “Redevelopment of this mill site has been a priority for us, for our forest industry and for people of the area. A final decision still needs to be made by the company, but this agreement is an important first step in our commitment to find new uses for the mill facilities, new markets for our forest and agricultural resources and new forestry jobs for Saskatchewan people.” He called the deal a “win-win” situation for the forest industry and area farmers while showcasing new technology and new approaches from Iogen. So it’s a win-win-win, eh?
Iogen is planning public meetings later this month with communities and the First Nations tribe in the region as it evaluates the pulp mill site. The company also will move ahead with detailed engineering studies and the required environmental approvals.
The agreement is the “essential next step” for the Saskatchewan project, says Iogen Chief Operating Officer Pat Foody. “It allows us to proceed with the development and assessment work that will provide the needed input into the eventual decision whether to proceed.”
If it does proceed, the province said it would purchase green power produced from the plant and also “provide new growth tax incentives related to technology commercialization and transportation.”
First- and second-gen biofuels get White House boost
It looks like the Governors’ Biofuel Coalition got what it was looking for from President Obama – an endorsement of biofuels development, support for the continued viability of the existing ethanol industry and an invite to partner with members of the administration on energy independence.
In a letter late last month to the coalition leadership, Obama asked the Coalition to join him in implementing his Presidential Biofuels Directive, which was issued earlier in May.
The directive outlined the President’s vision for biofuels development and his expectations for key cabinet and administration officials to lead the Administration’s biofuels initiatives. The President noted that the Coalition’s February 2009 recommendations helped form key points of the directive, and led to the President’s request for the Coalition to work with “members of my cabinet to implement the directive.”
Biofuels are the “primary near term option for insulating consumers against future oil prove shocks and for lowering the transportation sector’s carbon footprint,” the president writes.
In the letter Obama says he is committed to the rapid development of “an array of emerging cellulosic technologies so that tomorrow’s biofuels will be produced from sustainable biomass feedstocks and waste materials rather than corn.”
He continues: “This transition will be successful only if the first-generation biofuels industry remains viable in the near-term, and if we remove long-standing artificial barriers to market expansion necessary for large volumes of of advanced renewable fuels to find a place in America’s transportation fuels system.”
We’ll end the week on a high note with items from here on the left coast and one from the “other” Washington.
A new joint venture announced yesterday, called S4 Energy Solutions LLC, will develop, operate and market plasma gasification facilities for renewable energy generation from waste byproducts.
The joint venture “is expected to process waste from the country’s increasingly segmented commercial and industrial waste streams to produce a range of renewable energy and environmentally beneficial fuels and industrial products as well as to generate electricity,” the companies said in a joint press release.
The initial focus for S4 will be to process medical and other segregated commercial and industrial waste streams. Future commercialization plans could include the processing of municipal solid waste once the technology has been demonstrated to be economical and scalable for such use.
“We see waste as a resource to be recovered, and this joint venture with the PEM system will help Waste Management’s commercial and industrial customers maximize high energy value waste streams to generate valuable renewable energy products based on their unique environmental and logistical considerations,” said Joe Vaillancourt, managing director at Waste Management.
Under the plasma gasification process, waste materials are fed into a closed chamber where they are superheated to temperatures of between 10,000 and 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit using an electricity-conducting gas called plasma. The intense heat of the PEM™ rearranges the molecular structure of the waste, transforming organic (carbon-based) materials into an ultra-clean, synthesis gas (syngas).
The syngas could be converted to transportation fuels such as ethanol and diesel, industrial products like hydrogen and methanol or used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation.
Alternative energy company Saline Green Project this week chose Marshall, MO, as the site for a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol bio-refinery facility, producing renewable fuels, chemical products and electricity.
According to a report in The Sedalia Democrat the company has had an interest in opening a plant in Marshall for more than a year. Frank Imo, Saline Green CEO, said that local support for the project was encouraging and was a big factor in making the project possible.
Saline Green will provide start-up funds for the project, and will seek investors as it nears completion.
Saline Green spokesman Donte Tamprateep was quoted as saying that his company has been working with a group of scientists who helped develop the technology required to efficiently convert cellulosic biomass to its simple sugar state.
Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses and inedible plant parts. Tamprateep said the biggest challenge the company faced was finding a way to break down cellulose in a cost-effective manner.
The company apparently has hooked up with Pure Energy Corporation, which has invested more than $30 million over the last 15 years in an effort to develop the next generation of cellulosic ethanol technology.
“The Saline Green Project will serve as both a world-class sustainable energy production facility and also a showcase of cutting edge technology in the cellulosic ethanol, chemical and green electricity fields,” said Irshad Ahmed, president and CEO of New Jersey-based Pure Energy.
So why Marshall? One reason becomes apparent by looking at a map. The town of more than 12,000 is located in the middle of the country with excellent access to road and rail routes. From a supply chain distribution viewpoint, it’s a good choice.
The news on renewable energy is mixed this week, what with the carbon emissions “cap and trade” (aka the latest market swindle) debate now fully controlled by well-heeled lobbyists and the algae producer GreenFuel Technologies shuttering its doors, a victim of the economy and a lack of cash.
But a couple of items crossing the desk, er computer screen, are heartening and one is positive and somewhat startling, given the parlous state of the economy and global credit markets..
Environment News and REN21 (see links next door) report that for the first time, more renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in the European Union and the United States last year.
That demonstrated a “fundamental transition” of the world’s energy markets towards renewable energy, according to a report released May 13 by REN21, the global renewable energy policy network based in Paris.
It’s the fourth such exercise from REN21 and comes in the midst of an “historic and global economic crisis,” says Mohamed El-Ashry, chairman of REN21. Although the future is unclear, he continues, “there is much in the report for optimism.”
Global power capacity from new renewable energy sources (excluding large hydro) reached 280,000 megawatts (MW) in 2008 – a 16 percent rise from the 240,000 MW in 2007 and nearly three times the capacity of the United States nuclear sector.
Solar heating capacity increased by 15 percent to 145 gigawatts-thermal (GWth), while biodiesel and ethanol production both increased by 34 percent. More renewable energy than conventional power capacity was added in both the European Union and United States for the first time ever.
“The recent growth of the sector has surpassed all predictions, even those made by the industry itself,” says El-Ashry, adding that much of this growth was due to more favourable policies amidst increasing concerns about climate change and energy security.
Companies are devoting an increasing amount of capital to renewables. By August 2008, at least 160 publicly traded renewable energy companies worldwide had a market capitalization greater than $100 million, the report says.
During 2008, a number of governments enacted new policies, and many countries set ambitious targets, it continues. Today, at least 73 countries have renewable energy policy targets, up from 66 at the end of 2007. In response to the financial crisis, several governments have directed economic stimulus funding towards the new green jobs the renewable energy sector can provide, including the U.S. package that will invest $150 billion over ten years in renewable energy.
Developing countries – particularly China and India – are increasingly playing major roles in both the manufacture and installation of renewable energy. For example, China’s total wind power capacity doubled in 2008 for the fourth year running.
Access the 32-page report here.
EPA gives it up for PNW clean air projects
More positive news from my neck of the woods, namely the Pacific Northwest, from the EPA. The agency honored three PNW organizations for their innovative projects to improve air quality in the region.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency in Seattle, WA, Renaissance Fireplaces of Bellevue, WA, and the Nez Perce Tribe in Meridian, Idaho are winners of EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award for air quality improvement programs. Nationwide 15 entities received the award.
At the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency a climate education program known as the Cool School Challenge engages students and teachers in practical strategies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions school-wide. The program also encourages student leadership and empowerment, fostering a new generation of air quality advocates, EPA says.
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency and partners Puget Sound Energy and Northwest Clean Air Agency built the program around an idea created by environmental science teacher Mike Town and the students of Redmond High School.
Student teams conduct energy audits of classrooms assessing the greenhouse gas emissions of electricity use, waste and recycling practices, transportation, and heating. Classrooms then pledge to shrink their carbon footprint through simple but effective behavior changes, such as turning off one panel of lights, using durable coffee tumblers instead of disposable cups, or carpooling instead of driving alone. The Web-based program is designed for grades 7-12 and includes a Web site, a Challenge toolkit, classroom carbon calculator, classroom activities, and supplemental resources.
Now that is cool.
From cool to hot but still cool, in nearby Bellevue, Renaissance Fireplaces has produced the world’s first certified clean burning open fireplace. First introduced to the fireplace industry at the Hearth Patio and BBQ Association trade show in February 2008, the Renaissance Rumford 1,000 has been specifically developed to surpass the low emissions performance requirements of the new ASTM low mass fireplace standard. It incorporates a positive sealing outside air intake, a gasketed guillotine style glass door, and utilizes an insulated chimney to prevent uncontrolled cold air leakage from the chimney system. In addition to surpassing the national standards for woodstove emissions, the Renaissance Rumford fireplace surpasses the most stringent state standard of 4.5 g/hr set by the State of Washington.
Finally for this section of today’s program, EPA calls the Nez Perce Tribe Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Division’s Air Quality Program is “a model program that has developed and implemented a number of significant innovative air quality programs that go beyond applicable laws and regulations.” An example of this leadership is the Nez Perce Tribe’s smoke management program, which promotes community awareness of air quality concerns in connection with agricultural, open, and forestry burning.
The Tribe’s smoke management program, which has been in place since 2002 in a voluntary capacity, has achieved compliance through collaboration. The policies implemented by the program provide flexibility to the regulated community by allowing input, ownership, and responsibility to them as the affected public. There are also collaborative meetings with the EPA, states, and tribes in the region to amend the program’s policies and procedures.
The voluntary nature of the program allowed the agricultural community to prepare for the Federal Air Rules for Reservations (FARR) implementation in 2005. The agricultural community, which initially resisted the new FARR rules, now supports the program and is encouraging the State of Idaho to parallel the Nez Perce Tribe’s smoke management program.
The yang part, or is it the yin?
Almost done for today. I know it’s a lot of reading, but it is free.
On the downside, CNET News’ Green Tech blog reports that GreenFuel Technologies, one of the first companies to enter the algae biofuels business, is shutting down after running out of money.
The blog’s Martin LaMonica wrote that investor Duncan McIntyre of Polaris Venture Partners confirmed GreenFuel Technologies’ demise, saying that the company is a “victim of the economy.” He said investors, who have raised more than $70 million for GreenFuel Technologies since 2001, are exploring ways to sell the company’s intellectual property and assets.
The financial situation at GreenFuel Technologies had been degrading since last year, despite the fact that the company had landed a $92 million deal to sell algae-growing greenhouses to a cement maker in Spain, LaMonica says.
In January of this year, the company laid off about half its staff, bringing the number of employees to 19.
At last the end is in sight dear reader, at least for today, but not anytime soon for cap and trade apparently. See this item in today’s Triple Pundit, which some of you may know I contribute to on occasion (but not this piece):