Bioeconomy Bill Introduced in MN Legislature

February 2, 2015 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek

Capitol GraphicToday in the Minnesota legislature Senator Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids) and Representative Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) introduced a bill creating a production incentive program for commercial development of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biomass thermal energy. The bill is the top legislative priority for the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota, a multi-stakeholder partnership of private industries, agriculture and forestry interests, and non-profit organizations. GPI organizes and facilitates the Coalition. Continue reading »

Developing Pathways for a Sustainable Biomass Supply

January 6, 2015 in Transportation & Fuels Authors: Amanda Bilek, Brendan Jordan

The sustainability of biomass supplies for energy and fuel production has been a topic of ongoing discussion for decades. The completion and commissioning of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities in 2014 is giving this discussion a renewed sense of urgency. 2014 was the year that cellulosic ethanol moved from something that was five years away to reality due to the commissioning of commercial-scale facilities. Continue reading »

Biogas Racks up Cellulosic RINs

November 26, 2014 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule in July expanding cellulosic fuel pathways to include renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) derived from various sources of biogas, a surge of cellulosic fuel credits from biogas was widely anticipated. After two months of reporting, the speculation was correct. August and September saw record volumes of cellulosic Renewable Information Numbers (RINs). These high volumes were not generated from liquid fuels like ethanol or renewable gasoline, but from renewable CNG and LNG. 

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Cellulosic Fuel Production Surges in August, But Not From Ethanol

October 3, 2014 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek

According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the month of August recorded the highest amounts EVER for cellulosic units of fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). What might surprise many is the units of cellulosic fuel were not from liquid biofuels like cellulosic ethanol or renewable gasoline but from….drumroll please……renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) and renewable liquefied natural gas (LNG) or biogas that has been cleaned and compressed for use as a transportation fuel. Continue reading »

A Visionary Model for Biogas Projects

September 23, 2014 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek

Biogas advocates and project developers have been abuzz since mid-July, when the Environmental Protection Agency released a final rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that allows eligible biogas transportation fuel pathways to generate cellulosic Renewable Information Numbers (RINs). Prior to the July rule, biogas transportation projects were eligible to generate advanced biofuel RINs. The cellulosic fuel pool within the RFS is much larger than the advanced biofuel pool. Statutory renewable fuel obligations by 2022 are 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuel and 4 billion gallons of advanced biofuel. The EPA is responsible for determining an annual renewable fuel volume obligation for the different fuel pools. Each year the EPA has significantly reduced the annual cellulosic fuel volume obligation from statutory requirements because fuel production expectations have fallen short.

Allowing biogas transportation fuel pathways to generate RFS cellulosic credits represents an amazing opportunity for biogas project development. There is an incredible amount of organic waste feedstocks that could be processed in biogas energy systems. Biogas energy systems also present an opportunity to establish perennial feedstocks. I wrote about the topic in my January column, but would like look at what this could mean for the biogas industry by looking at a proposed project with a visionary model.

Readers of Biomass Magazine might already be familiar with a project in Northern Missouri developed and constructed by Roeslein Alternative Energy (RAE). The project has an ambitious vison to produce 50 million diesel gallon equivalents by the end of the decade using biogas from hog manure and energy crops. The diesel fuel replacement goal is only one part of a grand vision. In addition to producing a large volume of low-carbon transportation fuel from cleaned and compressed biogas, the project also aims to restore 30 million acres of highly erodible land to native grasslands over the next 30 years. The grasses and other perennial species would be a feedstock input for biogas energy systems. *This post has been modified to include the video below, which describes the proposed Northern Missouri project.*

Achieving this vision will require a multi-phase plan. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Rudi Roeslein, CEO of Roeslein Alternative Energy, about their planned approach. The first phase of the project is already underway. RAE and their project partner, Murphy-Brown of Missouri, announced the commencement of the installation of impermeable covers on 88 existing hog manure lagoons.  The next phase of the project will implement biogas cleaning and conditioning equipment to produce a source of renewable natural gas (RNG) and establish a network of distribution centers to provide RNG to vehicle fleets. The third phase will establish a demonstration project using above ground anaerobic digestion systems to process hog manure and perennial feedstocks.

Murphy Brown in cooperation with the Missouri Prairie Foundation, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Serviceplanted 400 acres in prairie plantings that could now be used as part of the testing program.  In addition, Roeslein Northern Missouri Real Estate has been replanting and restoring native grassland and prairie on their 1650 acre farm located within the project area for the past 5 years and has adequate feedstock to test in the demonstration project. The University of Minnesota has been engaged by Roeslein Alternative Energy in the testing of various feedstock to evaluate the potential methane yield and help evaluate ecological services such feedstock would provide.

The Roeslein project vision and all of the potential economic and environmental benefits is exciting and inspiring. This type of model could be replicated throughout the Midwest, the US and even globally.  This project can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing methane from hog manure, sequestrating carbon in perennial grasslands, and displacing diesel fuel with RNG. The project will also result in improved water quality and establish habitat for wildlife. There are also economic benefits in the form of job creation, local economic activity for construction and operations, and increased farm income from energy crop purchases.

The EPA’s recent action expanding biogas transportation fuel pathways to generate cellulosic RINs represents an enormous opportunity for project scale-up all across the US. Biogas proponents should feel inspired by the Roeslein Alternative Energy project model in Northern Missouri.

2014 will be the year that we see commercial scale production of cellulosic ethanol using corn stover as a feedstock. These first-of-a-kind liquid renewable fuel projects need an enormous amount of feedstock to begin operation. Biogas energy projects could play a role in helping to establish energy crops for future projects. Biogas energy projects do not require as much feedstock volume as liquid renewable fuel projects, but could immediately provide a market for producers willing to establish grassland and native perennials on a portion of their land.  So many different opportunities are possible for the biogas industry; we just need to reach out and grab them.

*This post first appeared in Biomass Magazine.*

Renewable Fuel Standard rules give boost to biogas

August 9, 2014 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek
In early July, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a final rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program that expands pathways for biogas-based fuel to help meet numeric goals for cellulosic and advanced fuel. The final renewable fuel pathway and modification rule is anticipated to provide a significant boost for biogas projects designed to supply a source of renewable and low-carbon transportation fuel.

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International cooperation yields exchange of project models

June 3, 2014 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek

In today’s global marketplace, even before the first good or service is produced for export, a significant amount of relationship building and information sharing among trading partners occurs. Formulating relationships and defining cooperation agreements are the first step on the path to global trade. This applies to several industries, but international cooperation is a critical element for the bioenergy sector.  Continue reading »

Sweden and Minnesota Move Forward on Bioenergy Cooperation

May 29, 2014 in Transportation & Fuels Author: Amanda Bilek

Industry and ProjectsSweden currently landfills less than 1 percent of their total solid waste. That is not a typo and yes, you did read that statistic right! Using a combination of recycling, energy recovery and biological treatment Sweden is able to successfully manage over 99 percent of their waste resources for productive use. This impressive statistic and others were revealed at a recent seminar on Sustainable Transportation held at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.  Continue reading »