Business Briefs: Companies, Organizations & People in the News

By | April 15, 2009
›Propel Fuels Inc., a California-based renewable fuels retailer, announced the hiring of Matt Horton as the company's new CEO. Horton has extensive expertise in clean technology and renewable fuels. Propel Fuels said his addition comes at a time of tremendous growth for the company, which recently launched the first statewide network of low-carbon fueling stations in California.

According to Propel Fuels, the network of stations, which sell E85 and biodiesel, will keep dollars in the state while creating hundreds of new green-collar jobs. The company has opened five stations with a goal to have hundreds across the state within the next five years.

›Texas-based Earth Biofuels Inc. has changed its name to Evolution Energy Inc., as part of a strategy to further pursue biodiesel production, marketing and distribution. The company recently announced plans to install approximately 30 storage tanks with a total capacity of more than 1 million gallons at its 10 MMgy production facility in Durant, Okla. A methanol recovery system will also be added to the facility.

In March, the company appointed former USDA official Douglas Faulkner to its advisory board and said he will utilize his governmental expertise to develop company tactics and strategy.

›German quality assurance firm AGQM discontinued its quality assurance program for public filling stations this spring, blaming the phasing out of German tax incentives and plummeting retail biodiesel sales due to last year's high oil and commodity prices. AGQM will continue its quality management services for biodiesel producers and traders who supply biodiesel for mandated blends, as well to wholesale businesses. At the same time, German biodiesel producer Petrotec AG released preliminary year end figures showing a 28 percent increase in sales to €77.7 million ($105 million), and a preliminary overall loss before interest and depreciation of € 21.1 million ($28 million). Petrotec commissioned its second biodiesel plant in 2008, bringing its production capacity to 185,000 tons per year (55 MMgy), using waste vegetable oil as feedstock.

›OriginOil Inc. signed a cooperative agreement with the U.S. DOE's Idaho National Laboratory that will help validate and commercialize OriginOil's algae-to-oil technology. Using the INL's cutting-edge equipment and resources, the first phase of the multi-phase program will focus on the collaborative development of an energy balance model for photobioreactor-based algae systems. Subsequent phases will involve validation of OriginOil's processes and piloting specific commercial applications. OriginOil is also targeting regional and national partners able to manufacture, sell, install and support Origin Oil's systems on a local level, according to president and CEO Riggs Eckelberry. Rollouts to these regions are expected to start next year.

›Bayer CropScience and the German Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research recently announced the formation of a research agreement to develop modified, high-yielding canola hybrids. Bayer's primary aim is to incorporate the partnership's resulting innovations into its InVigor Canola seed business in North America and develop global oilseed rape products for markets with a high demand for healthy, high-quality oils.

›Renewable Fuel Corp. Inc., a Nevada-based biodiesel producer and distributor, recently announced the company is seeking off-take agreements for the purchase of biodiesel from producers in Malaysia. The company recently opened a new corporate operations office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This office will manage the operations of the company's biodiesel refineries and distribution facilities. Renewable Fuel Corp. currently operates a 60 MMgy biodiesel production facility in Kuantan, Malaysia. The company is in the process of developing two additional biodiesel production facilities and a jatropha plantation in Dumai, Indonesia.

›Scottish Bioenergy Cooperative Ventures has been awarded the £40,000 ($57,000) Climate Change Innovation Prize from Royal Dutch Shell PLC's Shell Springboard program.

Based in St. Cyrus, Scotland, Scottish Bioenergy builds, sells and operates photobioreactors for capturing carbon dioxide emissions to grow algae feedstock for biodiesel production.

Recently, the company successfully tested a small-scale version of its photobioreactor at the Glenturret Distillery in Crieff, Scotland. The next phase of the project will be to build a photobioreactor at the distillery that's capable of converting 20 metric tons of carbon dioxide into 6,000 liters (1,600 gallons) of biodiesel per year.

›The Bureau of Development Services for the City of Portland, Ore., has awarded Gorge Analytical LLC, a biodiesel testing laboratory in Hood River, Ore., the contract to sample and test B100 produced within the state or imported for blending with petroleum diesel, to ensure the fuel meets ASTM standards. The fuel inspections are being conducted in accordance with Portland's renewable fuels standard, which requires petroleum diesel sold within city limits to contain a B5 blend or greater. The requirement will increase to B10 in 2010. Gorge Analytical's $40,000 fuel inspection contract began Jan. 6 and will expire June 30, 2011.

›Nova Biosource Fuels Inc. and certain subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware at the end of March. Nova requested court approval to continue managing its properties and operating the businesses as "debtors-in-possession." Nova appointed Brent King of Prairie Financial Advisors LLC as vice president/chief restructuring officer of the companies. Blank Rome LLP serves as bankruptcy counsel. Nova Biosource owns two biodiesel refineries, a 60 MMgy plant in Seneca, Ill., and a 10 MMgy plant in Clinton, Iowa.

›Thirteen seed companies, processors and researchers of camelina across the U.S. and Canada have formed the North American Camelina Trade Association to promote research, production and the development of new markets for camelina, including biodiesel production. Scott Johnson, general manager of Sustainable Oils Inc., will serve as NACTA president. David King, CEO of Great Plains-The Camelina Co. will serve as secretary, and Craig Parker, CEO of Willamette Biomass Processors will assume the position of treasurer.

The first annual meeting of NACTA will be held in October.

›Washington-based algal application specialist Bionavitas announced it has developed a technology that increases yields and reduces costs when growing algae for biofuel production.

Through its Light Immersion Technology (LIT), the company says it has generated a system that brings light into open ponds and closed bioreactors through a system of rods, which are immersed into the algae culture to increase density and overcome algae's shade layer. Michael Weaver, Bionavitas CEO, said LIT may increase the depth of algae growth from conventional sunlight, which is only the top three to five centimeters, to up to a meter in depth.

›Innovation Fuels Inc. has partnered with two New Jersey farmers to plant pennycress at two test sites within the state. One site is a 120-acre farm in Manalapan, N.J., owned by the family of Michael Lazewski, president of Alternative Fuels LLC. The other location is in Warren County, N.J., near the Delaware Water Gap owned by Flexcraft Industries Inc.

Innovation Fuels intends to introduce pennycress as a feedstock at its 40 MMgy plant in Newark, N.J. later this year, according to CEO John Fox. In related company news, Malek Jalal, cofounder and former chief strategy officer, was recently appointed president of Innovation Fuels.

›Oil refining and marketing company Neste Oil Corp. began construction of a €550 million ($805 million) NExBTL renewable diesel plant in Singapore, which will produce 800,000 metric tons (271 MMgy) of the fuel per year, mainly from animal fats and palm oil. Plans for the facility, which is being built in the Tuas industrial zone on the southwest side of the island, were originally announced in November 2007. The company stated that the plant is expected to be complete by the end of 2010 and will employ approximately 100 people.

›A synthetic blend of B5 will be used to power Volkswagen Jettas for the 2009 TDI Cup race season, according to Volkswagen of America Inc. It is the first year biodiesel will be used in its racing cars. Houston-based race fuel company Hyperfuels will supply approximately $21,000 of its "SynDiesel" fuel for use in the race cars and will also provide BioTrucker fuel cards to racing teams on behalf of the National Biodiesel Board, to allow transport teams the option of using biodiesel in their vehicles as well.

The TDI Cup racing schedule can be viewed at

›Petrobras earmarked $2.8 billion to biofuels over four years in its business plan released in March. In the biodiesel sector, the Brazilian oil and biofuels producer is committing 20 percent of that amount to expanding its biodiesel production in Brazil to 640 million liters (169 million gallons) by 2013. Petrobras expects to build a new plant in northern Brazil and increase production capacity at four existing locations. A partnership with the Portuguese firm Galp Energia will continue, which calls for biodiesel production in both Brazil and Portugal. Deployment of a biodiesel production unit in Africa is also being planned.

›Changing World Technologies Inc., a renewable diesel producer, and its three wholly-owned subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early March. The filing was due to approaching debt deadlines and unsuccessful attempts to obtain outside financing. The company said operations were downsized during the reorganization process and a majority of its workforce was laid off. CWT plans on continuing its efforts to secure additional debt and equity financing to fund operations. The case is pending in the U.S Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

›In March, California-based Kreido Biofuels Inc. announced the completion of selling its assets to Kentucky-based Four Rivers BioEnergy Inc. Four Rivers acquired Kreido's spinning tube-in-tube (STT) reactors and technology, as well as its modular biodiesel production plant equipment and related property. The purchase price was approximately $2.8 million in cash, 1.2 million shares of Four Rivers' common stock, a warrant to purchase an additional 200,000 shares of Four Rivers' common stock at $8 per share, and the assumption of certain purchase orders. Four Rivers plans to construct a biodiesel refinery in Kentucky that will use STT technology and the recently purchased assets.

›Encore Energy Systems Inc. reported mid-March that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire Geo Green Fuels Gonzales LLC's 3 MMgy biodiesel plant in Gonzales, Texas. The acquisition comes on the heels of a related announcement, which unveiled the company's plan to acquire various biodiesel refineries that are currently operating under capacity, which could be purchased at significant discounts. Encore Energy said it expects the Gonzales multi-feedstock plant to generate approximately $8.5 million annually.

›Imperium Renewables Inc. has reduced its workforce at the Imperium Grays Harbor biodiesel refinery by 24 people, citing the dramatically reduced global demand for biodiesel, high feedstock prices and extreme volatility in the petroleum fuel markets. Until recently, the soft U.S. biofuels market had been offset by demand in the European market, where European mandates made biodiesel competitive. This advantage ended, however, on March 3 when the EU enacted tariffs on imported U.S.-produced biodiesel.

›Argent Energy Ltd., a U.K.-based biodiesel producer, received the sustainable biodiesel award for a distributor or producer at the World Biofuels Markets conference and exhibition in Brussels, Belgium, March 17. Florida-based PetroAlgae LLC received the sustainable technology supplier award. In the inaugural year, the winners were selected from a shortlist chosen from nominations. Also making the shortlist from the biodiesel industry were Finnish firm Neste Oil Corp. and another U.K. company, Mabanaft Ltd. Other technology provider nominees, in addition to winner PetroAlgae, were Indian-based Praj Industries Ltd. and China's Institute of New Energy at Tsinghua University.

›Carotech Bhd., one of Malaysia's largest producers of refined and molecularly-distilled palm methyl ester and crude glycerin, was awarded an industry excellence award for export of merchandise by the Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry. The "certificate of excellence" is given to exporters who have performed exceptionally well in the global marketplace, according to Carotech.

The company produces and exports CaroDiesel, its trademarked brand of B100, for biodiesel applications throughout the world. Carotech stated the fuel has a methyl ester content of at least 99 percent, which exceeds both Europe and United States standards.

›After conducting a technical review of biodiesel fuel with the U.S. DOE, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the National Biodiesel Board, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. determined that ASTM-certified B5 blended fuel can be used in products without further investigation. Earlier this year UL announced that B5-blended heating oil and diesel fuel meeting ASTM standards may be considered the same as conventional petroleum fuels.

›The American Soybean Association has recognized former National Biodiesel Board Chairman Darryl Brinkman with its Lifetime Achievement-Association Focus Award, for his work in the biodiesel industry. The award honors individuals who have shown an impressive commitment to ASA membership development over many years.

Brinkman serves on the NBB Executive Committee and Governing Board as the ASA representative, and was NBB chairman from 2004-2007. He has been a member of the ASA for more than 30 years.

›Solazyme Inc., a South San Francisco, Calif.-based algae oil production company, announced that Arthur Grossman, chief of genetics, has been awarded the Gilbert Morgan Smith Medal for excellence in published research on marine or freshwater algae. The award, which only recognizes one scientist every three years, was established through the Helen P. Smith Fund and is awarded by the National Academy of Sciences. The focus of the award is Grossman's research on algae and cyanobacteria and elucidating molecular mechanisms by which they adapt to changes in light color and nutrient availability.
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