Business Briefs

By Staff | April 21, 2011

Ft. Collins, Colo.-based integrated algal technology developer Solix Biofuels Inc. has secured $16 million from inside investors as part of a Series B finance round. Bohemian Ventures, The Southern Ute Alternative Energy Fund and I2BF Global Ventures all participated in the round. In conjunction with the financing, Solix changed its name to Solix BioSystems to better reflect its role as a leading provider of algal production systems. According to Joanna Money, vice president of business development for Solix, the new funding will help drive the commercialization of the company’s trademarked algae growth system—or AGS—which utilizes Solix’s proprietary, high-productivity photobioreactors. 

EQM Technologies & Energy Inc. went looking for working capital, and according to Robert Galvin, CFO of EQM, found it. After performing a reverse merger to acquire Beacon Energy Holdings in January, the newly named EQM Technology & Energy Inc. needed funding to restart a 12 MMgy biodiesel facility in Cleburne, Texas, formerly owned and operated by Beacon Energy Holdings. The board of directors for EQM authorized the sale of $3 million for convertible notes, and Galvin says he has secured $2.5 million. “When we acquired this business, we needed to raise some working capital to effectively start the plant,” Galvin tells Biodiesel Magazine. The convertible notes mean that those notes “are convertible into shares of the company’s common stock. If the stock trades above the conversion price,” Galvin says, “I’m expecting that the holders of these notes will want to convert their notes to stock.” If, however, the stock doesn’t trade above the conversion price, he adds, “I’m sure they’ll want to hold onto their notes. If that were to happen, these notes mature in three years, at which time they will be paid their principle with interest.”

PetroAlgae has formed a partnership to upgrade the Melbourne, Fla.-based company’s algae oil technology, and the upgrade comes from known, traditional methods: catalysts. Through a new agreement with Haldor Topsoe A/S and its U.S. subsidiary Haldor Topsoe Inc., PetroAlgae will now use catalysts provided from the subsidiary's Houston headquarters to enhance the oils produced through its algae refining process that includes coking and pyrolysis. The agreement will also allow PetroAlgae to test the algae biomass produced from its system in refinery cokers and “validate the commercial viability” of the process, says John Scott, chairman of PetroAlgae.

A new biodiesel production technology developed at the University of Connecticut will soon be offered commercially. The innovative system features a continuous flow reactor that separates biodiesel from glycerin in one step. The patented technology has been under development for approximately three years. Richard Parnas, UConn professor of chemical engineering, identified an opportunity to combine the reaction step with glycerin separation. “Sometimes separations can cost more than the reactions,” Parnas says. “As we were developing our continuous reactor, we recognized an opportunity to combine the glycerol separation with the actual reaction to produce the biodiesel.” Vegetable oil and methanol are run through a mixer before they enter the reactor. The biodiesel systems will be built on skids, and can be shipped anywhere in the world. The company plans to initially focus on community-scale production systems ranging in nameplate capacity between 250,000 and 5 MMgy.

Ultra Green Energy Services Inc. expanded operations at the New Hyde Park Fuel Terminal in New Hyde Park, N.Y., by increasing railcar storage capacity by 30 percent. The terminal, owned and operated by Hart Petroleum, is the lone operating rail-to-rack terminal dedicated to biofuels on Long Island. According to Michael Cooper, director of sales and trading for UGES, the impetus for the rail expansion came as a result from record demand for Bioheat from customers during the most recent winter months. As a result, Cooper said UGES worked with the New York and Atlantic Railway to add more track for the addition of seven railcars that will help meet the demand. “A railcar comes in every seven minutes at 70 miles per hour there,” Cooper tells Biodiesel Magazine. He said UGES plans on adding 10 more railcars to the New Hyde Park terminal. The New Hyde Park terminal is capable of storing B100 in a separate 40,000-gallon tank equipped with computerized in-line blending systems that ensure concise biodiesel and/or Bioheat blend levels, from B2 to B99, based on customer needs, according to Danny Falcone, wholesale manager for UGES. “The demand is coming now,” Falcone says.

Isuzu Commercial Truck of America recently released a new commercial van called the Reach, and among other attributes the van will be B20 compatible. During the National Truck Equipment Association’s 2011 Work Truck show in Indianapolis, Isuzu unveiled the new line of B20 vans, telling the large crowd that each van will reduce emissions by 11 tons per year. “We believe the Reach will truly revolutionize the commercial van market,” says John Marshall, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Utilimaster, a company that helped design and build the new commercial van. The van is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine that has been rated to last 310,000 miles. In comparison to traditional commercial vans, independent testing concluded that the Reach is 35 percent more fuel efficient, according to Isuzu, and 81 percent of Isuzu-built diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. since 1986 are still in service today. The new Reach diesel-powered vans are set for production by mid-summer.

Ohio State University has teamed up with a biodiesel producer from Ohio on research based in glycerin technology that converts crude glycerin into polyurethane foam. The process was created by Yebo Li, a biosystems engineer for OSU’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center located in Wooster, Ohio. Li has developed a process that converts crude glycerin created via biodiesel production into biopolyol, which is then used as the main component for the foam. The material can be used in a wide range of products including automotive seats and bumpers, appliance applications such as thermal insulation systems from refrigerators, insulation boards, packaging materials, or the construction industry. “We have already tested our biopolyol products in automobile headrests,” Li tells Biodiesel Magazine. The product is 5 to 10 percent cheaper that petroleum or natural oil-based foams. The current market for polyurethane is roughly $13 billion in the U.S., and creates a demand for 2.8 million tons of product.

Germany’s Federal Office for Economy and Export Control (BAFA) released figures recently on the nation’s total biodiesel sales in 2010. BAFA reports that approximately 2.6 million metric tons (780.5 million gallons) of biodiesel was sold into the German fuel market last year. A majority of that, about 2.3 million tons, was sold for blending into the 32.1 million ton German diesel fuel market, which comes to slightly more than 7 percent. The German oilseed council UFOP commented on the numbers, stating, “Biodiesel will remain an alternative fuel of great importance in the future … the consumption of diesel will continue to rise due to the constantly higher quantities of goods transported by road.” The council then says, “Besides, so-called second-generation fuels replacing diesel will not be available for a foreseeable time, UFOP is convinced. So UFOP confirms the necessity that biodiesel should be conceded a future both as pure fuel and as admixture in motor fuel. There is no other way of meeting the climate targets in the transport sector.” While Germany consumed more than 780 million gallons of biodiesel last year, the U.S. only produced 315 million gallons of biodiesel in 2010, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Nevada-based Green Fuels America Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of U.K.-based Green Fuels Ltd., will begin manufacturing feedstock-flexible FuelMatic biodiesel processors this spring. The community-scale production facilities are capable of processing approximately 5,000 gallons of biodiesel per day, equating to an annual production capacity of nearly 1.6 million gallons. Greg Springer, vice president and general manager of Green Fuels America, says Green Fuels Ltd. has been manufacturing its FuelMatic line of biodiesel processors for about five years. “There are about 21 of them in the world right now, and seven in backlog,” Springer says, noting that Green Fuels’ manufacturing capacity in England is peaked out. Green Fuels America will now begin manufacturing the productions systems for markets in the western hemisphere. “Out of our office, we are handling markets spanning from Alaska to Argentina,” Springer says.

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