Business Briefs

By Staff | September 08, 2011

 A new fuel terminal in the Minneapolis metro area will offer biodiesel-blended fuels. The Rosemount Clean Energies facility, which sits on a 50-acre industrial site, will offer biofuel injection blending. According to information released by the company, the new site will provide local marketers and end-users increased savings and flexibility to customize products. The terminal, which features a rail spur and 400,000 barrels of fuel storage capacity, is able to receive and ship product via rail, truck, tank and pipeline. The site also includes insulated, heated tanks for biodiesel. Minnesota will increase its biodiesel mandate from 5 to 10 percent next spring.

A court case in Canada regarding the 2008 release of methanol by a High River, Alberta-based biodiesel producer has finally been resolved. On Aug. 16, Alberta Environment announced that the Provincial Court of Alberta has fined Western Biodiesel Inc. $160,000 under the province’s Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act for releasing wastewater containing methanol into the environment, and for providing false or misleading information to investigators. According to Alberta Environment, Jason Freeman, a former manager at the plant, pled guilty to directing the release of contaminated wastewater and knowingly providing false or misleading information to investigators. He was sentenced to four months of house arrest. A statement released by Alberta Environment notes that Freeman directed workers to release the methanol-laden wastewater on Oct. 27, 2008. The flammable waste was released onto the ground at the back of Western Biodiesel’s property. The statement further explains that a welder, who was unaware of the release, ignited the wastewater the following day. While nobody was injured, Alberta Environment noted that Freeman denied that a release had occurred when investigators arrived in response to an anonymous complaint.

Brazilian oil and gas conglomerate Petrobras, through its wholly-owned biofuel subsidiary Petrobras Biocombustivel, plans to invest $2.5 billion in increasing biodiesel and ethanol production between 2011 and 2015. The total amount is part of $4.1 billion earmarked for its total biofuel business, with its business plan calling for investments totaling approximately $224.7 billion in the next five years. Although increasing ethanol production will be a priority for Petrobras—accounting for nearly 76 percent of the total investment in biofuels production in the four-year span—the company intends to invest $600 million to bolster its biodiesel and agricultural supply segments in hopes of maintaining a 25 percent domestic market share in the coming years. This figure, according to the company, would take into account the organic growth in demand for diesel and Brazil’s B5 regulation currently in effect.

In a move that would strengthen its European oilseed processing, food manufacturing and biodiesel capabilities, Decatur, Ill.-based agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. signed a public tender offer to purchase a majority share in Elstar Oils S.A., a Warsaw-listed company that specializes in the production of quality refined vegetable oils and fats for the food industry and biodiesel market. The purchase is subject to approval by relevant antitrust authorities. Elstar Oils, located in northern Poland, operates a rapeseed crushing, refining, solid-fat packaging and oil bottling facility in Czernin and a 100,000-metric-ton-per-year biodiesel facility in Malbork. Elstar’s core business activity primarily involves rapeseed and other vegetable oils production where the products are directed at the domestic, business-to-business market and industry customers throughout the country. The company’s subsidiary, Biopaliwa S.A. located in Malbork, has produced biodiesel since 2008. In that same year, the Elstar Group completed the last stage of a four-year-long investment process that resulted in a doubling of annual rapeseed crush capacity from 200,000 to 400,000 metric tons.

Biodiesel is now available via truck and rail from Renewable Energy Group Inc.’s newly acquired facility, REG Albert Lea LLC. The first truckload of biodiesel exceeded ASTM D6751 and was picked up for the Trail’s Travel Center truck stop in Albert Lea, Minn., along I-35. Customers have the option to pick up either B99 or B100 at the 30 MMgy facility. REG was the general contractor and manager for the refined vegetable oil feedstock biodiesel plant that began production in April 2005. With immense multifeedstock technology and upgrade experience, REG officials noted the facility could be upgraded in order to process a wide variety of lower-cost natural fats and oils including used cooking oil, inedible corn oil from ethanol production, and high free fatty acid materials.

Ontario-based biodiesel producer Biox Corp. secured funding from Farm Credit Canada to upgrade its existing 67 MMly (17.7 MMgy) biodiesel plant located in Hamilton, Ontario, to improve the quality of glycerin from crude to technical grade. Farm Credit Canada agreed to replace Biox’s existing term debt loan with a new loan that will include approximately $4.8 million for the final design and construction costs of a stand-alone glycerin refinement facility co-located on site of the Hamilton biodiesel production plant. Biox has already completed pilot plant testing and evaluations of its glycerin refinement solution. The mechanical, piping and structural upgrades to the Hamilton facility are scheduled to coincide with the company’s fall semiannual maintenance shutdown. Installation of major equipment is expected to begin in early 2012 during its spring maintenance. The company is working to market its own technical-grade glycerin, which is used in a variety of industrial applications such as chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Artisan Ind-ustries is offering a vertical version of its mechanically aided thin film processor, the Rototherm V. The company cites three main benefits to using a vertical thin film processor as opposed to a horizontal version. First, it minimizes floor space required. Second, it’s cheaper to build and operate. Third is the size to which either can be built. A horizontal version can total only 200 square feet approximately, while a vertical unit can be built to 1,500 to 2,000 square feet. A drawback of the vertical versus the horizontal processor is the ability of the vertical design to process the concentration to a dry state. The horizontal version can completely dry the material, while the vertical units cannot go as far. The Rototherm V is suited for concentration, evaporation and stripping applications in the food, chemical, oleochemical, pharmaceutical and polymer industries, and the machine is able to work with high-viscosity, heat-sensitive and solids-containing materials.

The prize for this year’s winner of the Google-sponsored Green Flight Challenge will be $1.65 million, the largest ever for the competition. NASA will pay the bill for the prize for the competition, which requires participating teams to travel at least 200 miles in the air going at least 100 mph and reaching at least a 200-passenger miles-per-gallon level. A research and flight testing organization known as the CAFE Foundation (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) will conduct the event, which will include several innovative aircrafts fueled by everything from electric power to biodiesel. In addition to the main prize, teams will also be eligible to win a biofuels prize and a special Lindbergh prize for the quietest aircraft, according to CAFE. Teams competing for the biofuels prize must achieve at least 80 mph and get at least 160 mpg. Two teams from California will use a biodiesel-electric hybrid engine for power, and one team from Montana will run straight biodiesel. The only other biofuel team eligible to win the $150,000 prize, is a team from Kansas that will run ethanol.

Redwood City, Calif.-based fuel retailer Propel Fuels signed a multi-year partnership with Pacific Convenience and Fuels to co-locate Propel’s network of green-built, self-serve filling stations—called Clean Fuel Points—with PC&F gas stations and convenience stores throughout the Western U.S. Propel and PC&F have identified more than 80 potential locations for Clean Fuel Points throughout PC&F’s network of 300 stations in California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado, which operate under various brands including Chevron, 76, Conoco and Circle K. Propel’s partnership with PC&F is expected to provide consumer and fleet vehicles across the Western states with greater access to biodiesel and other renewable fuels and enable both companies to accelerate their respective expansion plans.

A new study by Lux Research Inc. has found that although investment in alternative fuels remained flat last year, funding for feedstock-agnostic and end-product flexible technologies was more common. In 2010, investors contributed $930 million to alternative fuel startup companies, which represented a four-year low. Conversely, investment dramatically climbed to an all-time high of $698 million for companies that are flexible in terms of feedstock and end products. Lux Research notes that as this trend continues, startups with less flexible technologies will be forced out of the industry. To complete the study, Lux Research compiled a comprehensive database of all the investments in the alternative fuels space since 2004. The study also contrasted and compared investments that have been made by corporate investors with those made by institutional investors such as private equity firms and venture capitalists.

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