Business Briefs

By Staff | November 21, 2011

Woodlands, Texas-based glycerin company BenchMark Energy Corp. has signed an agreement to acquire a 49 percent stake in Indiana-based Energy Partners LLC, with an option to acquire the remaining 51 percent contingent on certain IRS tax criteria in 2012. Energy Partners had $750,000 in glycerin sales in the nine-month period ending Sept. 30. The company is in discussions with the city of Grand Forks, N.D., to build a 21,600 square-foot, eight-acre glycerin processing facility. The project was approved by the Grand Forks Growth Fund committee and the Jobs Development Authority, and upon completion of the project, expected in mid-2012, Energy Partners plans to hire 29 full-time employees at the facility. The facility would have the capacity to process approximately 10 MMgy of crude glycerin sourced from a number of biodiesel plants within an 800-mile radius of Grand Forks.

A partnership in China that will bring together a Houston coal-to-liquids (CTL) company and a major Chinese coal and construction firm will utilize a CO2 capture system powered by algae. Accelergy Corp. will provide the Yankuang Group with its trademarked TerraSync terrestrial sequestration system to capture carbon from the future CTL facility in Erdos, an area in China’s Inner Mongolia Province. Along with the TerraSync system, Accelergy will also create a hybrid configuration of a microcatalytic coal liquefaction system in conjunction with a Fischer Tropsch system provided by Yankuang. The early plan for production at the CTL plant in China will equal roughly 68,000 barrels per day, and the fuel will be used by local fleets. Although the plant will be a first for Accelergy, the technology has already been tested at a pilot facility in China, located at the Bejing Research Institute for Coal Chemistry, the only testing facility, according to Accelergy, that can certify coals for Accelergy’s large-scale CTL projects.

U.K. biodiesel producer Argent Energy has announced that leaflet marketing specialist EAE Ltd. is using its B30 blend of fuel to help reduce carbon emissions. EAE aims to become carbon neutral by 2015. According to Argent Energy, EAE recently took delivery of seven Citroen Relay vans, which will be fueled with a B30 blend of Argent’s fuel. The firm further plans to switch the rest of its 21-vehicle fleet to B30 by the end of the year, which, it is projected, will offset the emission of 80 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Argent Energy converts used cooking oil and tallow into biodiesel. The company has an annual production capacity of 50 million liters (13.5 million gallons).

Anoka-Minn.-based SarTec Corp. has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. DOE as part of a project to enhance the use of inedible energy crops for production of advanced biofuels using the Mcgyan biodiesel process. The project will involve local farmers in the central plains region of the U.S. who will be contracted to grow pennycress and camelina crops. The oil from these crops will be collected and transported to the 3 MMgy Ever Cat Fuels plant in Isanti, Minn., where it will be converted into biodiesel using the Mcgyan process, which simultaneously performs a catalytic conversion of triglycerides and free fatty acids, into biodiesel. The grant will help support the initial investment in procuring the seed and assistance in growing camelina and pennycress crops.

Algae.Tec, an algae-to-fuels developer from Australia, has three years to prove out its enclosed modular algae growing systems after the Shoalhaven City Council approved the necessary permitting to Algae.Tec. The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act will give Algae.Tec the go-ahead to build a demonstration facility called Shoalhaven One near the Manildra Group’s ethanol facility south of Sydney. The permit is effective immediately, and after three years, Algae.Tec will have the option to expand. The site near the ethanol facility will capture CO2 from the ethanol plant’s fermentors for use as a growth medium to feed the enclosed growth systems developed and constructed by Algae.Tec in an 18,200 square foot facility in Atlanta. Each enclosed photobioreactor is housed in a used freight car optimized to house the system. The price for each unit is roughly $125,000. The container systems also use rotating parabolic light collectors that feed the captured light into a fiber optic system to help the algae grow in ideal conditions. Each module can produce roughly 250 dry tons of algae per year.

Connecticut-based Greenleaf Biofuels LLC has closed on full project funding with Sovereign Bank for its 10 MMgy biodiesel plant in New Haven, Conn. The Connecticut Community Investment Corp., in conjunction with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 504 Program, will assume nearly half of the Sovereign term loan once the plant is operational. Sovereign Bank and CTCIC now join the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and Advantage Capital Partners/Ironwood Capital as financial supporters of the project. The site of Greenleaf Biofuels’ proposed production facility is in the Port of New Haven, and will have access to water, rail and road transportation. The company says site work on the project has already begun and it expects to be producing by second quarter next year. The production equipment is a Greenline Industries system that was bought at auction. The company is working with JatroDiesel and Innovative Design Engineering Associates to redesign and upgrade the process to include methanol recovery and distillation systems. The plant will also feature cold filtering as part of the final polishing process. The multifeedstock technology will initially use waste vegetable oil.

San Diego-based SG Biofuels Inc. has announced several expansions to its management and science teams. The firm says the growth is reflective of the very high demand  that SG Biofuels is experiencing for its hybrid jatropha, particularly in key markets such as Brazil and India. In August, SG Biofuels announced a joint venture with India-based Bharat Petroleum to develop and deploy elite hybrids of jatropha for the production of biodiesel in India. In September, the company announced it is teaming with Jetbio, a multistakeholder initiative that includes Airbus, to accelerate the production of jatropha oil as a source of biobased jet fuel feedstock in Brazil. SG Biofuels announced the hiring of three new professionals on Oct. 6: Shawn Swaney will serve as vice president of finance; Grant Aldridge will serve as director of product management; and Livia Tommasini will serve as scientist and project leader.

New Mexico-based Rio Valley Biofuels has been awarded a total of $40,962 in grant funding from USDA Rural Development to support upgrades at the facility and help support the hire of new employees. The grant will be used to upgrade the facility’s chiller and vacuum pump and help support hiring two new employees. Rio Valley Biofuels has been operating for approximately six years, and produces 1.2 million to 1.5 million gallons of biodiesel annually. The plant operates primarily using recycled vegetable oil as feedstock. The upgraded chiller will allow for more efficient cooling of liquids during processing. The grant will also allow the facility to replace two small, inefficient vacuum pumps with a single, more efficient one. The money will allow some of those used parts to be replaced with new counterparts.

A criminal information was filed Oct. 3 charging Rodney R. Hailey, age 33, of Perry Hall, Md., with wire fraud, money laundering and a violation of the Clean Air Act, in connection with a scheme in which he allegedly sold $9 million in renewable fuel credits purportedly produced by his company, Clean Green Fuel LLC, when, in fact, the company did not produce any renewable fuel. The district U.S. Attorney says, “The information alleges that as the owner of Clean Green Fuel LLC, Rodney Hailey, specialized in producing 38-digit renewable identification numbers (RINs) … he allegedly sold more than 32 million RINs for over $9 million.” His business operation consisted solely of generating false RINs on his computer and marketing them to brokers and oil companies. Hailey allegedly used the proceeds of the wire fraud scheme to purchase luxury vehicles as well as real estate and jewelry. According to the information, during the investigation Hailey made numerous false statements to EPA investigators, including that he manufactured the fuel from waste vegetable oil collected from 2,700 restaurants. Hailey faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud; 10 years in prison for money laundering and two years in prison for violating the Clean Air Act.

Greensboro, N.C.-based Patriot BioDiesel LLC is expanding its operations in response to increased local demand for biodiesel. Once complete, the upgraded facility will have an annual production capacity of 2.5 million to 4 million gallons. The expansion was scheduled to be complete by mid-October. Patriot Bio-Diesel temporarily suspended biodiesel production in early 2010, following the expiration of the biodiesel tax credit. During that time, the company collected and refined waste oil, which was sold to other biodiesel plants. As RIN values increased in mid-2010, however, the plant restarted operations. Due to increased local demand for biodiesel, the company recently decided to increase capacity. Patriot BioDiesel purchased the new equipment from Tactical Fabrication LLC. Patriot BioDiesel elected to go with a unique heating system featuring ceramic elements manufactured by Innovative Heat Concepts. The efficient elements can detect the media they are in and adjust output heat. The facility will have capacity to produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per day.

Cumberland, Wis.-based vertically integrated biodiesel producer SunPower Bio-diesel LLC has opened a new B99 biodiesel fueling station in Duluth, Minn. The company trucks biodiesel produced at its 3 MMgy plant in Cumberland to the newly-launched fuel station in Duluth, which is based on an original prototype design of a fueling station currently in operation on the site of its plant. The station is the first in Northern Minnesota to offer a B99 blend. The company intends to transition from B99, considered a summer blend in the Upper Midwest, to an additized B20 winter blend in November. The company says its winter blend has been tested to withstand the frigid temperatures down to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

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