Business Briefs

By | November 17, 2010
The state of Massachusetts recently renewed its biodiesel contract with Chelsea, Mass.-based fuel distributor Dennis K. Burke Inc. The bid enables all public entities to purchase biodiesel from Dennis K. Burke, including department of public works, state hospitals, correctional facilities and universities. Massachusetts is expected to purchase about 750,000 gallons of blended biodiesel under this contract. Chairman of the board Ed Burke says the company has been awarded the state contract since 2007, and previously had supplied the state with biodiesel blends under pilot programs. Burke says state agencies are mandated under executive order to use biodiesel blends, and this contract allows them to purchase blends at a discount to retail. The Chelsea-based supplier also won a separate bid to supply biodiesel-blended fuel to the city of Boston.

A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has won a $50,000 ConocoPhillips Energy Prize to support the development of a carbohydrate-to-biodiesel process. The technology, which is designed to significantly increase yields, may also provide a pathway for the direct conversion of hydrogen and carbon dioxide into biofuels. According to Gregory Stephanopoulos, an MIT professor of chemical engineering leading the project, the technology utilizes an engineered microbe to convert carbohydrate feedstocks into lipids. While Stephanopoulos notes that he is unable to disclose specific details of the process due to its proprietary nature, he says that the patent-pending technology can be applied to a wide portfolio of carbohydrate feedstocks, including sugars, glucose, glycerin, hydrolysates from biomass and algae.

Decatur, Ill.-based agribusiness firm Archer Daniels Midland Co. plans to build a 164,000 metric ton (about 50 MMgy) biodiesel facility in Joacaba, Santa Catarina, Brazil. Construction on the plant is slated to begin in March 2011 with completion during the first half of 2012. The Joacaba biodiesel plant will be constructed adjacent to an ADM soybean crushing facility and a vegetable oil refinery. Acquired from Sadia in 1998, these operations currently process nearly 475,000 metric tons of soybeans and are capable of refining approximately 73,000 metric tons of soybean oil annually. Once operational, the biodiesel production facility is expected to increase oil refining capacity to approximately 110,000 metric tons per year. In addition, the facility will be the first in the state of Santa Catarina, which boasts an ample supply of soybeans produced mainly by small family farms.

Bio-NRG LLC is moving ahead with plans to construct a biodiesel plant in LaHarpe, Ill. The facility, which will be operated under the name LaHarpe-NRG LLC, will have an estimated production capacity of 15 MMgy. According to Bio-NRG President and CEO Jon Hall, the new facility has been uniquely designed to be economically feasible.
The business model for the LaHarpe plant is for a vertically-integrated biorefinery. The city of LaHarpe recently commissioned a third-party feasibility study of the project to ensure the projected economics of the plant add up. The results of that study, completed by Tennessee-based Frazier Barnes & Associates, were overwhelmingly positive.

Thomas J. Tobin has joined Sandmeyer Steel Co. as District Sales Manager in its Midwest sales territory. He will service customers in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. Tobin brings with him more than 22 years of metals sales experience, mainly with Special Metals Corp. in West Virginia and Tempel Steel Co. in Chicago. He earned his bachelor's degree from Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., and his MBA from Xavier University in Cincinnati. The family-owned and managed Sandmeyer Steel was founded in 1952 and is a leading producer of stainless steel and nickel alloy plate products used in capital equipment for the chemical and other process industries. The company services customers throughout the world.

China Integrated Energy Inc. closed on the acquisition of a newly constructed 50,000 metric ton (15 MMgy) biodiesel production facility from Chongqing Tianrun Energy Development Ltd. in Chongqing City, China. According to CIA, the newly-acquired plant is located adjacent to the company's existing 100,000 metric ton facility in Tongchuan City, Shaanxi Province, China. The company expects to conduct initial testing in December, followed by ramping up production. The company says it paid approximately $16.5 million in cash from the $58.7 million it had in hand as of June 30 for the Chongqing Tianrun biodiesel plant. CIA anticipates that the acquisition could add approximately $32 million in revenue and $8 million in pretax income in 2011.

General Biodiesel Inc. tapped digital prototyping and piping and instrumentation diagramming (P&ID) software from Autodesk Inc. to streamline the production process at its 15 MMgy multifeedstock facility in Seattle. The improvement project cut more than $500,000 on traditional upgrade costs to the plant, according to the company. As part of its plant improvements, General Biodiesel used Autodesk Inventor and Auto CAD P&ID software to design a sophisticated pretreatment system that allows higher yields from converting used cooking oil into biodiesel. By using Autodesk Inventor software, General Biodiesel could produce compelling 3D digital prototypes of the plant and equipment to quickly visualize and explore the viability of proposed changes. The company also used AutoCAD P&ID to generate the bill of materials, making for more accurate reports and saving money through greater efficiency. Autodesk's partner IMAGINiT assisted with training and ensuring successful deployment of Autodesk's software.

Aurora Algae Inc. is constructing a demonstration-scale algae facility in northwestern Australia, which is expected to be operational by the end of the year. Plans for an adjacent commercial-scale plant are also underway. The company, formally known as Aurora Biofuels Inc., recently changed its name to reflect a new focus. While Aurora plans to initially focus on the production of high-value algae-based products, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, the company hasn't abandoned the idea of biofuels production. Aurora has developed a pale green cultivar of algae that lets light penetrate farther into the pond and creates a much higher yield in production. Aurora has a total of 27 patents for its biology and technology platform.

According to a new report from Pike Research, algae biofuels production will grow rapidly over the next decade, reaching 61 million gallons per year and a market value of $1.3 billion by 2020. While barely a drop in the bucket for biofuels, this represents a compound annual growth rate of 72 percent, roughly on par with early development in the biodiesel industry. Pike Research anticipates that, with 50 percent of all algae activity, the U.S. is poised to ramp up production the earliest among world markets. Pilot- and demonstration-scale facilities are beginning to break ground across the country. The EU market, which is home to about 30 percent of algae activity, will be limited initially by the industry's focus on university research, and later by insufficient access to water, land and nutrient sources. Latin America and Asia Pacific, which are home to fewer projects in operation today, are set to gain significant market share in the long run.

Enzyme developer Verenium has renewed and extended for five years its joint marketing agreement with Alfa Laval, the heat transfer, separation and fluid handling company, for its patented Purifine PLC enzyme. Under terms of the extended agreement, Alfa Laval will market Purifine PLC to edible oils processing customers in agreed territories and continue its efforts on developing the Purifine PLC enzymatic degumming process. The renewed agreement supersedes the initial agreement announced in early 2009.

SG Biofuels recently announced a strategic partnership with Bunge North America to research and develop a model to process jatropha seeds into a biofuel feedstock. SG Biofuels President and CEO Kirk Haney made the announcement at the Advanced Biofuels Markets Conference & Expo in San Francisco. Bunge, a global leader in oilseed processing, joins a team of partners, including Flint Hills Resources, a refining and petrochemical company and wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, Life Technologies Corp., a global biotechnology tools company, and others that are collaborating with SG Biofuels to develop jatropha as a viable source for cost-effective, sustainable crude plant oil.
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