Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

U Of I's Hutjens: Ethanol Production Could Benefit Dairy Producers

Higher feed and fuel prices will probably take half the $4 to $6 per hundredweight price increase Illinois dairy farmers can expect for their product in 2007, said a University of Illinois Extension dairy specialist.

"2007 appears to be an economically positive year for Illinois dairy farmers with milk prices up $4 to $6 per hundredweight compared to 2006 when milk was below breakeven prices," said Mike Hutjens as he reviewed the state's dairy industry on the eve of June Dairy Month.

"In addition to higher feed and fuel prices, Illinois producers will face other challenges this year. These include the impact of heat stress this summer on dairy cattle with the potential to reduce milk yield and fertility; culling of cows, forage production and quality; impact of less BST use; and changes in world supply and demand."

Even as ethanol production continues to drive up the cost of feed, Hutjens said it has a potential benefit for dairy producers.

"Distillers grain, a byproduct of ethanol production, continues to be an economically available feed resource," he said. "Distillers grains have increased in price and will change in composition as new ethanol plants extract oil from the products. Farmers should be feeding 10 to 15 percent of their rations as corn distillers grain."

Illinois continues to trail the nation's leaders in average milk yield per cow.

"The average Illinois dairy cow produced 19,204 pounds of milk compared to the U.S. average of 19,756," he said. "Colorado cows took the lead at 23,155 pounds per cow."

Illinois has 1,105 dairy farms with the average herd size 94 cows. The U.S. average herd size is 147 and the top state is New Mexico with 1,929 cows per farm. Illinois produced 1.98 billion pounds of U.S. total production of 181 billion pounds.

"Our state has 15 herds over 500 cows producing 15 percent of Illinois's total milk yield," said Hutjens. "In the United Sates, there are 3,143 herds with over 500 cows that are producing 51 percent of our total milk supply."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chevron, Texas A&M Create Alliance To Develop Cellulosic Biofuels

Chevron Corporation and the Texas A&M Agriculture and Engineering BioEnergy Alliance (Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance) announced today that they have entered into a strategic research agreement to accelerate the production and conversion of crops for manufacturing ethanol and other biofuels from cellulose.

Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of Chevron USA, will support research initiatives over a four-year period through the Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance, a formal partnership combining the collective strengths of The Texas A&M University System's two premier research agencies in agriculture and engineering - the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES) and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) (and earlier post on these institutions' recent work on the development of a drought tolerant, high yield sorghum for biomass energy).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Safer Source Of Glycerin?

by Abel Pharmboy
Terra Sig Blog

After worries over the last few weeks of diethylene glycol being substituted for glycerin in cough syrup and toothpaste, I was happy to be reminded that we have a green source for glycerin. No need to risk using Chinese-sourced glycerin - glycerin (glycerol) is a by-product of biodiesel production.

But rather than sell it for pharmaceutical uses, researchers at the University of Missouri at Columbia are investigating the biodiesel by-product for use in cattle feed:

In a study that began this month, Monty Kerley, professor of ruminant nutrition in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, is examining the effectiveness of glycerin as cattle feed. Through November, the MU researcher will monitor the growth habits of 60 calves from various breeds to determine if bio-leftovers provide a healthy main course to cattle. The study has two main priorities: first, to determine if glycerin has a positive or negative effect on calves' growth performance, and second, to assess its impact, if any, on meat quality.

Making biodiesel from waste vegetable oils usually produces glycerol as about 10% of the reaction. Identifying new uses for this glycerin/glycerol "waste" is anticipated to catch up with the increasing demand for biodiesel. So even if successful, the UMC researchers feel that the animal feed solution will only be a short-term fix:

Kerley said developing usages for glycerin necessitates this type of research. In recent years, academic scientists and private-sector companies have been racing to find solutions and applications for the byproduct. An alternative food source for cattle is but one possibility. However, it's likely only a short-term option for the cattle industry.

"We probably have a three- to five-year window to use this for animal feed at a reduced cost," Kerley said. "This glycerin is a wonderful starting compound for building other compounds that can be applied to numerous industrial purposes. After three to five years, you'll see industrial applications utilizing this glycerin, and that may price it out of the animal feed industry."

Right now, glycerin is cheaper than corn on a per-pound basis - the UMC press release cites glycerin as costing only 4 cents per pound, half the price of feed corn. But I'm curious as to how it will be formulated with the animal feed - glycerol is a goopy mess. This research will address how cattle can use the glycerol at up to 20% in the diet and how efficiently it is used as a source for building muscle protein.

Ethanol And Dario Franchitti Win Indy 500

Finally, the race is over and ethanol wins again. Actually the winner of the Indy 500 is Dario Franchitti seen waving at me as he passes the media center. At the post-race press conference, he seemed like the most amazed guy in the world for having run and we certainly congratulate him.

During the press conference he was asked how he felt about winning by burning a renewable fuel in his car and how it performed. He has no problem with ethanol. In fact, he said it helped him get better gas mileage and that was beneficial in the end.

The race was shortened by rain and called after 166 laps. I heard several drivers saying they just couldn’t get into a normal race flow and that’s too bad but I guess it’s just the way it is. They’ll be racing again in another week. I’ll be attending two more races this season so count on some more IRL action on AgWired.

2007 Indy 500 Photo Album

Thursday, May 24, 2007

DOE Allocates $200M For Cellulosic Biomass

Milwaukee, Wis. - The United States Department of Energy has announced $200 million in new financing for cellulosic biomass projects.

This funding opportunity is open to applicants with projects that may include everything from research and development to design, construction, and operation of a one-tenth scale biorefinery facility that would be a prototype of a full-scale commercial operation.

The grant aims to lower the technical risk associated with financing commercial plants. Demonstration plants should be operable within three years with commercial plants to follow “shortly.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cleaner Manure Burns Hotter In Ethanol Processing

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608,
Contact: Dr. Brent Auvermann, 806-677-5600,

HEREFORD – Clean manure may sound like an oxymoron, but Dr. Brent Auvermann is working with feedyard owners to help them get the most "spark" from it as a fuel source.

Auvermann, a Texas Cooperative Extension engineering specialist, hosted "Producing High-Value Manure for BioFuels and Fertilizer" recently in Hereford. The meeting outlined work by Texas Agricultural Experiment Station researchers to determine best management practices for scraping manure from the feed pens.

"We're doing something that has never been done before," said Arles "Bugs" Graham, Panda Energy International's general manager for the Hereford plant. Graham spoke at the meeting.

"We're using your manure as an energy source," he said. "It's a very complex process."

After starting up the plant with natural gas as the boiler fuel, Panda Energy will eventually use manure as a fuel source when producing ethanol for an E10 fuel blend, Graham said.

The plant will initially process corn for ethanol, although the company is looking at alternative sources of starch to make the ethanol, and it will produce distiller's grains as a by-product.

"But manure is our future," Graham said, estimating each plant will use 1,500 tons a day.

University of Georgia Unveils New Biofuel From Wood Chips

Posted by Giles Clark, London

A new biofuel, derived from wood chips, has been developed by a team of researchers from the University of Georgia. Unlike previous fuels derived from wood, the new, and still unnamed, fuel can be blended with biodiesel and petroleum diesel to power conventional engines.

"The exciting thing about our method is that it is very easy to do," said Tom Adams, director of the UGA Faculty of Engineering outreach service. "We expect to reduce the price of producing fuels from biomass dramatically with this technique."

Adams, whose findings are detailed in the early online edition of the American Chemical Society journal Energy and Fuels, explained that scientists have long been able to derive oils from wood, but they had been unable to process it effectively or inexpensively so that it can be used in conventional engines. The researchers have developed a new chemical process, which they are working to patent, that inexpensively treats the oil so that it can be used in unmodified diesel engines or blended with biodiesel and petroleum diesel.

Here's how the process works: Wood chips and pellets – roughly a quarter inch in diameter and six-tenths of an inch long – are heated in the absence of oxygen at a high temperature, a process known as pyrolysis. Up to a third of the dry weight of the wood becomes charcoal, while the rest becomes a gas. Most of this gas is condensed into a liquid bio-oil and chemically treated. When the process is complete, about 34 percent of the bio-oil (or 15 to 17 percent of the dry weight of the wood) can be used to power engines. The researchers are currently working to improve the process to derive even more oil from the wood.

Committee Proposes $2 Billion In Loans For U.S. Biofuel Plants

WARWICK, N.Y. (DTN) -- The United States House Agriculture Committee has proposed USDA provide $2 billion in loan guarantees over five years for the construction of biorefineries and biofuel production plants, according to a draft of the House agriculture reauthorization bill.

In addition, the bill would authorize $500 million in spending over five years for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency and another $500 million for biomass research and development.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Report: Toyota To Intro Cars That Run On Ethanol And Gasoline In Brazil

TOKYO (AP) _ Toyota is introducing cars that run on ethanol and gasoline in Brazil, a major Japanese business newspaper reported Tuesday, at a time when such flexible-fuel vehicles are growing in popularity there.

According to the Nikkei, Toyota is set to unveil Corolla subcompacts that run on ethanol, gasoline or a mixture of the two fuels, and plans to switch models the Japanese automakers produces in Brazil to flex-fuel cars.

Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Paul Nolasco said the company was expected to make an announcement soon related to the Nikkei report, but declined to elaborate.

Proposal: EncourageBiomass Ethanol In Farm Bill


Washington, D.C. — The next farm bill could provide subsidies and loan guarantees to start production of fuel ethanol from corn-field residue and other sources of biomass.

Congressional pay-as-they-go rules are limiting the size of the programs, and lawmakers still must find a way to pay for them.

The House Agriculture Committee started drafting its version of the farm bill Tuesday and included a proposal to spend $1.5billion during the next five years to subsidize the production of biomass ethanol as well as traditional biodiesel, which is made from soybean oil and animal fats. Conventional corn ethanol would not qualify for the subsidies.

Developing cellulosic ethanol — made from crop waste, grasses or other biomass — is considered critical to reducing the nation’s use of gasoline.

Invensys Sponsors Ethanol-Powered IndyCar

Foxboro, Mass. - Invensys Process System has announced that it is joining forces with the Rahal Letterman Racing (RLR) and Team Ethanol to raise awareness of ethanol and its use as a renewable energy resource. Beginning this season, Invensys will be a sponsor of the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol IndyCar driven by Indy Racing League rookie of the year contender Jeff Simmons. Invensys' sponsorship coincides with a milestone in motor sports in that the 2007 IndyCar Series® is the first event in which all cars are powered with 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol. The2007 IndyCar Series runs through September and includes the Indianapolis 500 on May 27th.

The ethanol promotion is a cooperative effort between Team Ethanol, the IndyCar Series, RLR and the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC). EPIC is an alliance of ethanol producers and industry leaders who have come together to raise public awareness about the benefits of ethanol.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Illinois Joins Global Warming Fight

By Kiyoshi Martinez

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois is joining a growing list of states that are making their own policies on global warming, a trend that could create a patchwork of regulations.

In February, the governor tapped former Rockford mayor and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott to chair the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group.

The 35-member commission has goals of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and reduce them by an additional 60 percent by 2050.

Policies are supposed to be announced June 30.

For Illinois to substantially reduce its effect on global warming, it’ll have to look for ways to use less fossil fuels.

“Let’s just simply say that it’s an enormous challenge for humanity to wean ourselves away from nature’s gift,” said University of Illinois professor Michael Schlesinger, a member of the commission.

The combustion of fossil fuels contributes a majority of the greenhouse gases emitted in the state. This means any reduction in energy use will result in less emissions.

But it’s not a small task for Illinois. The state’s emissions rank fifth-highest in the nation and 26th-highest worldwide, according to the Illinois EPA.

New Interdisciplinary Biofuels Journal Launched

BioMed Central, the world’s largest publisher of open access, peer-reviewed journals, is pleased to announce the impending launch of Biotechnology for Biofuels. The new journal is the first of its kind to focus exclusively on understanding and advancing the application of biotechnology to improve plant and biological conversion systems for production of fuels from biomass. A peer-reviewed, open access journal, Biotechnology for Biofuels will begin accepting article submissions this summer.

The journal is being edited by some of the leaders in biofuels research including Charles Wyman, Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at the University of California at Riverdale; Chris Somerville, Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University; and Michael Himmel, Team Leader of the Biomolecular Sciences research staff at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Farm Bill To Include 'Seeds' For Cellulosic Ethanol

May 17th, 2007 :: 6:10 PM

The House Agriculture Committee will start writing a farm bill next week without knowing how to pay for some of the panel’s new initiatives.
“Like farmers we’re going to plant the seeds, and we’re going to hope it rains, and we’re going to hope the prices are good, and we’re going to hope there is a market,” says the panel’s chairman, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.

One of those seeds the committee intends to plant is a $5 billion package of programs to develop a cellulosic ethanol industry.

Technically, the money will come from a bill that the House passed in January to roll back subsidies to the oil industry. But there’s a big problem with that: The legislation hasn’t gone anywhere in the Senate. No matter. Under House rules, since the legislation has passed the House it can be counted as a funding source for the farm bill, Peterson says.

Study: U.S. Near Corn-Based Ethanol Tipping Point

May 18, 2007

Iowa State University researchers are the latest to come forward warning about the dangers of existing and forecasted levels of corn-based ethanol production in the U.S.

The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at ISU has published a new paper that finds that U.S. retail food prices already have increased $14 billion annually. They could climb $20 billion annually if crude oil prices reach $65 to $70 per barrel and U.S. corn prices reach $4.42 per bushel, compared to $2 per bushel in mid-August 2006, the study said.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Starbucks Next Cost Problem: Biodiesel

Last week I wrote about how ethanol was increasing milk costs and how this will impact the bottom line at Starbucks (SBUX). Today we need to look at biodiesel. Currently Brazil is famous for two things, coffee and ethanol. Their national ethanol program has allowed them to become independent of imported oil and now they are turning their sights on biodiesel. Researchers have found an economically viable way to turn coffee beans into biodiesel. The oil-extraction from coffee bean rate, now at 92% to 94% means the project will begin next year and this years harvest will be affected as coffee bean supplies are built in anticipation.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

History of Ethanol

Key dates in the history of ethanol:
Samuel Morey develops an engine that runs on ethanol and turpentine.
German engine inventor Nicholas Otto uses ethanol as the fuel in one of his engines. Otto is best known for his development of a modern internal combustion engine in 1876.
Henry Ford builds his first automobile, the quadricycle, to run on pure ethanol.
Henry Ford produced the Model T - a “flexible fuel” vehicle that can run on ethanol, gasoline or a combination.
The need for fuel during World War I drives ethanol demand to 50 to 60 million gallons per year.
Gasoline became the motor fuel of choice. Standard Oil began adding ethanol to gasoline to boost octane and reduce engine knocking.
More than 2,000 gasoline stations in the Midwest sell gasohol - gasoline blended with between 6 percent and 12 percent ethanol.
With reduced need for war materials and with the low price of fuel, commercial demand for ethanol drops to virtually nothing.
The Solar Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Act prompts research into the conversion of cellulose and other organic materials into useful energy or fuel.
United States begins to phase out lead in gasoline. Ethanol becomes more attractive as a possible octane booster for gasoline.
Gasohol defined for the first time in the Energy Tax Act of 1978 as a blend of gasoline with at least 10 percent alcohol by volume, excluding alcohol made from petroleum, natural gas or coal. The law amounted to a 40 cents per gallon subsidy for every gallon of ethanol blended into gas.
First U.S. survey of ethanol production finds fewer than 10 ethanol facilities producing roughly 50 million gallons of ethanol per year.
Surface Transportation Assistance Act increases ethanol subsidy to 50 cents per gallon.
The number of ethanol plants in the United States rises to 163. The Tax Reform Act increases the ethanol subsidy to 60 cents per gallon.
Despite the subsidies, only 74 commercial ethanol plants are operating at the end of 1985, producing 595 million gallons of ethanol for the year.
The EPA begins requiring the use of reformulated gas year-round in metropolitan areas with the most smog.
Major U.S. auto manufacturers begin mass production of flexible-fueled vehicle models capable of operating on E-85, gasoline or both. Most use gas as their only fuel because of the scarcity of E-85 stations.
Ethanol subsidy reduced to 53 cents per gallon.
U.S. automakers continue to produce E-85-capable vehicles to meet federal regulations. Some 3 million of these vehicles in use.
- Source: Energy Information Administration:

Biodiesel Plant In Wabuska, Nevada, Uses Geothermal Energy And Crops To Create Renewable Energy.

By Karen Woodmansee

With gasoline prices hitting over $3 a gallon in the U.S., Claude Sapp, principal for Infinifuel Biodiesel, is working to turn the oldest geothermal plant in Nevada into a biodiesel processing facility, where camelina oil seed and even algae is becoming diesel fuel.

"The water at the geothermal plant comes out of the ground at about 220 degrees," Sapp said. "The plant makes electricity, with any excess sold back to Sierra Pacific, so it is all self-contained. We're trying not to use any petroleum products at all."

-- Claud Sapp, Infinifuel Biodiesel, principal
Any plant that produces high oil yields can someday power a vehicle said Sapp.

"We can get it from crambe, canola-type plants, oily seeds, even algae, " he said.

Sapp expects to have the first crop available in July, when camelina oil seed will be harvested and sent to a Lovelock plant to be crushed. Eventually, however, he hopes to have the plant at 15 Julian Lane in Wabuska, Nevada, ready to grow its own algae, which he said can be harvested monthly.

"It (algae) starts out in a test tube and replicates itself," he said. "We can grow it in our test ponds. It is about a thousand times more productive to grow algae than growing oil seed in the dirt. We have plenty of land to expand. We can grow acres more than our test ponds."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cornell Announces New Plant Enzyme For Cellulosic Ethanol Production

In a breakthrough that could make the production of cellulosic ethanol less expensive, Cornell researchers have discovered a class of plant enzymes that potentially could allow plant materials used to make ethanol to be broken down more efficiently than is possible using current technologies.

There is a growing recognition that corn ethanol is unlikely to provide a long-term solution, or one that is environmentally sustainable, and so scientists are turning to cellulose as an alternative.

Production of ethanol from cellulose in mass quantities that are priced competitively with corn-based ethanol has not yet been possible. And without the cellulosic ethanol, the national goal for ethanol production to reduce oil imports will be impossible to reach, experts say.

A critical step in producing cellulosic ethanol involves breaking down a plant's cell wall material and fermenting the sugars that are released. Current technologies use microbial enzymes called "cellulases" to digest the cellulose in grasses and such rapidly growing trees as poplars. The microbial enzymes have a structure that makes them very efficient at binding to and digesting plant cell wall material called lignocellulose (a combination of lignin and cellulose).

But now, a new class of plant enzymes with a similar structure has been discovered, potentially offering researchers new properties for producing ethanol even more efficiently.

Illinois Joins New Climate Registry

SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that Illinois joined 30 states as charter members of The Climate Registry, marking the largest multi-state effort to address climate change. The newly formed organization, which Illinois helped develop, creates national standards that businesses and governments will help measure and track, and other organizations can use to document their current levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and track progress over time. Currently in the U.S., there is no common set of standards for measuring and reporting GHG emissions.

“States cannot wait any longer for leadership on global warming from the federal government,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Illinois and 29 other states are creating a system that gives businesses and organizations an opportunity to step up to the plate and take responsibility for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Climate Registry is a broad-based effort. The states involved represent the length and breadth of the United States, Republicans and Democrats, east and west, north and south, coastal and interior. They all share a common concern about climate change and a desire to take action.!B0DB128F5CD96151!2203.entry

Brazil Now Go-To Country For Ethanol Production

Brazil has become the Mecca for all things ethanol. Why? Because they are the best in the world in producing it.

The South American country has been doing it since the 1970s when Brazil's military dictators subsidized its production and required distribution at the pumps. Now just about every country in the world wants to produce ethanol and they are looking at Brazil to learn how to do it.

Just in the last five years, Brazil has increased its ethanol production up 40 percent from 3 million gallons in 2002 to 4.2 million gallons in 2006. It's no wonder, then, that Brazil has become the "Saudi Arabia" of renewable fuel.

Currently, the U.S. imposes a 54 cents-per-gallon tariff on imported Brazilian ethanol. Look for that tariff to go down or even be eliminated. The president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is lobbying hard for its elimination. Same from Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor and current co-director of the Interamerican Ethanol Commission, (and President George W. Bush's brother).

Other countries getting involved include Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Honduras. These countries are big sugarcane producers, which can be used to make ethanol. Moreover, Mexico is also getting involved using its abundance of corn.