May 15, 2013
Biofuel company Logos Technologies and partner Edeniq have completed more than 1,000 hours of continuous operation at their corn-to-cellulosic migration (CCM) pilot plant in Visalia, Calif., the companies say.
Employing Edeniq’s proprietary technology, the plant converts 1 metric ton per day of non-food corn stover into ethanol. Performed on a commercial scale, this conversion process would result in a domestically produced, renewable and competitively priced biofuel with low greenhouse gas emissions and a small carbon footprint, according to the companies.
Supported by funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Technology Office, Logos Technologies managed the design, construction and 1,000-hour demonstration of the CCM plant.
Located at Edeniq’s headquarters, the facility first started producing ethanol in March 2012. Operations include mechanical pretreatment, saccharification, fermentation, distillation, liquids-solids separation and integrated process water recycling.
Edeniq contributed technology including the Cellunator for mechanical pretreatment and advanced saccharification and fermentation biochemistry. The Cellunator technology produces sugars by milling corn and other plant materials into “right-sized” particles of feedstock that can be more easily converted.
The companies say they plan to commercialize the technology demonstrated at the CCM plant and develop other concepts with the goal of initiating large-scale cellulosic facilities.
Cellulosic ethanol is on track be cost competitive with corn-based ethanol by 2016, a development that could drive the fuel’s production, according to an industry survey published in March, conducted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Cellulosic ethanol cost 94 cents a liter to produce in 2012, about 40 percent more ...
May 15, 2013 at 10:44 am by Emily Pickrell
Potential exports and increased transportation and industrial use of natural gas will continue to push natural gas prices up to more sustainable prices, experts said Tuesday morning at a energy conference in Houston.
Electric power generation, heavy truck transportation and industrial projects on the Gulf Coast are all making significant shifts towards natural gas – a transition which will continue to push up the price of natural gas, said Pearce Hammond, managing director of Simmons and Co., speaking at a Global Energy Conference sponsored by Mayer Brown.
Liquefied natural gas also will begin to be exported in 2016, when Cheniere Energy starts up its export facility in Sabine Pass, and natural gas exports to Mexico and Canada via pipeline will likely grow in the coming years.
Targeting consumers: Nat gas group to launch new ad campaign on energy use
This increased demand is expected to push natural gas prices up to at least $5, Hammond said.
“I don’t think you meet this demand with four dollar natural gas – a lot of demand is coming,” Hammond said. “The price necessary to get the gas out of the ground is higher than four dollars. It doesn’t mean it’s six dollars but it is probably around five dollars.”
The price of natural gas has climbed over the last year has climbed from an average price of $2.79 per million British thermal units in 2012 to $3.76 per million Btu in 2013 to date.
Producers are producing roughly the same amount of natural gas, even though the number of rigs have dropped by about 600 rigs in 2013 from its high in 2011.
Father of fracking: Gov. Perry honors shale pioneer George Mitchell
Hammond said the drop in rigs has been driven both by increased drilling facilities and by relatively low natural gas prices. While the price of natural gas has increased in the last year, many producers are
May 15, 2013 By O. Kay Henderson
The Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee this morning passed legislation that preserves the current price advantage for ethanol-blended gasoline.
The state tax on a gallon of ethanol-blended gasoline is 19 cents today. Other gasoline is taxed at 21 cents a gallon. Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says there’s broad, bipartisan support to keep this the tax break for consumers who buy ethanol.
“The idea originally was that’s an incentive to encourage people to use ethanol and so that is an incentive we’re going to preserve for another year,” Hogg says.
It saves those who buy ethanol-blended fuels at Iowa gas stations an estimated $8 million annually. Hogg says the bill also ensures Iowa retailers have the “freedom” to sell whatever blend of ethanol they want.
“There was some belief that you could have national oil companies dictating that: ‘Dealer, you can’t sell E15, or if you can sell it, it has to be at a separate pump out behind the building and you can’t take credit card payments,’” Hogg says. “So it’s not just about E15. It affects blender pumps. It affects E85. It affects everything.”
This ethanol-related legislation has passed the Republican-led Iowa House in slightly different form. Democrats in the senate are balking at a proposal included in the House bill that would permit as much as 5000 gallons of fuel to be stored in an above-ground tank Supporters say farmers want the change, as current law limits the size of above ground fuel storage tanks to 1100 gallons. Hogg says the proposal raises a few concerns for him.
“Number one is you get bigger spills and, number two, you could have bigger explosions,” Hogg says. “You know I did that official form of legislative research. I “Googled” 5000 gallon tanks and found a big explosion in Pennsylvania.”
Hogg says that prompted him to “go slow,” review the
May 15, 2013 at 1:00 am by Zain Shauk
The leader of one of the world’s largest energy companies said this week that humans are accelerating climate change and the global community should take action to address the problem.
While speaking with reporters following the annual shareholders meeting of ConocoPhillips, the world’s largest independent oil company, its CEO said there was no doubting the role of humans in warming the planet.
“As a company we recognize the impact that humans are having on the environment and that CO2 is having an impact on what’s happening in the climate,” ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance said.
The company’s stance is similar to that of other companies, like Exxon Mobil Corp., though other executives have so far been less explicit about the role of humans in causing a warming of the global climate.
Exxon Mobil has acknowledged that the climate is changing and has encouraged action to address the problem, even favoring a carbon tax over cap-and-trade efforts when singling out potential policy changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“If governments consider the adoption of regulatory frameworks (to address climate change), we believe a well-designed, revenue-neutral carbon tax mechanism provides a cost-effective policy approach,” according to a statement on Exxon Mobil’s website.
Climate: Obama talks tough and proposes ‘drilling for clean energy’ program
Lance was asked about climate change following reports over the weekend that a major climate change measure had “passed a long-feared milestone,” according to the New York Times.
As with many other energy giants, he said ConocoPhillips is taking action to reduce its effects on the climate.
“We know there is a lot of disagreement on both sides of that argument, but we think it’s the smart thing to do for the company to recognize that there is an impact and we’re trying to do the right things within...
May 15, 2013 11:04 am by Jennifer A. Dlouhy
The across-the-board cuts to federal spending will translate to fewer oil and gas drilling leases — and some $150 million in lost government revenue — congressional Democrats warned Wednesday.
In a new report on the effects of the so-called sequester budget cut, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, say the oil and gas industry is poised to take a big hit.
“Instead of saving money, the sequester is costing Americans money and job opportunities, as the Bureau of Land Management is forced to slow down approval of oil and gas drilling permits and cancel lease sales to meet the (required) spending reductions,” the report says.
The conclusion dovetails with other analyses and dire warnings from Obama administration officials who say the broad $85 billion cut gives agencies relatively little flexibility to target spending to the most pressing needs.
Drawing on her more than three decades of private sector experience, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has been vocal in criticizing the sequester as unwise.
“We would never do something like the sequester in business,” said Jewell, the former chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc., while at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston last week. “It is a really dumb way to run a budget because it requires line-by-line item cuts.”
When it comes to the Interior Department’s management of oil and gas development on public lands and waters, the effects will be more acute onshore. The fees tied to offshore energy development are helping to insulate activity tied on the outer continental shelf, officials have said.
Still, Jewell said it’s a difficult balancing act.
“When you’ve got (government workers) trying to keep up with demand for permits and you’re requiring that those folks work less hours, you have to adjust, and you have no choice,” Jewell said. “You
May 15, 2013 8:32am IST
REUTERS - Wal-Mart Stores Inc stepped up Bangladesh factory inspections while U.S. and European retailers pursued separate accords to try to prevent another disaster in a garment industry where more than 1,200 workers have died in the past six months.
Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, said it does not plan to sign a fire and building safety agreement backed by some of Europe's biggest apparel brands because it believes its own safety inspection plans will get faster results.
Wednesday is the deadline for retailers to decide whether to join the consortium, led by labour groups such as Europe's IndustriALL.
Other U.S. retailers including Gap Inc said they would not join the European pact without changes in the way conflicts are resolved in the courts. U.S. companies have been reluctant to join any industry accord that creates legally binding objectives.
"Walmart believes its safety plan meets or exceeds the IndustriALL proposal, and will get results more quickly," the U.S. retailer said in a statement on Tuesday.
Walmart has begun checking the 279 factories that supply its stores, and plans to inspect them all within six months. Its checks have already turned up two locations with safety problems and it asked the Bangladesh government to suspend production at those factories.
In Chittagong, about 250 kms (15 miles) from Bangladesh's capital Dhaka, workers at one factory that Walmart wants closed said they were unaware of any safety concerns and business was proceeding as usual. Company officials at Stitch Tone Garments Ltd said they were no longer making clothes for Walmart, but did not say who they were currently supplying.
"We don't know about the problems of our owners. We don't know about the risk of building. We are working for our livelihood. If we stop the work, we cannot survive,"...
... can now claim bragging rights as being the second city in California where all newly built homes — commercial buildings and major residential remodels/additions, too — must be equipped with solar systems ...
05/15/2013 8:36 am EDT
From Mother Nature Network's Matt Hickman:
Sebastopol, an agri-artsy Sonoma outpost about an hour north of San Francisco, can now claim bragging rights as being the second city in California where all newly built homes — commercial buildings and major residential remodels/additions, too — must be equipped with solar systems. Earlier this year, the high desert city of Lancaster in northeast Los Angeles County became the first to enact such a measure under the leadership of renewables-obsessed Republican mayor/Kenny Rogers doppelganger, Rex Parris.
As reported by the Santa Rose Press Democrat, Sebastopol Mayor Michael Kyes comes across as being just a touch resentful: "We were going to be number one. Now we're number two.”
What’s perhaps most fascinating here — and perhaps the root of Kyes’ runner-up status bitterness — is how wildly different Sebastopol and Lancaster are. The former is a sleepy, super-liberal town of less than 8,000 residents including, once upon a time, Jerry Garcia. Police officers drive hybrids, city landscaping is pesticide-free, and although now primarily vinous in character, the big annual event is an apple fair. With a population of more than 155,000 and roots in the aerospace industry and not agriculture, Lancaster is not only larger but also dramatically more conservative in nature:
Kyes noted that Lancaster is a ‘Republican community’ and that Sebastopol is ‘liberal,’ asserting that speaks to the ‘broad support’ for solar power.
The new building ordinance in Sebastopol is rather straightforward: all new homes will be required to include solar systems that provide 2 watts of photovoltaic-derived power per square foot of insulated building area. Or, according to the Press Democrat, the system must offset at least 75 percent of the building’s total annual electric load. Homes and businesses
... solar PV and battery storage were two technologies (along with fuel cells and storage from electric vehicles) that could “directly threaten the centralised utility model” ...
Giles Parkinson on 13 May 2013
You don’t have to go too far into a document prepared by the US-based Edison Electric Institute (EEI) to realise what is at stake for centralised utilities from the threat of rooftop solar.
The EEI, a trade group that represents most investor owned utilities in the US, said solar PV and battery storage were two technologies (along with fuel cells and storage from electric vehicles) that could “directly threaten the centralised utility model” that has prevailed for a century or more.
How worried should they be? A lot, said the EEI. The ability of rooftop solar, battery storage and energy efficiency programs to reduce demand from the grid would likely translate into lower prices for wholesale power and reduced profits. Worse still, customers were just as likely to “leave the system entirely” if a more cost-competitive alternative is available.
“While tariff restructuring can be used to mitigate lost revenues, the longer-term threat of fully exiting from the grid (or customers solely using the electric grid for backup purposes) raises the potential for irreparable damages to revenues and growth prospects.”
In the US, utilities are now seeking to protect their business models by pushing hard against net metering and seeking to influence the pace and manner of deployment of other technologies and new energy market concept that don’t fit the decades old model.
In Australia, much the same has been happening. RenewEconomy reported on the concerns of utilities in this article last month. Feed-in-tariffs have been wound back, as they were supposed to have been as technology costs fell, but now the pendulum is swinging the other way, and utilities – with the apparent complicity of state-based pricing regulators – are now trying to extract as much revenue from solar customers as they can.
It is a dangerous game. Leading electricity executives and
Paper: drilling waste setting off radiation alarms
Posted on May 15, 2013 at 6:42 am by Associated Press in Natural gas
PITTSBURGH — Gas drilling waste is setting off more radiation alarms at Pennsylvania landfills.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the alarms went off 1,325 times in 2012, with more than 1,000 of those from oil and gas waste, according to Department of Environmental Protection data.
DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday tells the paper that all the data so far indicates that public health is protected. After an alarm workers flag the waste for special treatment.
The state began requiring radiation monitors at landfills in 2002 because of medical waste. But oil and gas drilling brings up mineral fragments containing naturally occurring radiation.
DEP says past research has shown problems are unlikely. DEP started a review in January to examine radioactivity in drilling waste and on all the equipment that handles it.
Oil Deals Could Be Strong Incentive for Administration Shift
by Jason Ditz, May 14, 2013
The US military may have withdrawn from Iraq, but the biggest US policy decision on the nation may be yet to come, in the form of a potential administration endorsement for Kurdish secession.
Dispute between the increasingly unpopular Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have gotten ever closer to outright military conflict. Kurdish leaders have suggested the only reason Maliki is still buying arms from the US is because he envisions attacking Kurdistan and eliminating its semi-autonomous status, and needs better gear to stand up to the KRG’s Peshmearga fighters.
The US has always supported Kurdistan, to a point. The shift to openly backing secession would be a big one, but the financial incentives for such a shirt could be significant, with the central government and KRG fighting over oil revenue, and the KRG’s deals increasingly benefiting US corporations at the expense of Iraqi contracts.
That may seem cynical but is not out of keeping with historical US policy in the region, which has centered around oil. Maliki’s role as an ally of Iran might provide yet another excuse to cut him loose in favor of an independent Kurdistan and lucrative deals for Exxon-Mobil.
The interventionist American Enterprise Institute has also issued a policy paper suggesting they believe the time for such a shift is nearing, saying that a successful transition of power after the next Kurdish elections could be presented as proof the Kurds “deserve” independence in the estimation of the US.
The prime mover against Kurdish independence has always been Turkey, but with peace talks progressing with the PKK, that obstacle may well be removed soon as well, setting the stage for the US jumping on board the break-up of Iraq after spending massive amounts of money and
The first of these was AB 1014, which passed through the California Assembly Utility and Commerce Committee on April 29 with a vote of 9 - 0.
Cedar Lake awards pact for E85 fuel storage tank
May 12, 2013 7:45 pm • Mary Wilds Times Correspondent
CEDAR LAKE | The Town Council has awarded a contract to build a storage tank for E85 fuel.
The project had only one bidder, Grimmer Construction of Highland at $44,000.
The town is using federal dollars to build the tank.
Because $175,000 had been allocated, the remainder of the monies will go into Cedar Lake’s Cumulative Capital Development Fund.
E85 is an abbreviation for an ethanol blend fuel, 85 percent of which is denatured ethanol. U.S. government subsidies encourage the use of E85, which has a high octane rating and is less carbon intensive than petroleum.
The storage tank will hold E85 fuel provided free by the federal government for use in police vehicles.
... "Carbon reduction at power plants has to be addressed but in a very sensitive way," said William K. Reilly, EPA administrator under President George H.W. Bush. "If you leave existing power plants out of the picture, you're being overly optimistic."
U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases have ...
May 14, 2013 at 7:00 am by Bloomberg
The U.S. shale boom will send “shockwaves” through the global oil trade over the next five years, benefiting the nation’s refiners and displacing OPEC as the driver of supply growth, the IEA said.
North America will provide 40 percent of new supplies to 2018 through the development of light, tight oil and oil sands, while the contribution from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will slip to 30 percent, according to the International Energy Agency. The IEA trimmed global fuel demand estimates for the next four years, and predicted that consumption in emerging economies may overtake developed nations this year.
“The supply shock created by a surge in North American oil production will be as transformative to the market over the next five years as was the rise of Chinese demand over the last 15,” the Paris-based adviser to 28 oil-consuming nations said in its medium-term market report today.
The development of U.S. shale resources, enabling the nation’s highest level of energy independence in two decades, is creating a “chain reaction” in the global transportation, processing and storage of oil that may escalate as other countries try to replicate the American oil boom, according to the IEA. Crude futures for settlement in 2018 are trading at a discount to current prices, signaling expectations for increasing supplies and constrained demand.
Brent crude for settlement in 2017 is about $12 a barrel cheaper than front-month prices on the ICE Futures Europe exchange. June contracts were near $102.60 today, while futures for December 2017 were at $90.39 a barrel.
Global oil demand will increase by 6.1 million barrels a day, or 6.7 percent, to 96.7 million a day by 2018 as the economic recovery gathers pace, the IEA said. Demand estimates for 2017 are about 95,000 barrels a day less than
... labor groups expressed frustration over future nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, as well as Obama’s nomination of ...
Gov. Scott should sign bill to repeal ethanol mandate
Sun Sentinel Editorial Board
May 13, 2013
Florida lawmakers this year voted to repeal a five-year-old law that forces consumers to buy ethanol-blended fuel at most gas stations across the state. Gov. Rick Scott need only add his signature to set things right.
Encouraging the use of corn-based fuel seemed like a good idea years ago, but the policy has instead created an oppressive mandate amid widespread reports about ethanol causing damage to boat motors and car engines. A legal reversal would be a win for a free-market economy, though a blow to big agribusiness.
Both the Florida House and Senate voted to repeal the Florida Renewable Fuel Standards Act by wide margins; 77-39 and 33-1, respectively. The bill would end the requirement that gasoline contain up to 10 percent ethanol or another alternative fuel. Exceptions were carved out for fuel sold for boats, small motors and collector vehicles. Nonetheless, the law left a majority of motorists with little choice at the pump.
LePage wants wind energy goals out of Maine law
By Matthew Stone, BDN Staff
Posted May 09, 2013, at 5:53 p.m.
AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage wants to strip from state law goals for increasing the state’s wind energy capacity over the next two decades.
LePage’s energy director, Patrick Woodcock, made recommendations Thursday to rewrite the state’s 2008 Wind Energy Act, shifting focus from growing wind energy capacity to lowering electricity costs and making sure Maine sees an economic return on its wind energy investments.
The Maine Wind Energy Act, a priority of LePage’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, sought to expedite wind energy development in Maine. The law zoned much of Maine’s Unorganized Territory as suitable for wind development and set goals for the state to have 2,000 megawatts of wind energy capacity by 2015, 3,000 by 2020 and 8,000 by 2030.
Maine’s wind energy capacity today is about 435 megawatts, according to the Maine Renewable Energy Association.
“We are not going to be meeting that goal,” Woodcock said of the 2,000-megawatt threshold by 2015. “I think that it’s an unrealistic goal, and there should be consideration beyond that of whether megawatt capacity installed is really the best metric of our wind energy policies.”
The recommendation from Woodcock to the Legislature’s Energy and Utilities Committee came the same day the Energy Committee heard testimony on a number of bills meant to roll back portions of the 2008 wind energy law, including one measure to temporarily suspend permitting for certain wind developments and another that would eliminate the same wind energy goals LePage favors eliminating. Both of those measures are sponsored by Democrats.
“The intention of our wind energy act was not only to increase wind energy, but to lower electricity costs,” Woodcock said. Rather than setting energy
May 13, 2013 at 6:08 pm Associated Press
By Michael R. Blood
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Environmentalists celebrated a federal order Monday that they said opened the way for a more detailed review of a plan to restart the shuttered San Onofre nuclear power plant in California.
The ruling by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing board had the potential to lead to further delays in a possible restart.
The twin-reactor plant between San Diego and Los Angeles hasn’t produced power since January 2012, after a small radiation leak led to the discovery of unusual damage to hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.
Friends of the Earth, an advocacy group critical of the nuclear power industry, had argued that the federal process set up to consider a restart of the plant’s Unit 2 reactor was in fact a change to the plant’s operating license that would require a court-like hearing. The board agreed.
However, there were conflicting assessments on the meaning of the ruling.
Environmentalists said the decision was a watershed moment that would force operator Southern California Edison to face a new, extensive review of the restart plan.
Edison had no immediate comment.
An NRC statement characterized the ruling as a partial win for the environmental group. NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said the board found the group hadn’t provided enough information for the three-member panel to consider in a lengthy hearing. Accordingly, they ended the case.
“They didn’t give enough meat for the board to chew on,” said NRC spokesman Scott Burnell. “At the same time the board says, ‘Yes, there should be a hearing,’ … they said the hearing is terminated.”
But the group will have the opportunity to submit additional materials in an appeal.
Edison wants to run the Unit 2 reactor at reduced power for five months, which it projects will stop damage to tubing