Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By Robert Rapier on Jun 22, 2015 with 55 responses

Cellulosic Ethanol is Going Backwards

In last month’s article Where are the Unicorns?, I discussed the fact that the commercial cellulosic ethanol plants that were announced with great fanfare over the past couple of years are obviously running at a small fraction of their nameplate capacity. In fact, April was a record month for cellulosic ethanol production according to the EPA’s database that tracks this information, but that meant that at least 8 months into the learning curves for these plants actual production for that month was only about 6% of nameplate capacity.

May’s numbers are now in, and the situation has gotten worse. After reporting 288,685 gallons of cellulosic ethanol in April, May’s numbers only amounted to 114,018 gallons. This is only about 2.4% of the nameplate capacity of the announced commercial cellulosic ethanol plants. If we use year-to-date numbers, the annualized capacity is still less than 3% of nameplate capacity for facilities that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build. Let that soak in. POET alone spent $275 million, with U.S. taxpayers footing more than $100 million of that bill. Abengoa reportedly received $229 million from taxpayers for its project. For this (plus however much that was spent by INEOS), the combined plants are running at an annualized capacity of 1.7 million gallons of ethanol, which would sell on the spot market today for $2.6 million.

We can conclude from this that the three companies with announced commercial cellulosic ethanol facilities — INEOS, POET, and Abengoa (NASDAQ: ABGB) — are finding the going much tougher than expected. I believe that the costs to produce their cellulosic ethanol are higher than the price they will receive for the ethanol. This is the sort of monthly cash drain that led to the shutdown of everyone else that ever tried to produce cellulosic ethanol commercially.

I would note that a 4th company - Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) – issued a press release in April claiming that they had produced a million gallons of cellulosic ethanol. If that is true and reflected in the EPA’s database, that would essentially account for all of the reported cellulosic ethanol produced in 2014 and up to April 2015 – which was 1.01 million gallons in total. Thus, either they are exaggerating, or the others produced no cellulosic ethanol (or for whatever reason did and didn’t report it to the EPA, unlikely given the very generous tax credits).

I suspect that INEOS has given up trying to produce cellulosic ethanol (their press releases have certainly dried up), and I suspect that the others aren’t too far behind. And there will be more tax dollars that have been flushed down the drain in pursuit of cellulosic ethanol, which companies have tried to produce economically — without success — for more than 100 years. It seems that those who do not learn history waste a lot of taxpayer money repeating it.


Link to Original Article: Cellulosic Ethanol is Going Backwards

(Follow Robert Rapier on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.)

  1. By TimC on June 22, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    No worries: The Pope just told everyone to buy renewable fuels, no matter what they cost, as a way to combat climate change. So I’m sure we’ll see US sales of cellulosic ethanol spike sharply upward in the June numbers. When it comes to the climate change narrative, the Pope is even more credible than Al Gore.

    The Ineos Bio plant in Vero Beach has nameplate ethanol capacity of about 8 million GPY. That’s about 365 boe per day. That’s a large pilot plant, not really a commercial plant. Even corn ethanol plants can’t make money at that tiny scale. If they had never had any syngas contamination problems, and if oil was still > $100/bbl, Ineos would still be losing money. But none of that technoeconomic mumbo jumbo matters, now that the Pope has ordered Florida’s many devout Catholic motorists to buy renewable fuels no matter what they cost. It seems that a fondness for unicorns is something that the US Congress and the Vatican have in common. Who knew?

    • By Eric on June 22, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      Did you read the encyclical?

    • By HealthyPlanet on June 23, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      My oh my.

      It’s not really a secret or an airy-fairy society, but who do you actually think Pope Francis based his, as you say, “fondness for unicorns” on?

    • By Advocatus Diaboli on June 29, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      “The Pope just told everyone to buy renewable fuels, no matter what they cost”

      If he said it, I missed it.

      He is much wiser than that. If devout Catholic motorists will hear Francis at all (I doubt that Republicans will), they can take many lessons other than buying renewable fuels. It is the very essence of his encyclical that “drop-in” solutions, technological fixes won’t do it. We need to go deeper, have to pull back, consume less, reflect more. Reading to understand before criticising could be a good place to start.

  2. By Optimist on June 22, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks for keeping us all informed, RR!
    Now we just have to wait for the response from Forrest (all is great, cellulosic is ramping up far faster than anyone expected [that is after careful revision of expectations], if only Big Oil rolled over and played dead, ethanol is the greatest thing since sliced bread, etc. etc.)

    I would suggest a slightly different analogy, though: why I didn’t ride a mule to work. Like producing cellulosic ethanol, breeding mules is not hard to do, nor does it require a secret knowledge, nor does it rely on recent innovation: cellulosic was first produced 100+ years ago and mules have been bred since biblical times. As with cellulosic, if you were really, really determined to make riding a mule to work happen, it can be done.

    The reasons you did not ride a mule to work include cost (feeding, housing and taking care of said mule), convenience (travel time, effort to take care of it, inability to park your vehicle at the airport for several days/weeks as you travel for business or pleasure) and the fact that you have cheaper and better options available to you.

    It is also worth pointing out that no amount of government subsidy for travelling by mule is likely to change your choice of vehicle, unless it gets to truly absurd levels ($tens of thousands per year?), which raises the question of just how absurd the subsidies for cellulosic are…

    • By Ger Groeneveld on June 23, 2015 at 2:41 am

      Any subsidies used for production (RIN etc.) is absurd. Subsidies for start-up capital for non-existing industry are a bit less absurd: the hardware has to be bought, the knowledge collected, all by ‘taxable’ entities a government has to support anyway.
      Grass growing on the airport might not be the most healthy food for mules, it certainly will lower the ‘parking’ costs of your mule, supplies more work to airport staff. Usei the poop to generate methane for a steam canon to catapult the planes into the air, saving (quite) a bit on Jetfuel at the same time.

  3. By Ger Groeneveld on June 23, 2015 at 3:41 am

    With prices coupled to petroleum products, big oil dictates if it can be a success or not. Guess they don’t want a success a-la Brazil…

    • By Optimist on June 25, 2015 at 1:17 am

      Brazil’s main success was energy independence the old fashioned way: drill more oil.

      Sugar cane ethanol makes for a nice sideshow, when you have cheap manual labor and a climate favorable to growing cane.

  4. By Forrest on June 23, 2015 at 8:29 am

    I wouldn’t write cellulosic obituary quite yet. They appear to be in standby mode for a variety of reasons. RIN market was a mess in which EPA knew they had a problem. They invented a alternative RIN for petrol to purchase for compliance as D3′s were not available. Problem occurred in which petrol decided to out themselves from purchase of cellulosic RIN no matter the price. EPA thought they would act rationally and chose the lower cost option. Also, the lawsuits, threat of lawsuits, threat of legislation, and lack of compliance of law has yielded the desired affect to stunt cellulosic growth and production. The intent of law was thwarted by inaction, lack of investment, and by the promotion of propaganda that eventually brought evidence of a cleverly chosen description “Blend Wall”. The Crony Capitalism influence factor increased per new found supply and lower cost of petrol. Much desire to limit domestic competition, the most profitable sales region. Throw in the Saudis factor of increasing production to hurt U.S. efforts for fuel production with the result of the country over flowing with cheap fuel supply. Thankfully, ethanol is an industry with broad support of wide variety of assets that are all attempting to solve problems and make money doing so. It’s not a go alone company with hidden technology. Competition is daunting per rapid rate of technology innovation. Just a few years ago the Enogen corn debuted with unique traits that eventually led to QCCP to inventing the Cellerate technology owned now by Syngenta. No one saw that coming. Advances in enzymes is upon a steep product development for lower cost and improved capability. Same with microbes and yeast. They all cross lines of capability and appear to compete for solutions. University groups with government and business have powerful collaborations of advanced technology from GMO of friendly ethanol conversion feed stock, high growth feed stock, and low cost production. Argonomics and farm equipment being improved for such a feat as well. Just about every aspect of the technology under the knife per review and invention. It appears the steam explosion process for pretreat is not required. The long process delay for enzyme treatment not needed. The pretreatment requirements being reinvented per improvements in enzymes and microbes. The production process is shaping up to less complicated and competing suppliers of new processes appear to pulling typical corn ethanol process plant into cellulosic production. First by gen 1.5 and then following with 2.0. The two processes share expensive equipment and if combined decrease cost.
    Process and chemistry are upon development curve of higher profit coproducts that have higher margins and less volatile market. Drugs, chemicals, food and feed. DDGs are gaining quality improvements and being adjusted to unique needs of specific farm animal i.e. cow, fish, chicken, pig. Also, much effort within recycling of water, CO2, decreasing energy, and the usual thrust to improve carbon footprint. Some implemented improvements include, anaerobic digestor and utilization lignan for process boiler or power generation. Some commercial processes being evaluated for ability to convert lignan to ethanol. I see Brazil’s GranBio process that is patterned after Poet process is converting cellulose and hemicellulose at rate of 63g per ton. As efficiency of process increases such as that experienced by corn ethanol and with the addition of lignan conversion the yield will increase, dramatically. A lot of positive and bullish attitudes within the industry. Europe continues to develop ethanol process plants and Shell oil recently discussed the possibility of powering the whole region on biofuel. China and India in the mix as Africa new found production. The U.S. is presently losing the leadership high ground as business is increasing going offshore while the U.S. is held within stagnation of battling fuel suppliers and the quicksand of threat of changing regulations.

    • By Ben on June 23, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Sorry, but it’s not the illogic that hurts nearly so much as the endless stream of broken syntax out of Forrest that spoils the stew. Wow, talk about a ramble of meaningless gibberish in defense of otherwise indefensible opinions. Alas, we will hear much more out of this Vesuvius of drivel.

      Renewable fuels are, as Jackson Browne might put it, are running on empty–or is that fumes? Anyway, the RFS is moving toward life support as national policy notwithstanding continued support out of the Corn Belt states. As someone too familiar with the clever maneuvering of the Corn Growers alliance of industry beneficiaries inside the Capital Beltway, I know their resilience. We can also trust that the folks in the merchant banking community are doing their level best to keep the trough of the US Treasury open for some additional feedings.

      Folks who care really ought to (re)read Capt. “Ike” Kiefer’s piece:
      I had 200 copies sent to members of the US Senate (hand delivered to the applicable staffer with a copy to each member) as a small token of my concern about the issue. I received 34 responses to the distribution with nearly all expressing concerns about current US policy. Frankly, that was a better response than I”d anticipated.
      Regardless, the hard work continues in the slim hope that common sense rather than snake oil will guide America’s energy security policy. Some of the ongoing revelations (thanks RR et al) about the shortcomings of corn ethanol and its first cousin, cellulosic fuels, are simply nudging the debate back toward a more critical assessment of these remarkable unicorns. This is a much welcome development, indeed!

      • By Optimist on June 24, 2015 at 6:17 pm

        The Forrest is indeed covered in manure.

        Nonetheless, I wouldn’t be as pessimistic about renewable fuels. Yes, ethanol is a terrible fuel (and a Forrest’s worth of drivel doesn’t change that), but fortunately there are others. Biogas has great potential and, assuming you’ve made the sensible investment in a CNG fleet, is more cost-effective than converting biogas into electricity. Of course, renewable electricity is also a potential vehicle fuel, now that plug-in hybrids are available.

        The Brits concluded that they could potentially replace 16% of their vehicle fuels with biogas from manure and food waste (waste -> fuel, yeah!). This would also have other benefits like converting stinky manure into a much more pleasant to handle fertilizer. Ultimately someone will develop a thermo-chemical process which would allow for potentially a 100% conversion…

        • By Advocatus Diaboli on June 29, 2015 at 6:10 pm

          You may be an Uber-Optimist here.

          Biogas great potential? It works where you have a lot of manure. Feedlots, pig factories and the like. But these are not very efficient systems. They are profitable because they are low on labour and because the external environmental costs are not paid. But they are not optimal in a carbon-constrained world. In any event, the energy density of manure is dismal. It cannot efficiently be transported, so has to be used locally. You get a not-so-clean gas there which can be used directly for heat or perhaps CHP. If you want to pump it into the network or use in cars, it neds to be purified – at a loss of efficiency.

          The EU is far advanced on biogas. Some 90% of the gas comes from dedicated energy crops (mostly silage maize). That is, 50% of the mass input (feedstock) is maize, but it produces 90% of the energy. Very few digesters run on manure alone. But dedicated crops for biogas are worse that those for first-generation ethanol. This is because of the high risk of leakage of CH4 from the system (or off-gassing from the digestate). When using manure, the system mostly captures methane that would be produced anyway. If it leaks, it becomes less efficient, but still helps. BUt with dedicated crops we produce methane (at great cost) that would not otherwise be there. Any leak is an extra load on the atmosphere. And with a GWP of 25, one does not need to leak much CH4 to undo any of the GHG benefits, and make it worse than fossils.

          Waste as a source of energy is an oxymoron. Waste is a waste of energy, and should be reduced. Some waste is inevitable and should be captured for energy if feasible, but it can backfire big time: A facility designed to use waste will be dependent on waste and likely to become an obstacle to the reduction of waste. This has often been the case with waste incineration, which undermined recycling and waste reduction objectives as waste management companies need to feed the incinerators. A poor deal overall.

          • By Optimist on July 4, 2015 at 12:40 am

            Thanks for suggesting the promotion Advocatus!

            Manure is but ONE potential feedstock for biogas. There are many others including food waste and sewage sludge (human manure, if you wish). Waste indeed cannot be the ONLY fuel for society, but it’s a great place to start the renewable revolution. Unless you have a plan for people to stop going to the bathroom, we will always have some waste, no matter how efficient we become. Once we have a great waste-to-fuel system going, we’d be in a much better understanding of how to do renewable energy on a larger scale. Ultimately I believe ocean-based algal systems are the only feasible option, but let’s see how it all plays out.

            Don’t lose sleep over leaking gas pipelines: between sensible regulations and innovative engineering it is a very solvable problem. If only we could get sensible regulations going…

            • By Advocatus Diaboli on July 4, 2015 at 6:11 am

              It seems that we agree that biogas should be limited to waste, and that it should be utilised. No problem there. However, your comment seemed to suggest that biogas could somehow do what Forrest and other ethanol enthusiasts expect cellulosic ethanol to achieve, i.e. to provide energy on that scale. I have my doubts.

              In particular, I wonder what the 16% estimate for the UK represents. I seriously doubt that it was waste-based biogas. I do not have numebers for the UK, but they have trouble meeting the EU 10% target for renewables in transport, although much of that would be achieved with conventional biofuels. If they could do 16% with waste/based biogas, it would rougly mean that all families should be able to substitute 16% of their road fuel use with gas from their own waste (sewage and food). Manure and other waste would also contribute, but that should cover heavy duty vehicles and the like. No way.

              The UK may have meant gas in general, or biogas from all sources (even that would be highly doubtful). Governments often formulate it like “biogas from manure, waste and other sources”, failing to mention that the “other sources” are dedicated crops and provide 90+% of the energy. They do the same for wood pellets imported for their powerplants from the US. They are commonly portrayed as being from “waste” or “forest residues”, when in fact they are made almost exclusively from industrial raw materials, mostly pulpwood and sawdust (which is a residue of sawmilling, but already fully utilised for pulp and panel production, so there is no benefit in diverting it to pellets).

              As for leaks: as mentioned, it is mostly an issue for dedicated crops (additional methane). It is not so much about plumbing, but the CH4 from handling the feedstock and digestate before and after digestion. Even if you make the digesters leak-proof, the other stages of the operation lead to emissions. In particular, fermentation does not stop cold at the end of the process, but some CH4 is still released after the digester is opened. This is almost inevitable, and could be very difficult (expensive) to capture. It can be reduced by running the digestion longer (reducing the residual fermentation), but comes at the cost of lesser efficiency overall and higher capital/operating costs. Also, enforcement is difficult when you have to chase minor amounts of an invisible and odorless gas. Operators will cut corners (or won’t even notice problems).

              Finally, I don’t see why digestion would make manure application any easier or “less pleasant”. You have to handle about the same amount of material (it is wet biomass, the mass is dominated by water). May be reduced by 10-15%, but you have to handle it more, perhaps much more (centralising then distributing again). The digestate has somewhat different properties from manure, but not necessarily better, in certain respects worse (in terms of N release) and it is causing a lot of problems already in Europe. If based on waste/sewage, it also raises the issue whether it is safe to spread it on soils, as it can contain a whole host of contaminants.

            • By Forrest on July 4, 2015 at 8:08 am

              The half life of methane is short and not in same league as CO2. In the U.S. livestock farms are expected to be forced to digestor conversion of animal waste and feed changes for improved diet with reduced flatulence. I visited one large dairy farm just north of me, that had a full time employee to watch the process. Three digestors producing gas to power a 24×7 ICE generator. The engine a Cat diesel conversion with special metal alloy hardware per Austrian company expertise. The digestors operate continuously with annual inspection and removal of sulfur residue. Pumps feed liquid manure and screw auger remove sterile leftovers prized for bedding. They had equipment purchased and in place to scrub biogas to pipeline quality NG, but found the process not worthwhile. Liquid waste injected under top soil for maximum benefit. I worked within A.O. Harvestore and learned top dressing of cow manure will lose half of its nitrogen. Not good for environment or soil. It’s interesting that urine from humans and animals have perfect rating for sterile nitrogen. No one can figure out a practical way to utilize this large natural resource. I read estimates enough metro nitrogen within sewage for nations corn crop. I do know of gardeners whom have experimented and claim personal urine nitrogen production is equal to personal food production need within garden. The major issue is locking up the nutrient as the half life decay is short. It must be utilized within hours not days.

            • By Advocatus Diaboli on July 5, 2015 at 4:09 am

              Methane half life is one thing. On an intantaneous basis it is way stronger than CO2. It disappears faster, that is why it is ‘only’ 60 times stronger on 20 yr basis and 25 times stronger on a 100 yr basis (GWP100). But if you are producing methane for energy, you don’t need to lose more than a few C atoms per 100 in the wrong form (methane instead of CO2) to do more harm than good.

              Also, the decay may be an argument wrt pulse emissions, bit if we rely on an energy source that produces methane, then it will be an ongoing problem.
              I agree we should capture N and get it back to agriculture. Replenishing N is an enormous cost and losses wreck the envirinment.

            • By Optimist on July 6, 2015 at 12:43 pm

              Wait, on scale you are kidding, right? Cellulosic has a snowball’s change in summer of ever making the sort of scale that biogas is already achieving. 16% for cellulosic would be the unrealistic fantasy here.

            • By Advocatus Diaboli on July 6, 2015 at 6:28 pm

              I agree that biogas has a higher real potential than cellulosic ethanol. However, I do not believe that it has anywhere near the potential that policy makers expect from cellulosic ethanol. And again, I seriously doubt that it has the potential you quoted for the UK.

              The way I see it, both are seriously overhyped. But cellulosic ethanol seems like a flawed technology, while biogas is a workable technology, but not scalable. At least not if you want to keep it reasonable, and not to go down the way of dedicated crops.

              Btw, the first biogas digester I saw was in Africa. No subsidies, incentive schemes, just a farmer doing it for the little manure his few cows produced. Provided enough gas for cooking. Great for that.

  5. By Ike_Kiefer on June 24, 2015 at 9:15 am

    It is becoming clear that the current business model for cellulosic biofuel is trying to find the optimum point to pull the plug between milking subsidies during commissioning and bleeding cash during production. Dupont, Abengoa, and POET-DSM have created huge monuments to their scientific ignorance in the form of these idling plants. As John Wayne said, “stupid should hurt.” There is already an awe-inspiring catalog of underperforming and derelict alternative energy infrastructure that is growing by the day, as subsidy fatigue and attrition and genuine economics overtake the false economics temporarily imposed by central planning and crony corporate welfare policies of ideologically-motivated government wonks. The two U.S. presidential administrations in power since 2001 have definitely set the new high bar for profligacy with taxpayer money, and for enacting ill-informed policies that reliably achieve the opposite of their stated goals.

  6. By Philip A. Rutter on June 24, 2015 at 9:22 am

    “It seems that those who do not learn history waste a lot of taxpayer money repeating it.”

    An alternative viewpoint: the big “producers” of radical energy have learned, extremely well, that they can tap taxpayer dollars for a huge amount of salary and infrastructure- then declare bankruptcy – for reasons “not their fault” – walk away, and do it again. Pretty good business model- guaranteed profits, no liabilities.

    • By TimC on December 4, 2015 at 11:39 am

      News today is that Abengoa is shutting down their Hugoton, Kansas cellulosic ethanol biorefinery. The DOE/EERE website brags about how the Hugoton plant was a wonderful investment of US tax dollars: .

      1,300 jobs created, wow! 132,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided, oh boy! And all it cost the taxpayers was a measly $230 million. What a bargain!

      • By Forrest on December 4, 2015 at 5:16 pm

        The Italian economy is in economic trouble per debt load. This seems to be the typical path per modern politics of give them what they want. Abengoa is a big corporation and biofuel is only a small part. Last press release they were going to keep the U.S. ethanol plants running. I did read they had to layoff, but maybe they will continue to operate? They plan to stay in business, just filing for protection as the financial corporation that they relied on for financing had suddenly pulled out. I think world economies are so screwed up; that the U.S. stock market is benefiting per the safe harbor, at least historically this was the case before our modern politics.

        I did notice Poet spent almost half for their cellulosic plant for roughly the same capacity and Poet’s gallons per ton feed stock ton is better.

  7. By Forrest on June 25, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    What benefit would corporations achieve by milking tax incentives, grants, and loan guarantees? These companies put up at least half the money and are putting reputation on the line with investors. They are attempting success and improve financials in the long run. How can Poet, for example, be running a scam operation? Haven’t they taken the proper or responsible paths to define the process parameters and chemistry per lab work then on to pilot stage operations? These companies are the leaders within the field. Poet has broad and deep experience with biological fermenting business of ethanol, yet they chose to not go it alone and formed alliance with DSM, a smart move as they have huge resources and maintain international leadership within the science. Both companies have a reputation of invention and reinvention to makes things happen. I’m glad they didn’t take the free advice so commonly offered. Remember those who claimed sugar cane ethanol a better feedstock and corn couldn’t compete. Brazil ethanol industry was just to advanced and cost efficient for U.S. farmers to compete. Ethanol could never compete with gasoline on cost. Corn is the worse feed stock for ethanol. And the most famous advice of petrol advocates demanding ethanol give up corn and concentrate on cellulosic only to flip flop when all attempts to denigrate corn withered and cellulosic started upon start up of production. How about the hypocrisy of huge international corporations claiming ethanol is big business per total sum of agriculture. That farmers receive gov’t aid from those whom business plan is built upon gaining production within development cycle of drilling and harvesting the R&D incentives as if a new product. Maybe corn planting could likewise claim development incentives for high risk task of poking holes in earth for seed with hitherto experiment known as farming. Also, it’s nice to actually produce a fuel instead of just harvesting and do so upon stationary equipment of land. Actually, reusing land and even improving fertility, air quality, and wildlife.

    • By Optimist on June 26, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      See Philip A. Rutter’s comment.

  8. By daveswenson on June 25, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Robert, I went to the EPA site. Looking at the monthly table for 2015, it has cellulosic (D3) production of 4.1MG in Jan, 7.95MG in Feb, 7.8MG in Mar and 7.82 MG in April. That site is telling me they are producing cellulosic ethanol and issuing RINs. And I can’t figure out where you are getting your numbers.
    Dave Swenson

    • By Robert Rapier on June 25, 2015 at 3:11 pm

      You have to look at “RIN Generation and Renewable Fuel Volume Production by Fuel Type” which gives year to date numbers. There is a specific category for “Ethanol (EV 1.0).” You are looking at all D3 RINS, which they redefined last August to include biogas.

      • By Lab on June 25, 2015 at 3:30 pm


        Where are you getting the time series data? I can only find the YTD summary number.

        • By Robert Rapier on June 25, 2015 at 3:59 pm

          I think you just have to know what the YTD was the month before. It’s funny the way they break it out, but I have been recording the YTD number every month so I know the monthly numbers.

          • By Lab on June 25, 2015 at 4:25 pm

            Understood. Thanks for keeping track of this. It really has been a service.

            I wish it didn’t feel like the EPA was deliberately obfuscating the results. How in the heck can cellulosic ethanol and biogas/LFG even be considered remotely similar?

            • By TimC on July 2, 2015 at 12:34 pm

              Hey come on, the EPA is doing the best they can with a measly annual budget of barely $8 billion. If you want monthly RIN data reported in a coherent spreadsheet broken down by fuel type, then you have to be willing to pay more taxes. Another billion or so should do it.

            • By Forrest on July 2, 2015 at 3:38 pm

              OT-I was listening to analysis of Supreme Court rulings on the EPA regs for coal power. The pro EPA news people couldn’t understand how or why the EPA had to cost analyze their regs. “They never had to worry or be concerned of cost before!”. Can you image any other business entity other than limitless government not concerned with cost? As if this organization is just to important to concern themselves with such dirty concerns. There mission is to save the world, a savior of sorts that bestows saint hood on any of their actions. A normal functioning business or gov’t of the people would have science do their thing and attach ranking system to highest priority problem environmental concerns. Action plans would be vetted per cost vs benefit. Simple low cost plans would receive priority per responsible use of capital for both private sector and tax payer money. Results measure and compared to intended plan of action and cost. Ineffective results would automatically scrap the legislation. Gov’t should not work against private sector, but be a resource and coordinator to implement better less polluting ways.

  9. By daveswenson on June 25, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Oh, they report 9.34MG for May, as well, of cellulosic produciton.

  10. By daveswenson on June 25, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Many thanks. But where the heck is all the biogas being produced? Is this all methane from digesters, etc.?

    • By Robert Rapier on June 25, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      Manure digesters and landfill gas.

  11. By Forrest on June 26, 2015 at 7:50 am

    It’s common knowledge that cellulosic ethanol costs more than corn ethanol and the process is demanding. The technology and science is set upon high rate of innovation that will make current process plants obsolete. The industry has much headwind for mass production considering the high risk of obsolescence, broken D3 RIN market, road blocks of fuel sales, and low cost competing fuel supply. As RR points out production is a mere fraction of name plate capacity. Current environment, best to limit production of the fuel and focus on process improvement production only. Corn ethanol as well as shale oil production under considerable cost constraints present day. Petrol producers are rolling within the quicksand of marketplace and trimming high cost operations, dropping drilling operations, picking and choosing only the best. It appears ethanol is better situated to weather the current storms, but cellulosic ethanol will only achieve minimal operation to maintain. Market analysis have longed claimed, it would be dangerous to assume cellulosic ethanol will not be cost competitive with corn ethanol in less than a decade. So, other experts claim cellulosic ethanol is going forward. News of ethanol plant process improvement adaptation is a daily event. Process improvements spread onto corn, cellulosic, and sugar cane as it appears the event lifts all boats. Yesterday, read a article of Easy Energy out of Minneapolis that is working within “Bubble Technology” distillation within their innovative modular ethanol system. They expect a 75% decrease in energy need for the process. Today info on a company licensed to use Perdue technology is commercializing a one step process for upgrade and removal of lignan within the advance ethanol process. Another article about Microvi Ethanol Technology that has a innovation breakthrough designed to limit microbial contaminants in production process. RR alluding to this problem as the cellulosic process killer when attempting to chemically breakdown cellulose. The process is now commercial and achieved 3rd party validation. When subjected to less than ideal conditions the process alleviated ethanol toxicity of plant cells that naturally produce the substance under continuous ferment operation. Yields improve 2x and conversion efficiency jumps from typical 77.4% to 99.8%. It appears to be revolutionary. This per “Ethanol Producer” magazine. Another supplier has technology available for corn ethanol in which they desire to conform to antibiotic free certification. Also, much movement upon coproducts and flexible production to fuel or chemical supply market. Lots of good news upon the industry.

    • By Optimist on June 26, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      If cellulosic is still in the developmental phase (which would be strange more than 100 years after the first cellulosic ethanol plant started production), it needs to be in the labs and in pilot scale facilities, NOT full scale facilities subsidized with my tax $$$!

      • By Forrest on June 26, 2015 at 1:54 pm

        So, how much are you spending to support cellulosic ethanol? I would like to see that minuscule percentage of federal budget or your tax payment for the cause. In the grand scheme of waste, fraud, and abuse, support of cellulosic ethanol ranks quite low and the benefits of tax funding high. We’re guessing of pitfalls that the industry might have fallen into. No one knows much for certain other than low production volumes. It is amazing to read posts of those whom quite angry to have alternative fuel to gasoline. What’s up with that? Why is competition a bad thing and if ethanol is such a foolish venture, why concern yourself with the effort to make it successful. If your worried of proper fed spending, well, much bigger fish out there to be concerned with. The international community offers broad support for the endeavor and investing likewise. Are they all fools?

        • By Optimist on June 26, 2015 at 2:45 pm

          Sit down, get your reading glasses on and be educated.

          Competition is a good thing when the competitors are evenly matched and able to compete using their own resources and finding their own investors. Finding an inventor, of course, hardly guarantees success, but it does mean that the inventor played with his own money. The principle is that the investor takes a chance with his OWN money. He may win, or he may lose. But it’s a fair principle. When you play with my tax $$$, you violate that principle. Reason #1 to be angry.

          Ethanol is a terrible fuel, quite independent of how you produce it. If you made ethanol from natural gas, oil or coal, it would STILL be a terrible fuel, due to its physical properties, including the fact that it absorbs moisture and hence cause all kinds of corrosion and maintenance problems. Can E100 be the wonder fuel you think it is? Maybe. Most likely not. E100 will be hard to bring to market, and judging by the success, or more accurately the lack of success, of E85 it is unlikely to achieve widespread acceptance.

          When you mix ethanol with gasoline it causes a host of other problems, including higher vapor pressures meaning more harmful emissions and evaporative losses. And, again, corrosion.

          Ethanol is NOT a competitor for gasoline or crude oil, it is just the worst of the farm state welfare queens. That would be about 10 reasons to be angry, right there.

          If you consider the way the petro-chemical industry produces fuel you will notice that it is a thermo-chemical, unspecific conversion that produces a witch’s brew of compounds that we classify as gasoline and diesel according to its properties, without really knowing what is in there. We don’t have to. It is the chemical equivalent of taking a fallen tree and putting it through the chipper. No two chips coming out the other end are exactly identical, but as long as they have similar properties we can use the resulting product.

          Fermentation, OTOH, is a highly specific process that needs a well-defined feedstock and produces a highly-specific product. Fermentation is great at producing high value product at low volumes, such as pharmaceuticals and food. Fermentation is the equivalent of taking a fallen tree and cutting it up into identical 2 x 4s.

          Now, it will NEVER be cheaper to cut up a fallen tree into 2 x 4s than to put it through the chipper, no matter how many advances you make in 2 x 4 production technology. Since we only need the witch’s brew for fuel, there is NO reason to attempt to defy thermodynamics by producing a highly homogeneous and pure E100. Since this will NEVER work, that would be all the reason you need to be angry, all by itself.

          But wait, there is more. Uncle Sam’s showering all his love and attention on ethanol, like a shameless drunk, means that there isn’t enough resources left to promote the viable renewable fuels, like biogas, or even the better-for-the-environment-AND-cheaper-for-the-consumer alternatives, like CNG.

          If anything, I’d say there isn’t nearly enough anger being directed at ethanol…

          • By Forrest on June 27, 2015 at 2:23 am

            The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

            • By Optimist on June 27, 2015 at 4:04 am

              Just admit you got your clock cleaned, Miss Smarty Pants.

  12. By Big John on June 28, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    There is good basic info on biogas and the RFS, e.g., see!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OAR-2012-0401-0191 . Also, NPC looked at Renewable Nat Gas a couple of years ago too – EPA considers biogas cellulosic, and maybe that’s ok, but it seems a bit disingenuous to claim much credit for this being a ‘new source’ of biofuels, since almost all of it was previously either already being used for vehicle fuel, or injected into natural gas pipelines where it displaced (presumably) coal, which would provide a greater greenhouse gas benefit that displacing gasoline or diesel. So to me, it’s kind of a robbing Peter to pay Paul setup. Also, RNG for vehicle fuels is not something the Big Oil / fuel blenders are going to be able to buy, since most of it is locally produced and sold by the company running the landfill / methane recovery. I’d think this would further mess up the RIN situation. Here’s another possibly useful pub –

  13. By Severi2 on June 29, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    If the goal is to get out of the food chain with biofuels and increase the GHG savings then it seems reasonable to me that cellulosic ethanol should get some sort of support. Is this or should this be a surprise to anyone? I suppose everyone is aware that wind power was not competitive from the outset? and still is not without some sort of feed in tariff. So hopefully the RINs get sorted out and the technology develops.

    • By Advocatus Diaboli on June 29, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      The goal is NOT to get anywhere with biofuels. The goal is to reduce
      emissions and still supply adequate energy. If biofuels can do that,
      fine. But if they cannot, then we should just stop chasing them.

      I sense a fault of logic there. Fossil fuels are bad, therefore we need alternatives. However, that does not mean that ANY alternative is better. Food-based biofuels were less than convincing (i.e., to put it very conservatively: there is no reason to believe that they can be scaled up AND save emissions at the same time). But the fact that food-based biofuels failed does not mean that cellulosic is (or can be) better. There is no evidence, just wishful thinking.

      Also: Let’s assuming that someone would make cellulosic ethanol actually work. That would be the moment when it would cease to be non-food. This is because if the technology would allow to convert cellulose to fuel in a competitive manner, the demand for biomass would increase so much that it would way outstrip what “waste” and “residues” could possibly provide. We would be back having to dedicate productive agricultural land to producing feedstock, which is as good as using foodcrops in the first place. Because conversion is just one barrier, but the bigger one is just how much biomass land can produce, how much solar energy it can convert to high-energy carbon compounds. Not that much.

  14. By Forrest on June 30, 2015 at 6:43 am

    The food argument a red herring. Also, the debunked food cost scare attack. Think about it, it’s field corn mainly used to fatten up steers quickly per polishing before final slaughter. It’s not even a healthy diet for steers and many already demanding grass fed. The invention of DDGs has since bumped up the nutrition of feed for all livestock even upon international markets. The valuable component, protein, is unaffected by the ethanol process. A bushel of corn processed for ethanol and the leftover of such process including the bacteria and enzymes make DDY a more valuable product than the original corn. To assert that corn ethanol will starve the overweight Americans is a stretch, considering the wealth generated by ethanol makes farming in general more productive as the farmer can make a living, purchase modern equipment, educate oneself to modern practices per the lure of increased income. The chicken and steer producers howled over paying market prices for corn feed as they were spoiled suckling the fed teat of subsidized corn.
    The sustainable biomass estimates for U.S. well studied and updated to the tune of a billion tons annually. So, roughly 100 billion gallons ethanol production in a perfect world. I’ve read other estimates with GMO grass feedstock that put the figure at 1.8 billion tons annual. We do have a need to utilize more forest waste, farming waste, and fruit/food waste. Foresty practices need to be kicked in high gear to minimize fire risk and take care of insect damaged trees. This is a huge challenge to get on the ball and maximize growth rate of forest land. The biggest CO2 emission in North America, the Canadian forest rotting bark beetle trees.

    • By jkledricks on January 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      Your opinions seem to based entirely on what ‘ethanol producer magazine’ tells you. Of course that is entirely uninfluenced by any lobby.

      Corn is only about 10% protein. Do you really believe that removing the other 90% of the corn from the market has no effect on commodity prices?

      No-one has ever said Americans would suffer from eating less. But if you are an African spending more than half your income on food ingredients, you notice when the real price of corn, which had been falling for centuries, suddenly increased in order to make subsidized road fuel in the US.

      • By Forrest on January 8, 2016 at 7:35 am

        Ironic that you post of gaining pro ethanol opinions on Robert Rapier’s going backwards post.

        The animal feed science has benefited from ethanol distillery grains. It gives the industry more flexibility and superior product. Non of the high value components of corn kernel removed upon ethanol process. In fact the distillery solubles bump up nutrition component. The process makes the feed more valuable, especially the protein. Solubles contain 20%-30% protein.

        If you judge your thinking skills per avoiding ethanol information, well, isn’t that a biases? Read this North Dakota State pdf for better information on feeding coproducts to cattle.

        Field corn is not rated as crucial to human nutrition. There is a growing body of evidence that corn is rather unhealthy for humans and if utilized directly for cattle feed. Health conscious consumers avoid soft drinks for this reason. Discerning beer drinkers prefer craft beer that avoid corn and rice grains. Healthy fats of cattle feed grass and avoid starch of direct corn feed.

        Also, the international farmers are gaining modest wealth benefits of bump up in corn sales. This is sorely needed as the poorest third world farmers hated U.S. practice of dumping subsidized corn on their shores that drive theirs farmers out of business. Ethanol has the desired effect to improved profitability of their farms, increase domestic job production, lower costly petro import costs, and improve environment per lessening of tail pipe emissions and utilizing the fuel for heating and cooking vs cutting down trees.

  15. By Forrest on July 1, 2015 at 10:00 am

    “Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have, for the first time, uncovered the complex interdependence and orchestration of metabolic reactions, gene regulation, and environmental cues of clostridial metabolism, providing new insights for advanced biofuel development.” Ethanol Producer Mag.

    What is all of this? Research success for 2rd gen ethanol for a better understanding of the biological factors for fermentation. They have developed a powerful computer design tool for guiding strain design and protocol optimization. This particular enzyme studied changes to adapt to environment for reproduction and food supply. The strategy for the cells survival will first break down carbon material to acetone, then converts this to ethanol. So, no conversion to sugar process step required as this powerful enzyme can process carbon materials directly. This may change current cellulosic ethanol process to be similar to corn process. For sure the science of process control will be improved across the board for fermenting as the quality of more powerful enzymes.

    • By Optimist on July 6, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Wohoo, a research breakthrough! Time to party! Pour me a full glass of ethanol!

      Before you call the Saudi embassy to shout insults are our allies, I suggest you remember that researchers have a vested interest in hyping their breakthroughs. Even legitimate breakthroughs, don’t always change the world forever. It takes a convergence of technology and markets to have a large change.

      Ethanol is a still a terrible fuel. Fermentation is still a dumb ass way of making fuel. All the breakthroughs in the world won’t change that.

      • By Forrest on July 6, 2015 at 4:38 pm

        I still think your defensive and that can only be because of a threat to your best friend. Otherwise, if what you say was true or common knowledge, why the concern? Not much harm in advancing science is there? No one should be so upset upon a low cost fuel that makes your friend petrol perform better with less harm to environment and at a lower cost. The best thing that happen to gasoline is ethanol, but agree the worst thing for your friend is to have a competitor and empower customers to have choice at the pump. The battery car is bad enough but to have a customer not entirely on the hook at the gas pump, woe.
        UI-Urbana research was interesting as they have a tool to better understand fermentation organisms. The one they are working on was described like a micro chemical processing plant. First decomposing carbon material and processing to acetone. As the process continued and carbon food for the organism depleted, the same organism was able to convert the acetone to ethanol.

        • By Optimist on July 6, 2015 at 4:47 pm

          Defensive? If you want to see defensive, I suggest a look in the mirror.

          My friends, fortunately, do not include fuels. I wonder if the same is true for you?

          I was just pointing out that scientific breakthroughs happen all the time. Fundamental changes in behavior are much more rare.

          To discuss the impact of ethanol on the oil industry is to talk about the impact of a mosquito on an elephant. Minor irritation would be an overstatement. Unfortunately, clumsy and untrue overstatements appear to define the ethanol fuel industry.

          • By Forrest on July 6, 2015 at 6:22 pm

            Oh, I see. Can we assume petrol will just forget the annoyance as it’s so unimportant. They could save some $$ millions in attack ads and high pay lobbyist fees. By the way, I’m not a anti petrol guy, but will point out the benefits to gasoline with ethanol and ethanol’s superior fuel character. I do think it’s better to conserve crude oil for generations, but I am not a petrol hater. It seems you really hate ethanol? Why? It doesn’t make sense to be so opinionated. RR once posted the disgusting fact that the U.S. easy crude oil harvest value was lost years back with incredible cheap prices. He opined the point of not conserving the crude oil for future wealth to country. Aren’t we doing the same currently?

  16. By Forrest on July 7, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Future? If you lay technology progression over top transportation energy and factor in concerns of GHG emissions, dwindling natural resources, global economies debt load, and developing economies one gets a good picture of future. First priority of any country is to maintain financial house and not end up like Greece. To pull socialist, labor, and entitlements attractants back to reality upon sustainable path. Economist predict a anemic growth rate ahead for international community that will suffer from heritage spending and entitlements. So, prediction number one, not much money on grand scale to wholesale improve grid or transportation sector. It will be a go as you cost justify approach with a good ROI. No country is going to wholesale break the bank for theoretical benefit even GW. Economies will gradually increase GNP to eventually grow their way from bad spending legacy’s. Second easy prediction, metro area will become a hub of various sized light personal transport battery cars. The autonomous vehicle is projected to take over mass transit and personal vehicle. Just to many advantages. Solar technology such as the extremely thin film deposition of expensive metals will cut cost to half. So, roof top solar should become commonplace. Wind will continue grow if siting can be justified within reach of grid. Coal will continue per need of low cost power and continue to pollute per Environmentalist fighting to keep the energy source from improving emission foot print. Sad. Biofuels will steady increase production as international community benefits from U.S. technology and ability to both keep import costs down and create local jobs. Petrol will stagnate, at least as compared to historical trends, this the
    ten year projection at least. Transportation efficiency is improving at rapid rate, the biggest factor, yet alternative energy sources take up growth. Cellulosic ethanol anemic gains, but this is a factor of supply and low cost of energy. Other countries have just started production per the easier and lower cost processes. They will focus on these processes first. International growth of biofuel 1.6%. Brazil is expected to almost catch U.S. ten years out.

    • By Forrest on July 7, 2015 at 8:24 am

      That is 1.6% annual growth rate for ten years out for biofuels of which U.S. is expected not to participate per lapse of enforcing RFS law.

  17. By Forrest on July 9, 2015 at 6:30 am

    The best development of cellulosic ethanol future is upon the research and development of GMO feedstocks. The science of genetics including computer modeling a powerful tool to improve ethanol process with yield results increasing 38% and cost of processing decreasing, as well. Current processes limited by lignan structure of the plant that transports water, increases plant physical strength, and improves the plants disease resistance. This plant fiber locks in ethanol process feed sugars, which in turn needs to be deconstructed per expensive and delayed processes. GMO feed stocks designed with lignan defect that can be easily deconstructed by ethanol process. So, these improvements won’t be implemented overnight, but point to a brighter horizon. Trends lines very positive. Slow progression is alright if results discover better paths forward. The technology is new, building upon experience, and undergoing much invention. Best to sustain the development and not attempt to engage in win lose verdicts upon present day economic competitiveness. Yes, it’s a money loser and not competitive yet. Like most worth while endeavors, it’s not easy as if it were, it would have been accomplished long ago.

  18. By Forrest on July 24, 2015 at 7:16 am

    June D3 cellulosic ethanol production appears to be zero. Renewable natural gas and LNG production increasing as to be expected per the natural and unstoppable process at landfills. The cellulosic ethanol low or no production RIN data for June is strange. For example Quad Country processors have an in place process within corn ethanol that should always be present in monthly production. QCCP once stated they were dumping cellulosic ethanol to corn per messed up RIN market. May that still be in effect? It may be an accounting and credit problem or that no one is buying the RINs and choosing higher priced substitution RINs to hurt the market. It would be easy to explain the corn stover cellulosic ethanol loss of production within the present day extremely low cost energy markets, but the QCCP ethanol process is no more expensive then plan corn ethanol and is set up within the normal corn ethanol process. Where is this production?

Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!