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Bio Diesel vs. Ethanol

December 20, 2011

A few weeks ago, a few members of our team went to Tallahassee to educate some of our lawmakers about our business and specifically about the potentials of Camelina.  It was a huge success by all accounts and we gleaned important information while making some solid connections for the future.

One of the most notable challenges that must be addressed is one that we were already aware of, but not entirely decided on how we were going to tackle.

You see once the idea of feedstock registers and alternative fuels are discussed many people begin to generalize or consider all fuels the same and thus have similar industrial cultures and realities.   This misunderstanding is especially prevalent when trying to distinguish between bio fuels.

Bio Fuels are considered to have come from some sort of organic beginning.  Using a strict definition it would not be stretch to consider petroleum products, natural gas, or fossil fuels as bio fuels considering they are a type of carbon based reaction that creates oil or gas from the fossils, pressure, and time.  This creates an obvious confusion and exemplifies why there needs to be distinction and separate consideration between the different types of fuel and their origins.

The ultimate goal is to find energy solutions that can power our society without being dependent on foreign interests.  Subsequent goals include doing so in a responsible and ethical manner that will not burden future generations.  The first distinction to make is whether or not the fuel is limited or renewable.  The next question is one sustainability and cost of production over time verses output.  Last, but certainly not least, what are the environmental implications?

This discussion will focus on Ethanol vs. Bio Diesel from a feedstock provider perspective.  As an alternative feedstock company, assumptions that create controversy are the ideas that ethanol must come from corn and bio diesel must come from soy bean.  Both are food crops and create legitimate concerns over sustainability, competing supply, and subsidy questions.  It has long been supposed that corn is the best solution for ethanol and soy for bio diesel and thus created barriers to production in balancing between an energy commodity and a food commodity.  Both fuel types have found multiple non-food crops that can yield much higher in more locations than either of the food crops.  This is a realization that the general public must be made aware of.  There is too much confusion as to the competition of food verses energy and frankly too many agendas generating false propaganda from multiple perspectives.

The scale and scope of these two fuels are quite different.  Ethanol has emerged from the top down, complete with big moneyed interests that have shaped and in many regards restricted proper development of this possibility.  One of the largest obstacles ethanol has faced is feeding the large scale processing plants that were created to meet volume and mandates associated with gasoline.  Conversely, bio diesel has been purposely shelved since big oil bought its interests out shortly after Rudolf Diesel created an engine that could be run from natural oils found on a farm.  It has only been recently that a resurgence of old technology has been reintroduced to the consuming public and the process been widely shared.

Ethanol is basically derived from plants with high amounts of sugar to be fermented and then processed.  Bio Diesel is oil that is retrieved from animal fats, plant seeds, or used vegetable oil and then combined with methanol in a transesterfication process resulting in glycerin and bio diesel.  Each of the resulting fuels has been extensively tested and accepted by the American Standards of Measurements and Testing.   ASTM certification means that the fuel meets acceptable specifications and is ready for consumption.

One of the issues with ethanol and a major reason for the recall of the mandate that is being proposed in Florida is in the blending with gasoline.  Ethanol’s recommended blend with gasoline is no more than 10% because it changes the properties of the fuel.  The mix with gasoline has some detrimental side effects if the blending ratios are not properly maintained and monitored.  In a haste to reach demand created by mandates many blenders are not so careful or exact in the process.  This results in blends that exceed 10% which can be detrimental to smaller engine parts and vessels.  Your lawn mowers and jet skis not performing after sitting a while with ethanol gas is an observable flaw.

The neat thing about diesel is that it is cracked with Kerosene which is an anti-lubricant.  It requires some sort of additive of lubricant to properly function.  Utilizing bio diesel works nicely, but moreover a diesel engine does not react adversely to too much lubricant.  In other words, it can function at various blends of bio diesel with no adverse affects to the engine.  The result is a cleaner, more efficient, and stronger performance from the engine.

Ethanol just helped corn farmers achieve one of their best years ever.  The production has been up and answering the demand has created other debates in regards to sustainability.  If corn were the only viable crop for ethanol some of those arguments might be valid.  Since there are at least three alternative crops being grown in Florida to answer the ethanol demand and the idea of diversity in location and crop is spreading, it is likely that the arguments centered on competing interests of corn will last much longer.  Ethanol has huge backers and billions invested into an industry that is growing out of its infancy.  Irrespective of people’s opinions, there are plenty of players in the industry making a profit, which means its activity will continue.

Similar to the stigma placed on ethanol by corn, Bio Diesel contends with the Soy Bean myth.  It is true that Soy accounts for a huge amount of US Bio Diesel produced but it is not by far the best choice for bio diesel.  First, most folks dealing with bio diesel would rather not have the fight or hassle that corn created for ethanol.  The general consensus is to not compete in food markets and the search for feedstock other than Soy has been a primary focus.  Recycling used cooking oil gives bio diesel and extra point in the environmental department, but collection and coordination of the grease is a monumental undertaking.  The used vegetable oil is sought after for a number of different reasons from several industries leaving a fragmented and limited supply to producers.  Animal fats have yields but the process is messy and creates other concerns in terms of preparation.  That leaves crops that have oil seeds.  The best known ones are currently not allowed in most states including Florida.  Our company is the first in the country to ASTM certify Camelina oil in bio diesel production and others are being explored.

The Bio Diesel challenge is in scale.  Growing from the bottom up relieves the industry from the mandates and bureaucratic entanglements.  It also means that much of the research funding, grants, and subsidies to grow are not considered for bio diesel but go to the larger ethanol industry.  Many of the crops that have high oil yield have special considerations for harvesting, drying, storage, and pressing.  One crop has requirements different from the next and both are different from traditional regional agriculture.  It is very much a chicken vs. egg scenario in that the industry cannot grow without infrastructure and investment in that infrastructure will not occur without growth.

One of the urban myths surrounding bio fuels is the energy quotient s or energy return numbers.  The legend states that it takes more energy and cost produce ethanol or bio diesel than the energy that is received.  Common sense dictates that if this were true, there would be no incentive for continuing research.  I suppose that when gasoline was under a $1.00 a gallon this type of work did not make economical sense.   Depending on the research used, ethanol returns 25-30% more than the energy it takes to create and bio diesel having a huge range of numbers can be an estimated average of 65-70% return.  When recycled materials are utilized then positive gains are compounded.  Bio Diesel can take advantage of waste vegetable oil (UVO) turning a societal liability into a positive energy product.

Both can reduce carbon emissions.  Both can increase performance and mileage.  Both can supplement reserves of fossil fuels.  Ethanol is working from the top down.  Its production and infrastructure is being implemented to be an additive to consumer vehicles fuel, the primary dispensary being the individual pump.  If standards of the volumes were to be maintained, there would likely be less states reacting like Florida because so many constituents are fed up with replacing carburetors on their small 4 stroke engines. (There are a lot of boats and lawnmowers in FL.)  Bio Diesel is building its infrastructure and shaping to be a volume provider to military, heavy industry – land and sea, and fleet customers.  This makes sense given the nature of the majority of diesel consumption.

For every two gallon of gasoline we consume a gallon of diesel. Our overall consumption is heavily dependent on foreign sources.

“The US imported 61% of its oil, or 374 million barrels in May 2010, sending approximately $27.5 billion, or $617, 234 per minute, to foreign countries.” ~ DOE Energy Information Administration

Rough numbers brings our total consumption to 600 million barrels a month or 7.2 billion barrels a year. 2.3 billion goes to diesel and 4.9 billion barrels will go to gasoline.  Both of these alternative fuels can be beneficial to the reduction of dependence on foreign oil.  Due to the nature of ethanol it is limited to 10% or less blends and will be strictly be an additive until motors are developed to handle higher blends.  All diesel engines can take any blend up to B100 or 100% bio diesel – it just depends on your equipment warranty limitations.  Some warranties on farm equipment and from car manufacturers currently allow B20 and some are considering higher blends.   Of course if the warranty is already expired – then concerns of voiding it are mute.  Simply put there are more options to replace more fossil fuel with bio fuel utilizing bio diesel.  That being said, it will take ethanol, bio-diesel, other alternative fuels and traditional sources to reach energy independence.

Is Camelina the Answer?

November 3, 2011

Yesterday,  Green Oil Solutions announced breaking news.   

They are the first company in the US to create ASTM certified bio diesel from the seeds harvested, crushed, processed utilizing the certified process from Smart Fuel Florida, LLC.

Already tested and accepted by the Navy for JP-4, JP-5, and JP-8 jet fuels, Camelina has been a crop of interest in the last couple of years.  There are a handful of companies that have been testing the high end capabilities of the fine fuel produced from the plant seeds.

The lower portion of the fuel ladder had largely been ignored by the emerging industry, until now.  On October 18, 2011 and independent lab, Midwest Laboratories,  was utilized to certify fuel processed into bio diesel from the Camelina crop grown throughout Florida.  ASTM D93, ASTM D2709, ASTM D 130, ASTM D664, ASTM D6584, and ASTM D4176 have all been awarded to fuel created by the cooperation of Jack Melton Family, Inc, Wise Seed Company, Smart Fuels Florida, LLC., and Green Oil Solutions, Inc.  This marks a first in history and the creation of fuel crop that can be scaled to provide feedstock that can then be produced not only into jet fuel but into ASTM certified consumer fuels.

Scalability will be the question.  The challenge, now that the potential is proven, is to create the infrastructure and political climate to build this emerging industry that has the potential to create thousands, possibly tens of thousands of jobs and at the same time reduce our dependence on foreign and fossil fuels.

Camelina has the potential to be the next energy crop, but it will not be the single answer.  There will be a variety of alternative solutions that need to be employed.  Energy crops for bio diesel are different from ethanol crops and hydro, solar, and wind will have significant contributions to our domestic energy portfolio.  That being said, sustainable, easily scalable, reproducing crops will be a major part of the solution not only for energy and environment, but also for economy and jobs.

The team at GOS measures our success one solution at a time.

Are we the chicken or the egg?

September 28, 2011

Being pioneers in an industry can sometimes be confusing and challenging.  Uncharted territory is always difficult to navigate.  When you are part of an emerging industry that can reduce dependence on foreign and fossil fuels there are always surprises.   Sometimes they are good and sometimes bad.

Alternative energy for the last decade has been speculative at best and seen as something for the future.  Some of us disagree with that assessment and ventured into an unknown realm with a simple idea of finding a better way.  For GOS we settled on two distinct and different fronts.  On the one hand we have aspirations of being the leading recycler of Used Vegetable Oil for the Southeast within the next five years.  On the other we have committed substantial resources to finding viable energy crops.  We are exploring the potential of four different crops and ramping up production for the current crop of choice, Camelina.

Rarely, in and emerging market do you have the opportunity for the validation the following clip offers.

 
http://www.npr.org/v2/?i=140702387&m=140818238&t=audio
 
Green Oil Solutions is currently speaking with a variety of organizations that are interested in our recycling and energy crop programs.  We still do not know if we are the chicken or the egg, but we look forward to being a part of the Solution!  We invite you to contact us and be part of the Solution too.

Growing…

September 22, 2011

Green Oil Solutions is achieving its growth goals.  Having reached the benchmarks for this opening year in local accounts, GOS has rightly begun its expansion program throughout the State of Florida and into the South East region.

Account Representatives are being placed in major markets such as St. Pete, Tampa, Jacksonville, Savannah and the existing Central Florida areas.  On average we are adding a new part to the Solution every business day.  Our most recent efforts have established us as a viable service provider in Jacksonville.

River City Brewing Company and the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront are landmarks of the downtown areas in Jacksonville.  They are recognizable and in key locations to establish a great presence in the Jacksonville business community.

River City Brewing Company is a brewery/seafood establishment that has been providing the folks of Jacksonville with a quality dining experience for over a decade.  Located on Museum Circle and situated perfectly for a panoramic of the riverfront, this restaurant is a must for sampling the offerings of Jacksonville.  Don’t forget to try the beer!

The Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is within walking distance of the Landing, a collection of entertainment and dining.  It is also one of the centerpieces of the Riverfront on Coastline Dr and within walking distance of most of the amenities of downtown.  Staffed and Managed by the expert quality that comes with being a Hyatt Regency, this hotel can accommodate several large conventions or provide an intimate getaway to a historic Southern City.

Green Oils will be highlighting new clients that are making the effort to help the environment and be more sustainable.  When we establish a new part to the Solution, particularly in new markets we will be giving credit where credit is due.  We look forward to writing similar articles for St. Pete, Tampa and Savannah in the near future.

Tradeshow Time!

August 25, 2011

Tis the season for tradeshows.  Green Oil Solutions has been fortunate enough to dip our feet into the pool of tradeshow exposure.    This is not for the super-tight budgeted company struggling to pay their bills.  Nope, this is for the company that has strategic goals and costs in mind.  A company should be really sure of the benefit they are aiming to receive because once booth entry, booth decoration, travel, materials and supplies, and labor is calculated shows are an expensive endeavor.

I suggest a working budget before hand with a good deal of research on the show and its anticipated attendees.   Who cares what the industry is or who else is exhibiting?  So, long as your target market is going to be there in concentrated numbers.

Normally you will discover your demographics within your industry set or a related one.  GOS exhibited at its first show in Tifton, GA – The Southeastern Bioenergy Conference.  The second was for the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association yesterday.  Two very different shows with very different goals.

As an alternative feedstock company we end up with a diverse set of potential business associates.  Currently our company is concentrating on two different types of feedstock.  One is recycling used vegetable oil (UVO) and one is developing Energy Crops.   The UVO recycling side is somewhat established and already has a years of working knowledge and clients.  The Energy Crop side is just coming out of the planning stages and is not only an infant to us, but really a brand new industry.

Both shows ended up being about the same costs for different reasons.  CFHLA was local so it eliminated lots of travel expense, but it required more in booth preparation and overall image.  We could get away with simply hanging a banner and putting literature on the table in Tifton.  That was definitely not the case for Orlando.  Both required special printing jobs, but those materials will be used year round and with other projects.

At the CFHLA show GOS concentrated on re-enforcing our market presence and direct time with potential large accounts that were to some degree pre-identified in the market.   We also limited our broadcast to the specific activity of UVO recycling.

 

 

 

In Tifton, the SouthEastern BioEnergy Conference was utilized as an introduction for our Energy Crop program.  The goal at that show was to announce our interest in exploring possible business relationships and finding collaboration.  We also wanted to highlight the crop we see as the next solution, Camelina.   UVO was barely mentioned at the show.

Both shows were estimated to be successes in that they accomplished their stated goals.  Of course, weaknesses and areas for improvement were revealed in both venues.  The next challenge will be balancing a show that highlights UVO and Energy Crops equally providing the full picture of our alternative feedstock company.  Green Oil Solutions will have that opportunity in the next couple of months.

Why the US Green Chamber?

July 31, 2011

From 2002 to 2006 I was fortunate to hold a seat on Seminole Soil and Water Conservation District.  It was an unpaid elected position that received more criticism than praise.  As a board we accomplished some amazing things that included rebounding from a $35,000 debt the previous board was kind enough to leave, establishing the need and acceptance for water conservation education, and providing over a half a million dollars worth of services on less than $40,000 per year.

 

We did this through dedication and hard work, connections, and a fair amount of luck.  One of the most fortunate turns was to find a woman that is unmatched and in her dedication and passion for finding environmentally positive solutions.  We somehow convinced Michelle Thatcher that we had a worthwhile mission and she should dedicate most of her life at the time to something that paid too close to a zero hourly rate.

 

When Michelle came on board as our Executive Director, I pegged her as competent idealist that could be useful.  Within a few short months she proved to be invaluable.  Since our tenure, on SSWCD I have watched Michelle follow her passions and enjoy her connection to nature.  When I heard she was getting involved with a new green chamber I remembered a conversation/debate (we had more than a few) on the best way to wake the public up to the realities and the needs of being environmentally responsible.  Being the capitalist that I am I stood fast in my position that profit must be tied to the desired responsible behavior.

 

Now I can’t recall if she ever actually agreed with that, but I can say with certainty that I watched her develop relationships with local businesses and government officials that would have never previously listened to much less subscribe to some of the solutions we were offering.  She has an amazing talent for presenting ideas to people that have previously been shut off to considering.

 

The fact that Michelle Thatcher is the National Director is certainly enough to join and support the emerging US Green Chamber.  It also happens to be a huge benefit for Green Oil Solutions, Inc. considering that our entire business matches the stated goals and ideas of the USGC.   If you are doing business with us, then you are working toward the Solution which means that you are working toward the goals of the US Green Chamber.  As proud new members we invite you to join an organization that is going to look out for your (and your grandchildren’s) future and your bottom line.  It truly pays to be green.

You say WVO I say UVO

June 15, 2011

                   VS.              

Some people in the industry refer to spent cooking oil as WVO or Waste Vegetable Oil.  Others including, Green Oil Solutions, prefer to use UVO or Used Vegetable Oil.  In the mindset of the three R’s we do not see any resemblance to waste in recycled cooking oil.

UVO is a growing industry in the Florida and the rest of the country.  This “waste” oil is valuable enough for people to risk jail time by stealing.  Indeed it routinely trades on the commodities markets after it has been processed and refined for around a few dollars a gallon. Aside from a stock oil for bio diesel, it is sold to chicken feed producers, fertilizer manufacturers and by the large tanker load to countries overseas.

I did a search on Google of used and waste vegetable oil companies and was able to identify about a half dozen that had an internet presence.  I am aware of at least one-half dozen more and most of them claim to be collecting to make local bio diesel here in the state of Florida.  As much as I hope that to be true, there are several markets and opportunities to sell UVO out of the state and country for a variety of purposes.

Most operations that are nearing commercialization are able to collect and process over 10 thousand gallons of UVO per month or more.  Some are doing much more.  But for the sake of argument,  12x10k is 120K/m which equals 1.4 mil gal/year.    That is barely enough to keep a commercial bio diesel plant in production.  Most small plants are 3-5 mil/year and the larger ones are planned for 20-30 mil/gal/year.  In other words there is a high demand for UVO.  It is Green Oil Solutions primary raw product.

That varied demand is why we have recognized the need to stabilize the UVO market and explore other feed stock or fuel stock possibilities.  Knowing that a large bulk of UVO is sold outside of the Florida market, Green Oil Solutions is actively working with Florida businesses to identify and contract for several thousand sources of UVO.  It is our goal to keep our economy local and to help ensure that we convert as many resources as possible to the production of domestic bio fuels which of course lessens our dependence on foreign and fossil fuels.  Help us revitalize Florida and the larger US economies by making sure your favorite restaurant recycles their UVO with a company that guarantees the economy stays in Florida or the very least the US.  Don’t let your UVO turn to WVO by allowing it to leave the country.

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