Business and People

By | December 09, 2009
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>Independent biofuels supply chain management firm Aska Energy, has launched a rail optimization clearinghouse geared toward the ethanol industry. Ethanol producers can participate in "swaps" facilitated by the company as a way to reduce shipping costs and turn-around times. According to company president Dan Gordon, swap participants save up to 10 percent of their original freight costs.

Gordon said optimization swaps are standard operating procedure in the petroleum industry, but not yet commonly used in the ethanol industry.

>Jonathan Silver has been named executive director of the U.S. DOE's loan program office and will oversee the loan guarantee program and the advanced technology vehicles manufacturing loan program as well as manage the all of the department's alternative energy investments.

Prior to his appointment to the DOE, Silver was a venture capitalist and managing general partner of Core Capital Partners, an early-stage investor in alternative energy, advanced manufacturing, telecommunications and software. He also previously served as a policy advisor to the Secretaries of Commerce, Interior and Treasury in the 1990s and was a member of the team that negotiated the first clean car agreement with the nation's auto manufacturers.

>Vancouver, British Columbia-based cellulosic ethanol developer Syntec Biofuel Inc. has retained Investor Awareness Inc. as its investor relations firm. The Chicago-based firm specializes in accelerating growth in the value of small to mid-size companies and will be responsible for creating outreach programs to increase Syntec's visibility in the investment community and spread awareness about its recent developments.

According to the company, Syntec has developed a thermochemical process to gasify various feedstocks and produce ethanol as well as biomethanol, propanol and butanol.

>Salco Products Inc., a supplier and manufacturer of products for the freight transportation industries, has received testing results of its improved chevron-style manway tank car nozzle gasket. The gasket, which was developed to enhance sealing on tank cars with hinged manways, was found to have greater overall compression and greater sealing uniformity between the chevrons and around the nozzle compared to a flat gasket. The company said the gasket's design helps eliminate non-accident releases at the manway and also allows for better compliance with non-uniform cover and nozzle forces that arise from the bolting pattern.

>Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc. has appointed Michelle Mapes as executive vice president - general counsel and corporate secretary. She will be responsible for all legal and regulatory affairs for the company and will report directly to Todd Becker, GPRE's president and CEO. Prior to joining GPRE in September as its general counsel, Mapes was a partner at Husch Blackwell Sanders LLP, where she focused her practice in renewable energy.

In addition, Wayne Hoovestol has resigned from his position as chief strategy officer of the company, but will retain his seat as chairman of the board. "I feel fortunate to have helped the company get to this point and I leave knowing the company is in good hands," he said.

>CHS Inc., has appointed Josh Blaisdell as vice president of its new corporate compliance department. Blaisdell joined CHS in 1990 and has served as the company's tax director since 1995. In his new role with CHS, he will lead the company's overall domestic and international compliance and audit programs, and will be responsible for corporate compliance and results, including government rules and regulations and development of company policies and procedures. Blaisdell will also be in charge of the implementation and maintenance of compliance programs, policies and procedures. He will report to David Kastelic, senior vice president of the legal and compliance department.

>Well-known corn grower and ethanol industry member Gary Pestorious has joined the board of directors of Growth Energy. His is replacing Darrin Ihnen, who left the board to assume the role of president of the National Corn Growers Association.

Pestorious is a charter member of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and has served as chairman of Poet Biorefining - Glenville in Albert Lea, Minn., for 10 years. He also serves on the boards of Poet Biorefining - Hanlontown in Iowa and Poet Biorefining - Lake Crystal in Minnesota and is chair of the SoyMor Biodiesel LLC plant in Minnesota.

>Enerkem co-founder and chief technology officer Esteban Chornet received a Synergy Award for Innovation during the 2009 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Synergy and Innovation Challenge Awards presentation, held Oct. 19 in Ottawa, Ontario. The award honors outstanding university-industry research and development partnerships in natural sciences and engineering. As part of the award, Chornet received a $200,000 research grant on behalf of the University of Sherbrooke, Enerkem, Fractal Systems and CRB Innovations.

Enerkem, a waste-to-biofuels producer, is currently operating two facilities in Canada and has a facility in the development stage in Mississippi.

>Poet LLC has developed an ethanol byproduct capable of replacing petroleum-based ingredients in various household products. According to the company, Inviz can be used as a gum base or in films, packaging, adhesives, coatings and glazes. It is Poet's own brand of zein, derived from the less-valuable protein in distiller's grains, and is extracted using a patent-pending process developed by Poet. Because Poet's production process fractionates the corn kernel and ferments ethanol without requiring the use of heat, the company said its zein product is more pure corn protein than other similar products.

>Ron Miller has resigned as president and CEO of Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings Inc. and is being replaced in the interim by George Henning, who will also retain his position as the company's chief financial officer.

"Ron has been with Aventine since its formation and was a central part of Aventine's birth and growth," said company Chairman, Bobby Latham. "Ron's leadership will be missed, but the company understands and respects his decision to make a fresh start, just as the company prepares for its fresh start through the bankruptcy process."

>Bioenergy Engineering 2009 recently honored four individuals and one bioenergy corporation at its international conference held in Bellevue, Wash. John Ferrell received the federal agency bioenergy pioneer award; Phillip C. Badger was given the private enterprise bioenergy pioneer Award; Ralph P. Cavalieri was honored with the public service bioenergy pioneer award; and Bryan M. Jenkins received the academic bioenergy pioneer award. The bioenergy company of the year award was given to Abengoa Bioenergy Group in recognition of its commitment to produce biofuels in a manner that is energy and environmentally sustainable.

>Ethanol production has resumed at the 110 Mmgy former VeraSun plant in Hankinson, N.D. Murphy Oil Corp. purchased the facility for $92 million in early October and resumed operations immediately. Murphy Oil plans to use the ethanol produced at Hankinson Renewable Energy LLC to supply its own petroleum blending operations and said it chose to purchase the facility due to its proximity to feedstock and rail service.

>Cargill Inc. has acquired the rights to the land and grain handling assets of the former Altra Nebraska LLC ethanol facility in Carleton, Neb. Construction on the Altra facility began in 2006 and was approximately half complete in November 2007, when construction was halted after plant owners were unable to secure additional financing. Cargill took possession of the facility Nov. 4.

>Otter Tail Ag Enterprises LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Federal Court on Oct. 30. The bankruptcy was prearranged with Otter Tail's lenders and will allow it to avoid liquidation of the facility. Otter Tail is required to raise $10 million to $12 million as part of the agreement. The company did make an effort to avoid bankruptcy, but was unsuccessful at negotiating terms on $81 million in long-term debt from the plant's construction.

>Faegre & Benson LLP recently announced the formation of a New Energy, Clean Technology and Climate team. The team aims to anticipate and mitigate the legal risks associated with a rapidly changing regulatory environment and the "new energy economy." More than 50 attorneys from the lawfirm's offices in Boulder, Colo.; Denver; Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis; Shanghai; and London will collaborate to provide services in the new energy, clean technology and climate sectors.

>Cleveland-based Arisdyne Systems Inc., a biofuels technology and equipment company, recently received verification of the effectiveness of its ethanol production process improvements from the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center in Edwardsville, Ill. The company's cavitation systems allow corn to be processed into finer particles than traditional milling methods used in ethanol production. This increased efficiency improves yield and allows producers to improve financial performance.

>The Baumer Group, an international manufacturer of sensors and system solutions for factory and process automation, has introduced the FODK 23 optical sensor for leak monitoring. The sensor is designed to be installed onto a dry floor or base panel in the area where leakage might occur. The evaluation electronics for this sensor are housed in a chemically-resistant, IP67-rated sheath made of Teflon PFA, which allows the device to withstand exposure to a range of liquids. The sensor is designed to react to as little as 1 ml of leaked liquid.

>MGP Ingredients Inc. has appointed Don Tracy to the position of vice president of finance and chief financial officer. Tracy's experience includes serving as senior vice president of the process improvement group of National City Corp. in Cleveland, from 1999 to 2001; senior manager of the strategic services unit at A.T. Kearney Inc. in 1998; senior manager of performance improvement management consulting for Ernst & Young Consulting; and various positions with Procter & Gamble Co.

4Bob Petruzzi has joined Intersystems, a division of ESI, as sales manager for the company's southeastern U.S. territory. Petruzzi will be responsible for marketing the company's line of bulk material handling equipment to the feed, grain, pet food, ethanol and other related industries in the southeast. Petruzzi brings 30 years of experience in the animal feed, grain and pet food industries. He has served in various management and sales positions for companies such as Gold Kist Inc., ConAgra Foods Inc., and Anitox Corp.

>Genencor, a division of Danisco, received the national sustainable energy award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) for its accellerase family of enzymes for cellulosic ethanol. The AIChE awards committee presented the award to Landon Steele, marketing director for biomass enzymes and accellerase product manager, and Aaron Kelley, senior engineer of biomass applications and the accellerase 1500 project leader. The AIChE sustainable energy award recognizes the critical impact of chemistry and biochemistry innovations in developing sustainable energy solutions.

>Blackmer, a manufacturer of positive displacement pumps and compressor technologies and an operating company within Dover Corp.'s pump solutions group, recently announced that its BV2 Bypass Valves are now available with high-grade FKM O-rings. O-Rings made of FKM (vinylidene fluoride) provide additional heat and chemical resistance, allowing the valves to be used in a wider range of process applications, including use with biofuels.

>Irvine, Calif.-based BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc. has announced the relocation of its second planned biorefinery to Fulton, Miss. Although the facility was originally planned for California, delays in the licensing and permitting process and a challenging business climate within the state convinced BlueFire to petition the U.S. DOE for a site change. The company was awarded a $40 million DOE grant in 2007 to support the development of its second facility.

>New Jersey-based ChemPro Group LLC has formed an alliance with Missouri-based Mo-Fuel (Rural Bio-waste), the Energy Division of Menaje Negocios Corp., to commercialize a patented feedstock-flexible cellulosic ethanol process. Mo-Fuel (Rural Bio-waste)'s technology is a continuous catalytic hydrolysis process that lends itself to modular construction, and ChemPro has experience in designing and building modular ethanol production plants. The next step for the companies will be to build a mobile feedstock testing unit that is expected to be operational by early 2010.

>California-based industrial biocatalyst developer Codexis Inc. has named Robert Lawson as senior vice president and chief financial officer. In his new position, Lawson will be responsible for the company's financial, accounting and information technology operations. Prior to joining Codexis, Lawson was employed by Intuit, where he held a series of senior financial management positions, most recently serving as vice president of the finance-consumer group.

>GreenHouse, distributor of the E-Fuel MicroFueler, has partnered with Allard Research and Development, a company that designs and builds custom ethanol production systems. GreenHouse now holds the exclusive license to distribute Allard's technologies and provide ethanol production services to soft drink companies and government agencies. According to GreenHouse, the partnership will allow the company to develop and distribute new technologies for ethanol production, automation and hydroponics.

>INEOS Bio has selected KBR Inc. to serve as its engineering contractor to develop the front-end engineering and design for its first advanced bioenergy plant. INEOS Bio's technology focuses on converting low-cost carbon materials, including waste, into ethanol and renewable energy. According to INEOS Bio, work on the bioenergy facility's commercial design began during the second half of 2008. Front-end engineering and design work is scheduled to be complete in early 2010, with commercial production expected to commence in 2011.

>Tenaska Biofuels LLC and Tri-State Financial LLC have entered into a two-year tolling agreement that will allow ethanol production to resume at Tri-State's Rosholt, S.D.-based North Country Ethanol plant. The 26 MMgy facility originally began operations in 2005. In October 2008 the facility was idled as the original ownership entered bankruptcy proceedings.

Under the tolling agreement, Tenaska Biofuels will purchase corn and natural gas, which Tri-State will use to produce ethanol and distillers grains. Tenaska Biofuels will own all materials processed at the facility and will market the plant's ethanol and distillers grains products. The facility was scheduled to resume operations in mid-November.

>Michiel van Lookeren Campagne has been named president of Syngenta Biotechnology Inc. In his new position, van Lookeren Campagne will lead the company's global biotechnology research and development efforts at both of the company's biotech facilities—Syngenta Biotechnology, the company' s North American biotechnology headquarters in South Carolina-based Research Triangle Park, and Beijing-based Syngenta Biotechnology China Co. Ltd.

>Nicholas C. Conrad has accepted the position of vice president of finance and treasurer at The Andersons Inc. The position was recently vacated by Gary Smith, who retired after 29 years with the company. Conrad has been employed by The Andersons since 1984, most recently serving as the assistant treasurer.

The Andersons also recently named John T. Stout Jr. to the company's board of directors. Stout currently serves as the CEO of Plaza Belmont Management Group LLC and has served on the economic advisory council of the District Ten Federal Reserve Bank for the past six years.

>Cambridge, Mass-based Verenium Corp. has entered into an agreement with Value Prior to Pulping to evaluate the effectiveness of its C5 cellulosic ethanol production technology on hemicellulose feedstock generated by the pulp and paper process. VVP is an organization that was created by the Agenda 2020 Technology Alliance, which is a special project of the American Forest and Paper Association and CleanTech Partners Inc. EP