Business Briefs

People, Partnerships & Deals
By Ethanol Producer Magazine Staff | April 18, 2011

1. Christina FitzGerald joined Baisch Engineering Inc. as its business development and marketing manager. She has 13 years of marketing experience in the architectural/engineering/construction industry. Based in Kaukauna, Wis., Baisch Engineering provides services nationally and internationally, including process, mechanical, civil, structural, architectural, electrical, instrumentation and process control and project administration services.

2. Joe Sparano joined the board of directors of BlueFire Renewables Inc. Sparano completed a 15-month term this spring as executive advisor to the chairman the Western States Petroleum Association, where he also served as president. He was also president of Tesoro Petroleum’s West Coast Regional Business Unit. He serves on the board of CVR Energy Inc., a midcontinent U.S. independent petroleum refiner and marketer. He has served as chairman and CEO of Long Beach-based Pacific Refining Co. and in executive positions with Exxon, Ultramar, Union Pacific Resources/Champlin and Mercury Air Group. He also served as a consultant for TransCanada Pipelines’ Executive Management, and has been president of his own consulting firm.

3. Carlos Riva has retired as CEO, director and president of Verenium Corp., effective the end of March. James Levine, was promoted to president and CEO. He previously held positions as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Jeffrey Black moved up to chief financial officer from his position as chief accounting officer and Janet Roemer will continue as chief operating officer. Verenium also announced progress in its debt reduction plan, through the repurchase of $28.4 million of convertible notes in a series of privately negotiated transactions, leaving an aggregate of $46.3 million in principal outstanding. The company has repurchased $49.4 million in convertible notes since September. "We are very pleased to have completed these repurchases, and believe this is another important step in creating a capital structure that supports the continued growth and success of Verenium as we focus on building the next leading industrial enzymes company," Black said. "We believe that we have now reduced our debt to a more appropriate level for the company given our size and stage of development." 

4. Bill Richardson, former Governor of New Mexico and past DOE Secretary in the Clinton administration, has joined the international advisory board of Abengoa. He joins  eight others on the advisory board, which includes Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, Mario Molina, and past chief economist for the World Bank, Nicholas Stern, among others. Based in Spain, Abengoa is the sixth-largest biofuels producer in the U.S. and expects to begin construction of its first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in the U.S. at Hugoton, Kan., this summer.

5. Enerkem Inc. appointed Jean-François Normand as vice president, project management. Prior to joining Enerkem, Normand was a director at Voith Hydro (previously Voith Siemens Hydro Power Generation), where he managed multiple hydroelectric projects and also launched its Canadian construction and field service department. Previously, he worked at Bombardier as director for its transportation industrial division in Germany and also worked in its Aerospace division, where he oversaw strategic and operations improvement initiatives. He also held positions at General Electric in the hydropower generation sector, where he was involved in field services, site management, commissioning and quality management.

6. Alvin W. Nienow has joined The Merrick Consultancy, the management, technical and operations consulting division of Merrick & Co. With over 40 years of experience in research and application of advanced mixing systems, at Merrick he will focus on bioprocessing for the manufacture of renewable fuels and chemicals. He served as a professor of biochemical engineering at the University of Birmingham, UK. His is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the Institute of Chemical Engineers, a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and an honorary member of the Czech Society of Chemical Engineering.

7. Jeff Lautt was named president of Poet LLC., He has been with Poet since 2005, serving most recently as executive vice president of corporate operations. Company founder Jeff Broin will remain CEO and chairman of the board. “Over his six-year career at Poet, Jeff Lautt has continually taken on more and more of the daily operations of the company,” Broin said. “With more of the day-to-day operations in his hands, I can invest more of my time in planning the future of Poet and work on issues critical to the ethanol industry. Many of the challenges Poet faces are shared by the entire ethanol industry. As co-chairman of Growth Energy, I also look forward to working with others in the industry to face those challenges head-on.” Poet also announced that two of its plants in South Dakota reached a half-billion-gallon milestone this winter. The 79 MMgy Poet Biorefining-Big Stone plant started up in 2002 and the 110 MMgy Poet Biorefining-Chancellor started up in 2003. According to the Argonne National Laboratory, one gallon of ethanol reduces CO2 emissions by 6.41 pounds. Therefore, the combined ethanol produced by the two plants over their lifespans has reduced carbon emissions by 3.2 million tons.

8. Bob Walsh has joined ZeaChem Inc. as chief commercial officer. He brings decades of experience in both petroleum and biorefining to the executive team. Most recently, Walsh served as CEO and director of Aurora Biofuels in Alameda, Calif., which he joined after  holding executive roles with LS9 and Royal Dutch Shell. Walsh spent 25 years with Shell in manufacturing, supply, trading and strategic planning roles in both the U.S. and Europe. Walsh will lead ZeaChem’s drive to commercialize a robust portfolio of biobased fuels and chemicals from cellulosic feedstocks. ZeaChem’s 250,000 gallon-per-year biorefinery in Boardman, Ore, broke ground in June, 2010, and is expected to come online later this year.

9. LanzaTech received New Zealand’s NZBio 2011 company of the year award and its co-founder and chief scientist Sean Simpson won the 2011 young biotechnologist of the year award. The New Zealand biotech company has developed a microbe to ferment waste industrial gases into ethanol, running a pilot plant at the Glenbrook Steel Mill near Aukland for more than two years. It is now working with Baosteel in China, Posco in Korea and IndianOil to produce commercial levels of ethanol.

10. Dyadic International Inc. has introduced an advanced biofuel enzyme, trademarked AlternaFuel CMAX. The company recently completed its scale-up of the new enzyme derived from its patented C1 platform technology, which  is effective in converting multiple forms of biomass into fermentable sugars for cellulosic ethanol production.

11. Delphi announced its original-equipment fuel products are compatible with E15. This includes approximately 166 SKUs covering 32 million vehicles from 2001 to the current model year, which the company says can accept up to 20 percent ethanol. Key drivers in developing green technologies to consumers as a strategic focus are increased vehicle performance, better fuel economy and maintaining emissions regulations for all fuel types. Delphi has a long history developing ethanol-friendly components for original equipment manufacturers. In the U.S, Delphi has supplied E85-compatible technology to more than two million vehicles and has delivered E15 compatible fuel pumps to General Motors since 1992. Delphi’s gasoline fuel injection systems sold worldwide have been upgraded to deliver 100,000-mile-plus durability on E25.

12. Novozymes received the gold ranking as top performer in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes for the second time in two years. The investment group Sustainable Asset management published its 2011 Sustainability Yearbook on behalf of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes. The best-performing companies across all sectors receive a SAM Gold rating award. The Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes are widely recognized, measuring sustainability performance over the past 11 years within more than 20 areas across economic, social, and environmental dimensions. Novozymes achieved the rank of sector leader in nine of those years, in addition to the gold ranking in the past two.

13. CHS Inc. is investing $26 million to enhance its refined fuels supply infrastructure in the northern plains. The company will undertake nearly a dozen projects in the next three years to expand storage capacity at its terminals, improve and expand truck loading facilities, and streamline loading systems. CHS is planning to incorporate a more efficient ethanol blending system in improvements at both its Minot, N.D., and Glendive, Mont., facilities.

14. ODVA has launched a new energy initiative, in cooperation with major suppliers including Cisco Systems, Rockwell Automation and Schneider Electric, to develop a comprehensive approach to the optimization of energy usage for the industrial consumer that is scalable, open and inclusive for both users and suppliers. ODVA’s energy approach will simplify the ability to understand energy consumption and enable control methodologies to optimize energy usage from the plant floor to the grid. Although understanding energy consumption is critical to truly optimizing plant-wide operations, production planners have not had all the necessary tools. ODVA said it seeks to change this situation by fostering best practices in energy resource allocation, including visibility of energy data throughout the layers of the production information systems. As the first action in its energy initiative, ODVA has formed a special interest group to develop specification enhancements for energy applications utilizing the Common Industrial Protocol, another one of its initiatives.

15. VAC-U-MAX has introduced its 1020 portable vacuum cleaner to the ethanol industry. The industrial vacuum is capable of removing three to five tons per hour of explosive powders. The positive displacement pump, or rotary lobe, is available with a 10- or 15-horsepower motor, and the unit includes a high efficiency filter contributing to a better respiratory environment for workers.

16. Terrabon Inc. announced it has exceeded its target yield threshold of 70 gallons of renewable cellulosic gasoline from one dry ton of waste feedstock at its demonstration facility in Bryan, Texas. Terrabon’s MixAlco process begins by treating feedstock with lime to enhance its digestibility, then fermenting with a mixed-culture of microorganisms to produce carboxylic acids. Calcium carbonate is added to the fermentation to neutralize the acids to form corresponding carboxylate salts, which are then dewatered, concentrated, dried and thermally converted to ketones. The ketones are then hydrogenated to alcohols that can be refined into renewable gasoline, diesel or jet fuel blendstocks. The company says the cellulosic gasoline product is a drop-in fuel that looks similar to cracked gasoline and can be a subcomponent of RBOB, which could then be blended with ethanol.

17. SuGanit Systems Inc. received a $2 million grant from Ohio Third Frontier to establish a cellulosic ethanol pilot plant in Toledo, Ohio. The Reston, Va.-based start-up company plans to have the pilot plant set up by the end of summer and have it operating by the end of 2011. It received $1 million from the same group a year ago to aid in its collaboration with the University of Toledo developing a conversion process using an ionic liquid pretreatment that allows the use of unmodified yeast to convert glucose and zylose to ethanol.

18. Martin Engineering announced plans to open a business unit in Pune, India in 2011. The company has been active in the India market since 2004, establishing a presence through its licensee, Thejo, to distribute and support select bulk material handling technologies. Already incorporated in India, Martin Engineering completed a detailed market study and entry strategy in 2010, finding huge potential in further developing its business there. Founded in 1944, Martin Engineering makes bulk materials handling cleaner, safer and more productive. The firm is headquartered in Neponset, Ill., with operations in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, and the UK.

19. A team of researchers led by South Dakota State University plant geneticist Jose Gonzalez concluded research partially funded by the USDA and the U.S. DOE to sequence genes in prairie cordgrass. Like switchgrass, prairie cordgrass begins growing as soon as snow melts in the spring and continues to grow until the end of the growing season. Unlike switchgrass, which prefers higher-quality land conditions, cordgrass grows very well on marginal lands and in soils that contain high amounts of salts.

20. Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, a DuPont-BP collaboration, has issued a patent infringement complaint against Englewood, Colo.-based Gevo Inc. According to Butamax, its patented biobutanol technology encompasses biocatalysts developed to produce isobutanol and provides protection for Butamax and its pioneering work in this field. Butamax has filed an extensive patent portfolio for its proprietary technology across the biofuels value chain, including biocatalyst, bioprocess and fuels. Gevo issued a rebuttal statement saying its Integrated Fermentation Technology is a fundamentally different approach than the one described in the Butamax patent allegedly violated.

21. Brazil’s largest energy firms have established a joint venture—Logum Logisitca S.A.— to construct a dedicated ethanol transport system to link the main ethanol -producing regions of the country with each other and with port terminals. Petrobras, Cosan S.A. and Copersucar S.A.—the largest company in Latin America, the world’s fifth largest ethanol producer, and Brazil’s largest sugar, ethanol and bioenergy company, respectively—each hold a 20 percent stake in the venture. Other stakeholders include two transportation and logistics firms as well as a Brazilian construction firm. The $3.6 billion multimodal ethanol logistics system will integrate existing waterway transport systems with dedicated ethanol pipelines and be capable of  transporting 5.5 billion gallons of ethanol annually over approximately 807 miles.

22. BP is acquiring majority control of the Brazilian ethanol and sugar producer Companhia Nacional de Açúcar e Álcool. When CNAA's assets are fully developed, this is expected to increase BP’s overall Brazilian production capacity to around 1.4 billion liters of ethanol per year (380 MMgy). BP has agreed to pay approximately $680 million to acquire 83 percent of the shares of CNAA and to refinance 100 percent of CNAA's existing long-term debt. After the acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval and agreed closing conditions, BP will become the operator of two producing ethanol mills, located in Goiás and Minas Gerais states. A third CNAA mill is currently under development in Minas Gerais.

23. Rockwell Automation has a new support program for older or discontinued Rockwell Automation products. The Lifecycle Service Agreement is part of its comprehensive Lifecycle Management Services, designed to identify, mitigate and reduce automation obsolescence risk. Three unique services are designed to provide “intensive care” for obsolete automation products. Reserved Repair customers are provided repairs even when maintenance resources or spare parts are constrained or are unavailable to the general public. Remote Support for Discontinued Product provides unlimited Web support for any obsolete or discontinued Rockwell Automation products included in the contract. On-Site Support for Discontinued Product provides annual preventive maintenance services, migration and conversion-planning support. The Lifecycle Service Agreement contract is part of the holistic Lifecycle Management Services offerings, which also includes an Installed Base Evaluation to help identify and pinpoint areas where product obsolescence occurs, as well as provide migration-planning support.

24. Spraying Systems Co. is offering a new TankJet 360 Fluid Driven Tank Cleaner equipped with a dual- or triple-nozzle hub and high-impact, solid stream nozzles that rotate 360 degrees in horizontal and vertical planes. The rotation creates a crisscrossing pattern to thoroughly clean tanks up to 100 feet in diameter and remove the stickiest of residues. In addition, high-impact cleaning results in shorter cycle times so tanks are returned to service more quickly. The units are customizable to the user’s operation and suitable for use in high-concentration chemical recirculation cleaning or low pressure, high-volume cleaning. All units are built to order.

25. U.S. Water Services led an effort to provide cleaning drinking water to Cite Soleil, Haiti, residents still recovering from a devastating earthquake in January 2010. The Global Ethanol plant in Riga, Mich., which became a part of Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc. in October, donated an existing reverse osmosis unit worth $132,000 to the project. U.S. Water Services took the lead providing engineering drawings for the water treatment system the site would need, as well as refurbishing the unit. Dow Chemical provided additional support donating a supply of membranes the unit would require.

Share your industry briefs: To be included in Business Briefs, send information (including photos and logos if available) to: Business Briefs, Ethanol Producer Magazine, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks ND 58203. You may also fax information to (701) 746-8385, or e-mail it to sretkaschill@bbiinternational.com. Please include your name and telephone number in all correspondence.