Business Briefs

People, Partnerships & Deals
By Ethanol Producer Magazine Staff | August 06, 2012

1. ERI Solutions Inc. recently gained certifications in API 510, API 570, and API 653. The certifications allow ERI Solutions to provide the ethanol industry with required testing and inspections services to achieve OSHA and EPA compliance. To accompany these certifications, ERI Solutions has also employed an ASNT NDT Level III technician and a seasoned field service team with vast ethanol experience.

2. Blue Sugars Corp., formerly KL Energy Corp., has successfully completed the first phase of work program established under the joint development agreement (JDA) that it signed with Petrobras America Inc. in August 2010. The project has met all technology milestones and ethanol production targets to date. As a result, the two companies have elected to extend the scope of the agreement. Under the terms of the extended JDA, KLE upgraded its demonstration plant, expanded production process validations and added on-site yeast production capabilities. The facility now represents the design of future commercial plants, at a scale of 10 percent capacity.

3. Pasadena, Calif.-based Protabit LLC was awarded a Small Business Innovative Research Phase I grant from the National Science Foundation. Protabit, a spin-off of the California Institute of Technology, will use the funding to engineer cellulase enzymes for use in the production of biofuels using corn stover feedstock. The company is the developer of Triad, a computational protein design software platform that is used to generate new enzymes for experimental evaluations. Protabit engineers proteins for industrial, agricultural and healthcare applications. Its platform technology is being developed via a strategic partnership with Monsanto Co.

4. The U.S. Grains Council has selected Thomas Sleight to serve as its president and CEO, replacing the retiring Thomas Dorr. Sleight initially joined the council in 1983 and has served in multiple capacities in both Washington, D.C., and abroad. After working for other agricultural organizations, he returned to the USGC in late 2010 as vice president of operations and membership. Sleight’s cumulative service with the council spans 18 years. Although Dorr is retiring from day-to-day administrative duties, he will continue to work with the USCG on a part-time basis as a consultant focusing on a number of long-range initiatives begun during his tenure.

5. The USDA made four awards under the Rural Energy for America Program in late June to support the installation of blender pumps and flex fuel pumps. Under the funding round, ATJ Corp. received $15,551 for a blender pump in Florida, Down to Earth Retail #1/Rick Huszagh received $29,927 to install a blender pump in Georgia, Hometown Fuel Inc. received $59,040 to install blender pumps in Missouri, and Martins Inc. was awarded $7,696 to install a flex fuel pump in South Dakota. The REAP program was authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. Blender pumps became available for REAP grants last year, when a total of 65 projects, consisting of 266 blender pump installations, received funding.

6. Aemetis Inc. has acquired Cilion Inc., along with its 55 MMgy ethanol plant in Keyes, Calif. The company plans to continue operating the corn ethanol plant as it pursues the next stage of its cellulosic ethanol development project. The plant was built by Cilion, and began operations in 2008. The facility operated for four months before being idled. Aemetis, formerly AE Biofuels Inc., leased the plant in 2010 and began upgrading the facility. The plant has run continuously since April 2011. Aemetis plans to transform the plant into a biorefinery capable of producing both biofuels and specialty chemicals, such as isoprene.

7. Cleantech company KmX Corp. is developing a 1-ton pilot plant in Sarnia, Ontario to demonstrate how its membrane aided pathways to cellulosic ethanol, biobutanol and green chemicals can reduce operational costs and complexities for manufacturers of fermented fuel and chemical products. The pilot project will demonstrate how KmX’s hydrophobic and hydrophilic membranes can cost effectively capture and dehydrate post-fermented alcohol molecules in the fermentation broth. The pilot will also demonstrate the company’s novel acidic hydrolysis process and demonstrate how the hydrolyzed sugar can be taken to a pre-crystalline state using KmX’s sugar enrichment process.

8. Global engineering, construction and services company KBR Inc. was awarded a contract for engineering and procurement services for DuPont’s first cellulosic ethanol plant in Nevada, Iowa. KBR will provide front-end engineering, detailed engineering and procurement services to DuPont’s Industrial Biosciences Group for the first-of-a kind plant. The ethanol facility is designed to produce 27.5 MMgy of cellulosic ethanol from corn stover feedstock. Construction on the new plant is scheduled to begin during the second half of this year. Once groundbreaking begins, the facility is expected to be complete within 12 to 18 months. 

9. Adam Sieminski is now serving as the administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. As the EIA’s eighth administrator, Sieminski is responsible for directing the nation’s primary energy statistical and analytical agency. He formerly served as chief energy economist for Deutsche Bank, where he worked in the bank’s global commodities research and trading units. In a prior position at the bank, he served as director and energy strategist for the global oil and gas equity team. He has also worked for the Energy and Natural Resources Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the U.S. Association for Energy Economics, and the National Association of Petroleum Investment Analysts. From March through May, while awaiting confirmation as EIA administrator, Sieminski served as a senior director on the staff of the National Security Council.

10. AdvanceBio Systems LLC is supplying its SuPR2G Bench Scale Pretreatment Reactor to the National Renewable Energy Center of Spain, where it will be used to conduct basic research and development work related to the production of fermentable sugars from lignocellulose-rich biomass feedstock. The reactor is a small-scale, continuous-feed reactor that is designed to overcome the limitations that bench-scale batch reactors present to the research community. The technology employed by the reactor is a scaled-down version of technology deployed on a commercial scale in the pulp and paper industry. In addition to supplying bench-scale reactors for research purposes, AdvanceBio Systems is also capable of supplying commercial-scale reactors that can take in up to 200,000 dry tons of feedstock per day.

11. Novozymes and the China-based Shengquan Group have signed an agreement under which the two entities will work together to produce cellulosic ethanol from waste material produced via Shengquan’s operations. Novozymes is supplying enzymes for the project, while Shengquan is investing $100 million in a new facility in China, which is scheduled to begin operations this summer. The Shengquan Group currently produces furfural from corncob xylose. Cellulose from the corncob was previously discarded as waste. Using Novozyme’s enzymes, the company will now ferment that waste into cellulosic ethanol that will be marked as an industrial solvent.

12. South American agricultural company Adecoagro S.A. has announced that its sugar, ethanol and energy production cluster in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, has been certified under the Bonsucro Production Standard. The company is the 16th world-wide to achieve the certification. During the certification process, more than 33,000 hectares of sugarcane were audited. The Bonsucro Production Standard is a global multi-stakeholder, nonprofit initiative focused on improving the social, environmental and economic sustainability of sugar, ethanol and energy production from sugarcane. The certification will allow Adecoagro access to new markets and allow the company to expand its commercial opportunities.

13. Alfa Laval Inc. has appointed Jeff Sharbaugh senior vice president of the parts and service division. In his new role, Sharbaugh is responsible for driving consistent profitable growth and developing new sales opportunities for the parts and service business of Alfa Laval in the U.S. His responsibilities include leading parts sales, reconditioning services, field services and technical support activities in all of the company’s market segments. Sharbaugh joined Alfa Laval in 1987 as a product engineer. Prior to joining the company, he was employed by Babcock & Wilcox and pressure vessel manufacturing companies.

14. The U.S. DOE awarded a five-year, $12.1 million grant to researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and their collaborators at the Carnegie Institution for Science; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; the University of Minnesota, and Washington State University to develop a new model plant system, Setaria viridis, to advance bioenergy grasses as a sustainable source of renewable fuels. To engineering bioenergy grasses with the desirable traits needed for large-scale production,  it is necessary to develop model plant systems that are closely related to bioenergy feedstock, but which are more amenable to genetic analysis. Setaria viridis, is closely related to corn and Brachypodium, which has a genetic makeup similar to wheat.

15. iDiverse has discovered a yeast gene that, when inserted into yeast and properly modulated, can increase ethanol production yield by up to 34 percent. The gene protects the yeast against some lethal stresses found in the bioproduction process, and allows yeast to produce more ethanol in conditions with high acetic acid concentrations and low pH. The gene could help increase efficiency in both first-generation and cellulosic ethanol operations.


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