Heard from the Floor at ABLC — Thursday March 1, 2018

March 2, 2018 |

By Helena Tavares Kennedy, Digest senior editor

Have you ever seen a keynote speaker answer their cell phone in the middle of giving a speech? And seen it lead to a loud round of applause and a standing ovation? Yes, it really happened, only at today’s ABLC 2018. Find out who, why and what happened in today’s HOTF wrap-up.

On March 1, ABLC 2018 kicked off at the Mayflower Hotel in the heart of D.C. with five Avengers – a superhero bunch who all had a common thread – we are stronger together than apart. We heard over and over again that while adversaries are trying to split us up like a jealous teenager, we can’t be successful unless we work together.

Some of the discussion included the mysterious White House biofuels meeting at 2pm – Who will be there? What will they talk about? Will anything be accomplished by this meeting? These and more questions swirled around the room and we caught a glimpse of some answers from Senator Klobuchar (D-Minnesota).

But first the Bioeconomy Policy Forum had lots to talk about in today’s political climate. Mike McAdams from the Advanced Biofuels Association asked ABLC participants to stay engaged, saying “you elect them, I just work with them.” He asked that we work together on the threats of the day which include the 2019 RVO, PES bankruptcy suit, small refinery waivers, tax policy, farm bill, and reduction in biofuels funding by 72%. Emily Skor from Growth Energy said we are the Google, the Uber, the cool kid in class. Why? Because we are innovative and overcome challenges and take on the impossible to make it possible. She noted that several of her Board members will be at the White House meeting this afternoon but isn’t sure who else will be there. Reiterating the need to work together, we need to get the attention of legislators because as we all know, the squeaky wheel gets the attention. Doug Whitehead, National Biodiesel Board told the audience to walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk, asking how many people in the room drove diesel or E85 flexfuel vehicles (only a few hands went up). He also said we should Tweet, email, send letters, and basically bug the heck out of your legislators. Even better, invite them to your plant or office when they are home on break.

The Industry Horizons Forum focused on well, what is on the horizon. The overall outlook on the future was optimistic and that innovation is happening faster thanks to developments in tools. Atul Thakrar from DSM Biobased talked about Project Liberty’s installation of new enzymes which will be complete by end of 2018. Eric McAfee from Aemetis announced the $158 million cellulosic ethanol plant they are building from waste orchard wood feedstock in California, using Lanzatech technology. Doug Durante from Clean Fuels Development Coalition said our value proposition has to change when talking with federal government today because if we tell them we can lower carbon emissions and lower dependence on oil, they will say “nope, not interested in either.” Simon Herriott from Dupont Industrial Biosciences said we need to have biobased products stand on their own two feet and new technology development to deploy into existing markets against existing problems. Larissa Rose from Queensland RFA announced they joined the below50 program, and announced several proposed ethanol plants in Australia in the works. Other big news is that the Queensland state is progressing to 4% ethanol blend by July 1, 2018.

Carbon is getting a second chance, like former racing greyhounds that are having a second chance at life, thanks to Jennifer Holmgren and Lanzatech, earning her the Digest’s Global Bioenergy Leadership Award. Holmgren said the time for debate is over and “I care about what is happening right now, not sea level 10 years from now.” She cited how the National Weather Service had to add new colors to map hurricane rains and heat in Australia, and asked us to look at Houston flooding, California fires, Puerto Rico hurricanes as a sign that it is too late to debate climate change. Trees and plants alone can’t take carbon out of the air enough anymore, we need to do it…and that is just what Lanzatech does. They anticipate their first commercial plant in China to be in production later this year. Her key message: “We as an industry matter. We as an industry can make a difference.”

Overall message in the afternoon aviation panel is that aviation is growing, aviation’s fuel need is growing and thus biojet fuel need is growing. Nancy Young from Airlines 4 America said “hell yes” we are still very committed to diversified supply and additional fuel in supply chain, even with current political landscape and challenges. They have a goal of 50% net reduction in 2050 relative to 2005 levels and alternative fuels are absolutely critical to reach that goal.

The biochemicals panel shared their latest innovations and technologies like Lanzatech’s ability to not just produce ethanol from carbon capturing, but to now produce over 50 products. Greg Smith shared Croda’s biobased ethoxylates and 100% biobased non-ionic surfactants that work just as well as petrochemical ones. Croda definitely walks the walk, using landfill gas, solar in summer, and other alternative power sources to make it the lowest carbon footprint plant for non-ionic surfactants. They expect the first non-VOC green solvent to be available by end of 2018.

The biofuels session was very optimistic about the future of biofuels. David Cepla from Honeywell UOP said that many countries are taking COP21 seriously and demand will grow for biofuels. Cepla also announced developing interest in Asia, full scale installations of technology scheduled in 2018 in USA and Europe, and recent completion of ISCC certification for biofuel in Europe. Robert Graham from Ensyn said they are in current commissioning of new plant in Quebec to add to their existing operations in Wisconsin and Ontario, for low carbon intensity liquid fuels like heating oil. Using forest slash as the feedstock and a planned 10 million gpy production, it is the biggest plant of its kind in the world. Other expansions planned include 20m gpy biocrude facility in Vienna, GA USA and 22m gpy in Brazil. Sjors Geraedts from GoodFuels said vessel size, biofuels and speed optimization are top 3 things marine industry can change for GHG reduction, but vessel size and speed are not as feasible or cost effective as biofuels.

As ABLC gathered all together once again at the end of the day, we had perhaps the most memorable keynote speaker yet with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), literally answering her cell phone when Senator Grassley (R-Iowa) called her with updates on how today’s White House biofuels meeting went. “Nothing was decided, but that’s a good thing,” said Klobuchar. She asked ABLC audience to not let partisan politics get in the way, as we have to work together.

The financing panel at the end of the day talked about how to finance our dreams, with an overall optimistic attitude that the market is hot and that there is momentum. Even with DOE programs having lots of volatility and an unpredictable year, they expect progress to be made.

The day ended with a wine celebration to toast the Hot 50 with Lanzatech topping out with the gold as #1 for the second year in a row, 2nd place silver went to Amyris, and 3rd place bronze went to Enerkem.

Stay tuned for many more announcements and news buzz at ABLC’s second day at the Mayflower Hotel.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Top Stories

Thank you for visting the Digest.