Aemetis Building Major Plant To Handle Biomass

Synthesis Gas Plants Better Than Biomass Electrical Plants

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Biomass electrical plants are shutting down in California. Eric McAfee, Executive Chairman, CEO, President and Co-founder of Aemetis Inc., is a company using biomass technology to create ethanol. Due to government incentives, some forms of energy are less expensive to operate.

Aemetis is constructing a 45 million-L-per-year cellulosic ethanol facility outside Modesto. 

“The problem we have is that the biomass to energy business makes electricity, and that electricity is being replaced by solar energy and wind energy, which is funded by a 30% federal tax credit,” McAfee said.

The Biomass energy producers have a hard time competing with the reduced prices because the government has support.

Biomass electrical plants have closed, and more will follow.

“About 60% of the plants in California already shut down, and it’s estimated that over 70% are going to be shut down by the end of this year,” McAfee said.

Orchard and forest waste is very valuable.

“Biomass in the form of orchard waste, vineyard waste, even forest waste has a very valuable opportunity to become the fuels that can go directly into California,” McAfee explained.

What we have been lacking is turning biomass into fuel for automobiles rather than biomass into electricity.

Biomass can be synthesized into fuel. McAfee and his team were able to make the molecules in orchard wood and put them into a synthesis gas. They then put those molecules back together and fed them to a microbe that, in turn, produced ethanol.

“We are taking orchard woods, and we are producing liquid fuels that are very valuable in California because they are high in oxygen, so they burn more cleanly than gasoline, and they’re high octane, so they make the engine perform,” McAfee said.

European Farmland Under Pressure

European Farmland under Pressure Due to Regulation and Diversion

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Jose Gomez Carrasco, executive sales manager for AGQ Labs and Technological Services based in Oxnard, is in charge of covering a large area that includes the U.S., Mexico and Central America. Noting global concern regarding how farmland is being used, particularly European farmland, Carrasco said, “There’s a growing population of around 150,000 or 170,000 new mouths every day to feed.” Carrasco said agricultural production on land designated for agricultural use in every country, worldwide, is being diverted to bio-ethanol, or bio-mass, or different renewable energy use, so the availability of agricultural products for food is diminishing.

Carrasco stated this progression needs to be moving in the opposite direction, “especially because there are other issues that are making production more challenging, such as water scarcity, soil erosion and the use and price of agro-chemicals, inputs and fertilizers, all of which are being controlled and monitored more and more.”

“The regulation of crop protection materials is intended to help everyone in the food supply chain,” he continued, “all the way from the grower to the consumer; however, sometimes these regulations can be quite burdensome.”

“In some cases regulations are not for the benefit of all,” Carrasco explained; “just for some. So in markets such as the European Union where the [maximum threshold] number of molecules registered has diminished from 1,000 to 300 or 400 in the last decade, we’re finding a lot of this regulation comes from Germany.” Carrasco said they are leaving a lot of farmers with no agro-chemicals in their arsenal, especially in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, all in southern Europe.