The Hand Sanitizer Market: a salvation for beleaguered ethanol producers, or not?

If you’ve not heard, NuGenTec is looking for Distillers to help supply Ethanol for Hand Sanitizers in California! We have two automated bottling lines waiting for ethanol to produce 8oz and 16oz gel type hand sanitizers, they write. You can learn more here.

And as we reported this morning, Aemetis is one of those companies jumping into the market, even as transport fuel demand falls off, driving fuel ethanol prices into an all-time low range of around $0.70 per gallon.

The shortage is real

If you’ve been trying to buy hand-sanitizer, it’s been hard to find. Here in Digestville, we’ve been making our own from 25 percent Aloe Vera and 75 percent rubbing alcohol. Most authorities have emphasized a 2:1 alcohol to Aloe Vera ratio, but Aloe Vera has also been hard to find near Digest HQ. On Friday, a shipment arrived but it was the industrial bags that go in large dispensers at offices and hospitals, not the individual spray bottle variety.

– Biofuels Digest, Jim Lane

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California Company Gets Early Start on Hand Sanitizer Production

When news of a potential pandemic arrived in January, the management team at Aemetis knew that the domestic capacity of high-grade alcohol for hand sanitizer would not suffice in meeting the needs of Americans. So, they prepared to perform a complete overhaul of operational standards that allowed them to produce ethyl alcohol for hand sanitizer. As U.S. COVID-19 cases began to rise in mid-March, Aemetis was ready to respond. The company shipped alcohol for hand sanitizer to its first customer on March 30.

“In late January, we made the decision to prepare for a health-related pandemic,” said Eric McAfee, CEO of Aemetis. “We knew that the current domestic production capacity of seventeen billion gallons per year of fuel-grade alcohol had only a small percentage of medical grade alcohol that would not be adequate to produce what just the United States’ population would require. Fortunately, we had the team and mechanisms in place to prepare for an upgrade of our ethanol production plant quickly. We were able to form relationships with hand sanitizer producers to begin shipping product almost immediately after the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and the FDA provided specific exemptions and guidance for fuel ethanol producers on March 27.”

– Renewable Fuels Association

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Aemetis awarded $4.1 million for biogas upgrading facility

US biotech company Aemetis has been awarded a $4.1 million (€3.7 million) grant to construct a biogas upgrading facility. Aemetis’ subsidiary company, Aemetis Biogas, received the grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC).

The new facility will convert dairy biogas to renewable natural gas (RNG) as a final processing step after biogas is delivered via pipeline from anaerobic digesters that Aemetis is building in California. The company is building more than a dozen anaerobic digesters at local dairies in Stanislaus and Merced Counties, with plans to expand in the future.

– Bioenergy Insight

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The Versatile Ethanol Molecule

FROM THE FEBRUARY ISSUE: Ethylene, with a similar molecular structure to that of ethanol, has enormous market opportunity around the world.

Knock a water molecule off ethanol and you’ll get ethylene, C2H4—the most widely produced organic chemical globally that is the basis for scores of other chemicals and hundreds (maybe thousands) of products, from antifreeze and surfactants to synthetic fibers, plastics and packaging. Global ethylene production in 2016 was greater than 150 million metric tons, with more than half going to produce polyethylene.

The biggest problem for ethanol producers is that virtually all of that ethylene currently is produced from either crude oil-based naptha or natural gas-based ethane, with shale gas promising to be the lowest-cost feedstock for years to come in the U.S.

– Susanne Retka Schill, Ethanol Producer Magazine

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Man with the Plan – Millions Projected for New Projects: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Aemetis’ Multi-Million $ Dairy Biogas and Wood Waste Plants

Aemetis is known for their advanced renewable fuels by many, like their California ethanol plant and India biodiesel plant, but what you may now know is that they are building a $56 million dairy biogas digesters, pipeline and cleanup system and a $200 million cellulosic ethanol plant that will use waste orchard wood feedstock. The dairy biogas system in California is expected to generate $25 million per year of EBITDA by the end of 2020 and the waste wood ethanol plant, also in sunny California, is expected to generate $85 million in revenues and $50+ million in annual EBITDA.

Eric McAfee, Founder/Chairman/CEO of Aemetis is a man with a plan and gave this enlightening overview of their latest projects, growth, and vision for the future at ABLC NEXT in San Francisco.

Jim Lane, Biofuels Digest

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USCIS urged to approve foreign investment in Aemetis project

A federal lawmaker from California is slamming the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service for its mishandling of an application submitted by Aemetis Inc. regarding foreign investment for its proposed Riverbank cellulosic ethanol project.

Rep. Josh Harder, D-Calif., issued a statement Aug. 29 criticizing the USCIS for its incompetence in handling Aemetis’s application for its Riverside project, which is expected to bring 2,000 jobs to its local community. According to Harder, Aemetis is planning to open the Riverbank biorefinery but is reliant on foreign investments to afford initial construction. USCIS is required to approve such applications, but the agency appears to have lost paperwork and ultimately denied approval of the application without explanation. Harder has met with White House staff regarding the request and sought several updates from the agency, according to his office.

Aemetis requested a formal National Interest Expedite for its project in December 2018. In January, the company received a rejection notice which indicated the project would undergo a standard extended review. In April, Aemetis received a request for the original application, implying the paperwork had been lost by USCIS and no review had been conducted over the past five months. Aemetis filed another NIE request, but was denied a second time in June without explanation. In addition to apparently losing paperwork, Harder’s office said USCIS has failed to notify Aemetis of updates in a timely manner.

– Erin Voegele, Biomass Magazine

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California congressman slams government agency for stalling Aemetis’ foreign investment

In Washington, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) slammed the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for its incompetence in handling a local request for investment which would bring an estimated 2,000 jobs to the Central Valley. Aemetis Technologies is planning to open a new manufacturing facility in Riverbank but is reliant on foreign investments to afford initial construction. USCIS is required to approve such applications, but the agency appears to have lost paperwork and ultimately denied approval of the application without explanation. Rep. Harder has met with White House staff regarding the request and sought several updates from the agency.

“I don’t know what the heck is going on over at USCIS, but they need to get their act together – we’re talking about nearly 2,000 jobs in a place where we have an unemployment rate higher than the national average,” said Rep. Harder. “It’s unbelievable the runaround this company has gotten when they just want to create jobs that could only exist in the Central Valley. We should make it easier – not harder – for companies to create jobs here. This whole process is an example of the worst kind of red tape in government.”

Meghan Sapp, Biofuels Digest

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The Golden Cow – Is India the place to be for biofuels?

“Aemetis may be based in California, but it has set sights in India thanks to the country’s growing biofuel market. And it’s not just Aemetis that sees India’s biofuel market as key for their own growth, but what exactly is the market there? What is it predicted to be? Is India the cash cow for biofuels? Or even the golden cow? If Aemetis’ recent 200% year over year increase in biodiesel sales is any indication…well, let’s just say we see the value.

The market

It is estimated that the ethanol market in India alone is projected to grow from $2.50 billion in 2018 to $ 7.38 billion by 2024, exhibiting a CAGR of 14.50% during 2019-2024. Another report by the International Energy Agency says the Indian biofuel market is forecasted to grow 11% from 2019 to 2024 and referred to India’s 2018 biofuels policy created by the government which “widened the permitted feedstock base for ethanol and introduced subsidies to expand production capacity, establishing the foundations for ethanol output growth.”

As reported in The Digest just a few weeks ago, the USDA’s attaché reports that ethanol blending this year could reach a record 5.8%, above last year’s 4.1% as the government pushes for higher blending through deregulation of feedstocks, soft loans for increased investment in ethanol production and focus on 2G ethanol technologies and commercialization.

The government

So why is the market expected to grow so significantly? Why has it been growing over the last few years already? It’s partially thanks to the government.

Government support for biofuels – it’s something many people want but it’s also something that is rare around the world. There are really only a handful of countries globally that are putting significant efforts towards promoting biofuels. Even the U.S. government hasn’t been 100% fully behind biofuels – just look at the recent small refinery waivers and the wimpy ethanol and biodiesel government volume numbers over the last few years.

But without government support, it’s an uphill battle for biofuels. Not impossible. Not a pie in the sky dream. But definitely challenging.

That’s why the Indian government’s push for biofuels is impressive. Why would the government want more biofuels? To save the environment? To lower GHG emissions?

Sure, that’s part of it, but from what we can see from the government website and published documents, the focus on the “why” of biofuels has been simply national security – the government wants to lower reliance on importing energy from other countries.

Call it nationalist. Call it homeland security. Call it whatever you want, but the fact is they repeatedly refer to biofuels as a way to lower reliance on exports. Not to mention, they want to show the world that they are Innovators. Entrepreneurs. Creative problem solvers. Technical geniuses.

So what is the government’s biofuel policy?

As reported in The Digest a week ago, celebrations of the country’s World Biofuel Day over the weekend led to the government highlighting their interest in the procurement of biodiesel from used cooking oil across 100 cities and asking for companies to submit Expression of Interest (EOI). The purpose of inviting this EOI is to encourage the applicants to set up Biodiesel producing plants from Used Cooking Oil (UCO), processing plants and further utilizing the existing potential of UCO based Bio-diesel in India.

The National Policy on Biofuels envisages production of biofuel from UCO and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is implementing a strategy to divert UCO from the food value chain and curb current illegal usage.

The 2018 India National Biofuels Policy stated a 5% biodiesel blending goal for transport vehicles, equal to about 1.1 billion gallons per year of biodiesel production. In late 2018, the three India OMC’s that supply about 70% of India domestic diesel issued purchase requests for about 260 million gallons of biodiesel for year 2019 – equal to the entire biodiesel production capacity in India.

While the government has looked at biodiesel from jatropha, as well as used cooking oil, it goes beyond one or two feedstocks. They are looking at all sorts of non-food options which is smart to avoid getting bombarded with attacks because of the food vs. fuel issue. And they want to avoid the palm oil debacle that Indonesia and Malaysia have been dealing with. So they are investing heavily in waste. Used cooking oil. Waste gases. Municipal solid waste. Agricultural waste. Basically any kind of waste is fair game.

Scientists from India-based CSIR-CMERI even developed a simplified, semi-continuous process to produce biodiesel from any feedstock with fatty acid content of up to 10%, from jatropha to jojoba to animal fats, be it virgin oils or waste fats. The technology was developed with small and medium enterprises in mind, producing biodiesel with up to 11 cents per liter profit, paying back investment on the technology in under a year.

The government also created an autonomous Institution of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy called the Sardar Swaran Singh National Institute of Renewable Energy (SSS-NIRE). It is spread over a sprawling campus of about 75 acres and is focused on biomass energy.

“The objectives of the Institute is to carry out and facilitate research, design, development, testing, standardization & technology demonstration eventually leading to commercialization of RD&D output with a focus on bioenergy, biofuels & synthetic fuels in solid, liquid & gaseous forms for transportation, portable & stationary applications, development of hybrid / integrated energy systems, to undertake & facilitate human resource development and training in the area of bioenergy,” according to the government website.

What’s Aemetis’ role in all this?

Ok, so the government wants biofuels. The National Biofuel Policy requires it. But are there companies that can meet the demand?

For sure. Let’s start with Aemetis, an international renewable fuels and biochemicals company using patented industrial biotechnology for the construction and operation of advanced biorefineries. They own and operate a 60+ million gallon ethanol plant in California, a 50 million gallon capacity Biodiesel and Glycerin refinery in India, they are building a $50 million Dairy Biogas digester, pipeline and cleanup system, and are developing $175 million Cellulosic Ethanol plant (waste orchard wood feedstock).

As reported in the Digest just a few weeks ago, they reported a 200% year over year increase in biodiesel sales volumes at their India plant. Their Q2 results showed the volumes rise high from 4,282 metric tons to 12,960 metric tons. Not only that, but they expanded the India plant and operations, representing a 106% increase from the prior year quarter and 22% of total revenue for the quarter – with $11.1 million of revenue just from India operations in Q2.

In July, the Digest reported that Aemetis’ Universal Biofuels India subsidiary ramped revenues to more than a $50 million per year run rate after biodiesel shipments commenced in May pursuant to the previously announced $23 million biodiesel supply contract to the three India government-owned Oil Marketing Companies (OMC’s).”

– Helena Tavares Kennedy, Biofuels Digest

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Aemetis India Plant Awarded Large Biodiesel Supply Contract in Mining Sector

In California, Aemetis, Inc.’s Universal Biofuels India subsidiary was awarded a large ongoing supply contract for distilled biodiesel by a multi-site mining company for use in dump trucks and other heavy diesel equipment at mines in Southern and Central India. Shipments have already begun to the mining customer under the supply agreement and will be expanded to additional mines as on-site biodiesel storage is installed.

Mining trucks and other large equipment at mines is estimated to require more than 25 million gallons per year of biodiesel, equal to 50% of the capacity of the India plant, as the mining supply agreement is expanded and other mining companies adopt biodiesel. Distilled biodiesel is a lower cost fuel than diesel, emits 90% lower particulate emissions and significantly reduces carbon emissions.

– Helena Tavares Kennedy, Biofuels Digest

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