By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On October 2, 2019, the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, announced that applications are now open for all 15 seats on the Governor’s Biofuels Council. Established in September 2019 by Governor Walz, the Governor’s Biofuels Council advises the Governor and cabinet on how best to support Minnesota’s biofuels industry. Council members will include representatives of agriculture, biofuels, and transportation industries and environmental and conservation groups. The Governor’s Biofuels Council is tasked with creating a report to advise the Governor and cabinet on the best methods to expand the use of biofuels, increase the carbon efficiency of biofuels, and implement biofuels as part of Minnesota’s larger goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) production in the transportation sector. Under Governor Walz’s September 16, 2019, Executive Order, the Governor’s Biofuels Council must complete the report by November 2020. Thus far, 30 individuals have applied, and Governor Walz encourages “Minnesotans in every corner of the state to apply and share their expertise on this critical issue.” Interested parties can access the application here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On August 6, 2019, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced four grants aiming to expand biofuel access and production to advance the state’s renewable energy efforts. Awarded to four recipients by MDA’s Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Program, the grants total more than $500,000. One Bioenergy/Biochemical Pilot Project Grant was awarded, providing funding to advance bioenergy and biochemical production technology to a commercial scale. Three Biofuel Blending Infrastructure Grants were awarded to expand the use of blending infrastructure equipment in Minnesota.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is offering an opportunity for funding to advance a bioenergy or biochemical production technology toward commercial scale through the construction and operation of a pilot plant. To be eligible for the AGRI Bioenergy/Biochemical Pilot Project Grant, applicants must be a Minnesota-based company, learning institution, local government unit, Native American Tribal community, or individual (including for-profit businesses and colleges/universities). Eligible grant projects will be for the development of innovative bioenergy or biochemical production technology ideas that have advanced beyond the proof of concept and are at the scaling up to pilot-plant stage. Up to $150,000 will be awarded and must be used for: (1) wages, software, or anything else necessary to perform the tasks of the grant project’s work plan; and (2) equipment needed for the project implementation. Applications are due by 4:00 p.m. (CDT) on April 26, 2019. For further details, see the Request for Proposals.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture has announced the AGRI Biofuel Blending Infrastructure Grant to provide funding for biofuel blending infrastructure equipment. In hopes of promoting economic growth and environmentally friendly practices in Minnesota’s biofuels industries, the Grant aims to develop new or enhanced markets that improve blending outcomes, including but not limited to increasing sales and greater access to fuels. The Grant is open to Minnesota-based organizations that are biofuel producers, blending and supplying fuel businesses, and petroleum fuel blenders/distributions. Funds can be used for equipment purchase and its installation or associated costs. The project eligibility requires that the equipment continues to operate until the grant contract expires, the equipment be installed in Minnesota, and that it is compatible with the biofuel-petroleum blends. The amount available ($650,000 in 2019) allows for various grants to be given, and cannot exceed $199,000 of grants per applicant. Applications are due no later than 4:00 p.m. (CST) on Friday, April 12, 2019. For the full request for the proposal, click here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On May 1, 2018, a new biodiesel requirement went into effect in Minnesota, requiring all diesel fuel sold in the state to contain five percent biodiesel from October to March and 20 percent biodiesel from April to September. This is the last stage of the Biodiesel Content Mandate that has been steadily increasing the minimum content requirement of biodiesel in diesel sold in Minnesota since September 29, 2005, when a two percent blend requirement was introduced. Since then the requirement has increased to five percent on May 1, 2009, and stayed at five percent for the winter months while the summer requirement increased to ten percent on July 1, 2014, and reached the final 20 percent requirement for the summer months this May. Minnesota originally planned to transition to a ten percent biodiesel blend on May 1, 2012, but concerns about inadequate blending infrastructure delayed implementation. Minnesota’s government is confident that the state is prepared to switch to a 20 percent biodiesel blend, with sufficient fuel and feedstock supply and adequate blending infrastructure. Tom Slunecka, CEO of the Minnesota Soybean Growers, states consumers benefit the most from the B20 mandate, “They’re getting better, cleaner air because biodiesel is in our fuel tanks. They’re getting the benefit of an industry that was born here in Minnesota. It’s produced here, it’s consumed here. So all the taxes stay right here.”
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On August 3, 2017, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced that the state will implement a new biodiesel standard in May 2018 that will increase the biodiesel blend mandate from 10 percent (B10) to 20 percent (B20) between April and September each year. Currently under the state’s biodiesel program, diesel fuel sold in Minnesota must contain at least 10 percent biodiesel during the summer months, with the blend lowering to 5 percent from October to March. While the new mandate doubles the blend requirement during the summer months, the mandate will revert back to 5 percent over the winter months unless state officials and technical experts determine that accepted federal standards deem certain higher blends as suitable for year-round use in Minnesota.
Since a large portion of Minnesota’s biodiesel is made from homegrown soybeans, the new standard is expected to add an average of 63 cents to the market price of a bushel of soybeans for Minnesota farmers, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 1 million tons next year. Minnesota’s biodiesel industry is estimated to contribute more than $1.7 billion annually to the economy, with the state’s three biodiesel plants producing a combined 74 million gallons of biodiesel annually.
Coalition of Minnesota is advocating strongly for two bills in the
state that if passed would result in a two-year, $5 million production
incentive for producers, and a capital loan equipment program. The bills, HF
536 and SF
517, would benefit companies that develop biochemicals, advanced biofuels,
and anaerobic digestion projects. There is concern, however, that the
legislation would increase the production of corn rather than encourage the
production of crops that do not require the same heavy use of fertilizer as
corn. Citing concerns about fertilizer runoffs in the river, combined with corn
being an easy source to convert to biofuel, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership
and Friends of the Mississippi River
have suggested amending the bills to: (1) require biofuel refineries receiving
the production incentive to have at least 50 percent of their feedstock come
from perennials; and (2) pay incentives to farmers who switch from corn to
perennials. HF 536 has already been changed to include a 20 percent bonus for
the use of perennials over corn. It is likely that both bills will continue to
change to reflect continued concerns about water quality in Minnesota.