Aemetis discusses progress with ethanol, biogas projects

By Erin Voegele | November 07, 2022

Aemetis Inc. released third quarter financial results on Nov. 3, reporting a 44 percent increase in revenue. During an earnings call, company officials discussed progress with the company’s ethanol, biogas, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and biobased diesel projects.   

Andy Foster, president of Aemetis Biogas and Aemetis Advanced Biofuels, said work is progressing on the company’s renewable natural gas (RNG) project in California. Two digesters are already operational. Foster said Aemetis is completing construction and commissioning of five additional digesters, with 40 miles of biogas pipeline already installed. The company’s contractor is now completing feeder pipeline interconnections and completing testing and commissioning activities. Construction is also complete on the centralized biogas-to-RNG facility and accompanying PG&E interconnection unit. The new digesters, pipeline, upgrading facility and utility interconnection are expected to be fully in service in the first quarter of 2023, Foster said. Once fully operational, the seven digesters are expected to generate approximately 200,000 MMBtus per year of RNG.

Foster also discussed ongoing operations at the company’s corn ethanol plant in Keyes, California. Ethanol revenues were up 14 percent during the third quarter when compared to the same period of last year. Foster cautioned, however, that ethanol operations are being impacted by high energy and corn prices, combined with volatile rail pricing and poor railroad operational performance. He also noted that ethanol operations are benefiting from strong demand and favorable pricing for ethanol in California, steady pricing for wet distillers grains, and increase value for distillers corn oil.

Several ongoing projects are improving the carbon intensity (CI) of the Keyes plant. The Mitsubishi Zebrex ethanol dehydration unit has been installed and operated in full production mode for more than two months, Foster said. In August and September, the Zebrex unit reduced the plant’s natural gas usage by more than 20 percent, reducing energy costs and lowering the CI of ethanol produced at the plant.

In late October, Aemetis broke ground on solar microgrid with battery backup that will supply power to the Keyes plant. Installation of the 1.9-megawatt (MW) project is expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2023. Work is also progressing on a mechanical vapor recompression (MVR) system, which is expected to reduce natural gas use at the Keyes plant by 65 percent once the system becomes operational in late 2023.

Foster also discussed plans to produce cellulosic ethanol at the Keyes plant. He said the company in January will begin the process of changing ethanol production enzymes that will allow the company to recognize a portion of its ethanol production as cellulosic.

Eric McAfee, president and CEO of Aemetis, discussed the Carbon Zero SAF and renewable diesel project under development in Riverbank, California. McAfee said the company is looking forward to completing engineering and permitting on the project in order to begin construction of the facility early next year.

Work is also continuing on the development of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project. McAfee said the company is currently in the engineering and permitting process for two characterization wells related to the project. The first of those two wells is expected to be drilled at the Riverbank site.

Aemetis reported revenues of $71.8 million for the third quarter, up rom $50 million reported for the same period of 2021. Gross loss was $1.1 million, compared to a $4.8 million gross loss reported for the third quarter of last year. Operating loss was $7.6 million, compared to an operating loss of $9.9 million for the same period of 2021. Net loss was $69.58 million, compared to a net loss of $17.6 million.