Summit Group Building Brazilian Corn Ethanol Plant

Alden, Iowa-based Summit Group announced a project to build the first modern corn ethanol plant in Brazil during the 2014 Farm Progress Show. The project will consist of a US$140 million ethanol plant near Lucas do Rio Verde in Mato Grosso, a leading agricultural state in west central Brazil and the country’s largest producer of corn and soybeans. The project is being financed by Summit Group’s private equity group U.S. Farmland Fund and the company partnering with Fiagril and will be developed by ethanol technology company ICM and built by agribusiness company Marino Franz.

Bruce Rastetter Summit GroupI asked Rastetter “Why Brazil” and he answered that outside of the U.S. they believe this country will play the biggest role in feeding the world. “One of the interesting parts in particular about Mato Grosso is because of improved genetics they’re able to double crop. So they are able to raise the first crop of soybeans and the second crop of corn or cotton so they have increasing corn production in the middle of the continent where it is difficult to get it out. So they are embracing value-added agriculture,” explained Rastetter.

So what is the difference between the early U.S. ethanol plants and the modern corn ethanol plant that will be based in Brail? Rastetter said they are partnering with Colwich,Kansas-based ICM and CEO Dave Vander Griend has been traveling to Brazil with Rastetter and his team for a few years. While the majority of the technology will be the same with an improvement on high protein low fiber DDGs (dried distillers grains) – a just patented process for livestock feed.

The ethanol will stay in Brazil since the Government in Brazil wants to increase the ethanol blend from 25 percent to 27 percent. I also asked him about the environmental footprint of growing corn in Brazil and Rastetter said the country is very sustainable and the farms they are purchasing from have a large percentage of trees, and if they don’t, they are planting trees.

To learn more about Summit Group’s corn ethanol plant in Brazil, listen to my interview with Bruce Rastetter: Interview with Bruce Rastetter

I also had the opportunity to speak with Eric Peterson who is the president of Summit Group who talked more specifically about the value-added opportunities the corn ethanol plant will provide the community of Mato Grosso. Peterson explained the area has difficulty getting corn exports out of the region and ethanol into the region. With the new ethanol plant, the corn will be purchased locally and the ethanol and DDGs produced will then stay local – overcoming the export/import barriers of the region. This has made the project and partners very accepted in the community.

Eric Peterson Summit GroupSince the technology will provide a different type of DDGs than used in the U.S. a part of the project and because Brazilians are very used to using soy meal, they will be able to complement the soy meal with a high protein product. In addition, with the high fiber feed product they are going to run feed trials with a University of Nebraska nutritionist to learn how to best utilize the co-product.

Peterson believes there is a great opportunity to create synergistic relationships between U.S. farmers and Brazilian farmers. “When we go there we are impressed with some of their technology and how they adapt to large scale agriculture and they are quickly adopting precision technologies that we have here in the U.S. and there is no better place for people to assimilate technology than in Brazil and so I think we can learn a lot from each other.”

The plant is to break ground the next six months and to be operational 16 months from groundbreaking which will occur before the rainy season in Feb/March and will produce 50 million gallons of ethanol per year.

To learn more about the agribusiness aspect of the Summit Group’s Brazilian ethanol plant by listening to my interview with Eric Peterson: Interview with Eric Peterson

View the Farm Progress 2014 Flicker photo album.

American Ethanol a Winner for Corn Growers

fps14-ncga-robThe American Ethanol NASCAR program is in its fourth year now and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) considers it to be a big success.

NCGA incoming Vice President Rob Elliott of Illinois says American Ethanol began its partnership with NASCAR in 2011 supporting the transition to 15% ethanol. “NASCAR in its three levels has run over six million miles (on E15) which is the same number of miles EPA drove to prove E15 to be a good fuel,” Elliott said during an interview at Farm Progress Show this week. “The feedback we get is that 80% of NASCAR fans are now more likely to be very supportive of the use of ethanol in their own cars.”

The challenge still remains in getting more E15 into the market. “The ready availability of E15 at a broad number of stations, we’re just not there yet,” said Elliott, but he believes promoting through NASCAR is having an impact for the long term. “We’re moving the needle with 100 million NASCAR fans and we’ve seen the great benefit in the synergy created with NASCAR itself at a high level.”

American Ethanol is a partnership between NASCAR, NCGA, Growth Energy, New Holland with a number of individual ethanol producers and state corn grower groups.

Listen to an interview with Rob here: Interview with Rob Elliott, NCGA

2014 Farm Progress Show photo album

Corn Farmers Concerned About RFS and Low Prices

gps14-ncga-chipCorn farmers are concerned about the impact lower volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) could have on growers ready to harvest a record corn crop this year.

“We’re keeping a close eye on corn prices and are greatly concerned about efforts in Washington that may reduce or stifle demand for corn and raise the cost of production,” said National Corn Growers Association First Vice President Chip Bowling during the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa this week. “As thrilled as we are with a record crop, we know it has its challenges.”

Bowling says it will be detrimental if the EPA moves forward with its proposal to lower volume requirements for corn ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. “Reducing the demand of corn for ethanol will significantly impact corn prices – at a time when prices are already too low,” said the corn farmer from Maryland. “We need stability and we need EPA to stick to the statutory amount of corn ethanol in the RFS.” Chip Bowling, NCGA comments on record corn crop
Interview with Chip Bowling, NCGA

2014 Farm Progress Show photo album

DF Cast: Ethanol Innovators Talk New Tech at ACE Conf.

Any manufacturer is looking to get more out of their operations, and it’s certainly no different for biofuel makers.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from four innovators who talked about their operations and how they are on the cutting edge of biofuel producing technologies during the recent at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference. Among those who spoke were ACE president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol; Ray Baker, general manager of Adkins Energy in northwest Illinois; Mike Erhart, CEO of Prairie Horizon Agri Energy in Kansas; and Delayne Johnson with Quad County Corn Processors.

Domestic Fuel Cast - Increasing Ethanol Blends

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Enogen Corn Passes 300,000 Acres

In one year the acres planted in Enogen corn will expand from 100,000 acres in 2014 to more than 300,000 acres in 2015 and that means that ethanol production will be expanding too. To learn more about how Syngenta achieved this feat, I spoke with David Witherspoon, head of renewable fuels for Syngenta during Farm Progress. Not only are ethanol plants excited about Enogen corn (Syngenta donates $1 per acre planted to the renewable fuels industry), but corn farmers are excited about it as well – they receive a 40 cent premium. So assuming an average yield of 165 bushels an acre, Enogen corn will generate approximately $6.6 million of additional revenue for the local growers who have signed contracts in 2014.

What is interesting is that only 15 percent of a farmer’s acre is planted with Enogen corn because the “sweet” spot for ethanol production is 15 percent. David Witherspoon Syngenta:EnogenSo how is Enogen different? As Witherspoon explained, the Enogen corn enzyme technology offers ethanol plants an opportunity to increase their per bushel ethanol production as well as improve energy efficiency during the production process.

“The ethanol plant needs an enzyme for ethanol production at 15 percent and then this corn is mixed with the other corn that comes into the plant,” explained Witherspoon. “And the way we found this out is that we tested plants in the lab and looked at what the optimal dosage at that plant to get the maximum performance enzyme. And if we go higher than that, we found that we don’t need anymore.”

When you look at a farmer’s field growing Enogen corn you can’t tell the difference. The corn has the exact same benefits (pest control, disease control, etc.) that other Syngenta hybrids have.

Another application that Witherspoon said that Enogen corn is really excelling in is when used with the “ACE” technology, or Adding Cellulosic Ethanol, that separates the fiber from the corn kernel and produces cellulosic ethanol. It’s the first technology of its kind in the world and the Galva, Iowa plant went online with commercial scale cellulosic ethanol production this summer. Syngenta was so impressed with the technology that they have partnered with the plant to sell the technology.

So here’s the scoop. Several ethanol plants who are buying the Enogen corn have sold out their acres for the 2015 growing season but there are still a few acres left for some other ethanol plants. In addition, Witherspoon said there are quite a few farmers who would like to plant Enogen corn but need to partner with their local ethanol plant to implement the program. So, all ethanol plants that would like to pursue the program need to contact Syngenta soon to get in the program before it sells out this year. And if you are interested in seeing first-hand how Enogen corn performs, then come to the Quad County Corn Processors grand opening on September 9, 2014.

To learn more about Enogen corn and its benefits for farmers and for ethanol plants, listen to my interview with David Witherspoon: Interview with David Witherspoon

View the Farm Progress 2014 Flicker photo album.

IA Ag Secy Bill Northey On Corn, RFS

IA Ag Secy Bill NortheyThere are two big topics during the Farm Progress Show this year: the corn crop and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). During the show, I had the opportunity to speak with Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey who is a corn farmer and also a huge supporter of biofuels. I first asked him how the corn crop was looking with all the August rain.

Northey said that for the most part, Iowa is going to have a great corn crop. He said that there are some pockets that had too much rain and hail in June (this affected his farm) but overall, the corn crop is going to offset some of the below average acres and Iowa should see a record crop.

I asked Northey how the record corn crop would positively affect biofuels, such as the Project Liberty cellulosic ethanol plant and the Quad County Corn ethanol/cellulosic plants that are celebrating grand openings this year.

“Well certainly we have enough corn to be able to fuel our biofuel plants, to be able to have exports and to be able to feed the livestock we have in this country,” said Northey. He said it is exciting to see the next generation come, “and it makes us think of the Renewable Fuel Standard and the Environmental Protection Agency not coming forward with a target this year. It’s frustrating to have it already be August and have it go to OMB now [Office of Management and Budget] and it could be another 90 days until it comes out of there and the year will be darn near over by the time we find out how much we should blend this year.”

“It’s too bad its gotten to this point,” Northey continued. “What we need is a big green light from the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] that ethanol will expand from the 10 percent blend to E15 blends and we can get our 85 percent blends in that cellulosic will be supported so we can see more investment, more jobs and certainly more demand from our corn crop and our cellulosic opportunities which includes corn stover but it will be other things in other places.”

Learn more about the corn crop and RFS by listening to my interview with Bill Northey: Interview with Bill Northey

View the Farm Progress 2014 Flicker photo album.

Iowa Gov Blames EPA for Deere Layoffs

fps14-govIowa Governor Terry Branstad paid a visit to the 2014 Farm Progress Show Tuesday and had some harsh words for the Environmental Protection Agency, which just last week sent a final version of the 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard to the White House for review. He blames uncertainty created by the proposed rule for the recent layoffs at Deere and Company. “The result is the price of corn has dropped so much that farmers are not buying equipment,” he said. “What the EPA has done is not only damaging farm income, but it’s costing us jobs in farm machinery and manufacturing.” Deere announced more than 100 people will be laid off indefinitely from its plant in Ankeny and 460 people will be laid off at its tractor factory in Waterloo.

Branstad also notes that cellulosic and other advanced biofuels production is moving forward with the first gallons produced this summer by Quad county corn processors and two more plants opening soon. “I’m going to the POET grand opening of their new cellulosic ethanol plant and then we have DuPont Pioneer that’s also opening one in Nevada,” he said. “The problem is the oil companies control the distribution and they’ve done everything they can to discourage retailers from offering blender pumps and E15 because ethanol is a lot cheaper than gasoline.”

Listen to my interview with the Governor here: Interview with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad

2014 Farm Progress photo album.

Advanced Biofuels Industry Comments on 2014 RFS

The advanced biofuels community is responding this week to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) submission of the final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) where it will be reviewed. Although the rule is not public, groups are speculating on what the final rule entails with hope still that advanced biofuels will not see a reversal in volumes.

“A little less than a year ago, press leaks first suggested that EPA might reduce the 2014 renewable fuel standard (RFS) for advanced biofuels to as little as 2.2 billion gallons, which is substantially lower than current production,” said Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) President Michael McAdams when hearing the rule had been sent to OMB.

“Since that time, ABFA members and our many allies have clearly demonstrated that such reductions would fall disproportionately on advanced biofuels and represent a significant reversal of the Obama administration’s previous support for our industry. We hope the final rule will be a major improvement and encourage the White House to set RFS volume obligations at levels that are consistent with our industry’s current and projected production capacity for advanced and cellulosic biofuels,” McAdams added.

Joe Jobe NBBNational Biodiesel Board (NBB) CEO Joe Jobe is hoping to see an increase in biodiesel from the proposal released last year. Joe explained the the proposed rule would cap out biodiesel and cause a dramatic reduction in production.

“This is a cornerstone energy policy that has demonstrated that it works,” said Jobe. “Last year we were able to demonstrate that the program works. We grew from a little over 1 billion gallon in 2012 to just 2 billion gallons in 2013.” Jobe continued by stressing this allowed for investment and growth – all elements of a successful energy policy.

Jobe noted that biodiesel has allowed the advanced biofuel category to be met every year. While OMB has 90 days to review the rule, Jobe hope it will go faster.

Interview with Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board

Economist Still Opposes RFS Despite Livestock Recovery

bivi-nc-meyerDespite the fact that livestock margins have made a dramatic recovery in the past few years as availability of feed has increased and prices have decreased, a leading livestock economist still opposes the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“We’ve thrown billions of dollars at this industry already and it ought to have to stand on its own,” said Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics, during an interview last week at an event for pork producers. “It has a place in the fuel business as an oxygenate and as an octane enhancer, it’s not going away from there.”

Meyer, who has always been an outspoken critic of U.S. energy policy, says his beef with the RFS is that it caused ethanol production to increase too much too quickly. “The trend yield on corn is up about two bushels per year. If you had grown the ethanol business at a rate equivalent to that, I wouldn’t have been able to gripe too much about it,” he said. “But it was far faster than that …. and the economic impact of that was very negative for (livestock) producers.”

However, the tide has turned dramatically to the point where demand and prices for livestock and poultry are riding high and there is almost record high feed availability with manageable prices. “We’re not going back to $2 corn and $180 bean meal but we’re at the lowest levels on costs in five years,” said Meyer. “We’re not increasing corn usage for ethanol every year like we were, it’s pretty much flat. It’ll grow a little bit but not much and we can probably keep up with that with trend yield growth on corn.”

Despite that, Meyer thinks the RFS needs to go away. “I don’t hate ethanol,” he says he tells corn producers. “I just don’t like subsidized, mandated ethanol when I’m the alternative user of the input.”

Interview with Steve Meyer, Paragon Economics

RFA Making Inroads in Motorcycle Education

rfa-biker-bobbyConcluding the sixth year of sponsorship at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the Buffalo Chip Campground, Robert White with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) believes they are making some real headway in getting the true story about ethanol to motorcycle riders.

“The education to the riders is actually taking on a new life,” said White. “We’re seeing riders talking to riders.”

ethanol-report-adIn this edition of the Ethanol Report, White talks about a rider who pulled up for the Free Fuel Happy Hours who said he defended ethanol to his friends at the rally who told him it was a bad for his motorcycle. “He said ‘I kinda came unglued on them’,” he related. The biker told him that he had been talked in to using it at the rally the year before, and he’s “been using it this entire last year without any issue.”

In another case, White said a guy with a brand new Harley said he had been told by the dealer not to use ethanol and he wanted to get a response to that. “And I said why would you believe me?” White said. “I didn’t engineer your motorcycle, I didn’t put the parts together, I’m not providing a warranty for that motorcycle.” The man agreed, noting that neither did the dealership, but his owners manual from Harley in fact said he could use 10% ethanol. “Harley’s been doing this a long time, as have (other motorcycle manufacturers) they know what fuel is going to be most prominent, least expensive, highest octane option for these motorcycles, and it’s going to be ethanol.”

White says they are looking forward to next year, which will be the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where RFA will having an even bigger presence with an even bigger crowd.

Find our more about RFA making inroads in motorcycle education here:
Ethanol Report on Motorcycle Education

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

2014 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Photo Album

Listen below to White’s interview with automotive expert Bobby Likis from Sturgis:

Another Successful ACE Conference

ace14-brianAmerican Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings was pleased with the 27th annual ACE conference held last week in Minneapolis.

“It was another great conference, we covered a lot of important topics,” said Jennings as the conference concluded. “We try to feature our members as much as we can, whether it’s technology they’re implementing at their plant or they’re working on exporting ethanol or distillers grains – we try to give our members the spotlight and I think we did that once again.”

Jennings said one of his favorite sessions during the conference was the Ethanol Innovators panel. “It shows everyone these producers are not relying on the past, they’re looking to the future … they want to reduce their expenses, increase their efficiency and position themselves to be competitive for the long run.”

While Jennings says there is little time left in this year’s Congressional Session to worry about any anti-ethanol legislation being past, he is concerned about the elections and he encouraged his members to exercise their right to be an informed voter. “Talk to these candidates and find out their positions on ethanol and hold them accountable,” he said.

Finally, Jennings adds that next year’s conference will be in Omaha – see you then! Interview with Brian Jennings, ACE Executive Vice President

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

ACE Retailer Roundtable

ace14-retailersTwo fuel retailers took the stage at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference last week in Minneapolis to talk about the trials and rewards of offering their customers a real choice at the pump.

Bruce Vollan (left) of Midway Service in Baltic, SD and Kent Satrang, CEO of Petro Serve USA in North Dakota, shared their stories of why they installed blender pumps at their locations.

“We’re about seven years of having our blender pumps in place,” said Vollan. “It was an ideal time for us to make a change as a small town business.” And, he added, it has grown that business exponentially.

“We’re a Farmers Union oil company,” Satrang said. “We are owned by farmers, so they would like us to sell their fuel.” Beyond that, he just wants to offer his customers a choice.

Both of them also talked about the costs involved in putting in the pumps and offering higher blends and what it has ultimately meant to their communities. Listen to their conversation here: ACE Retailer Roundtable

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

ACE Awards Celebrate Power by People

Recipients of the annual awards presented last week by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) exemplified the organization’s new theme of “Power by People.”

ace14-gene-lacyGene Griffith of Patriot Renewable Fuels received the organization’s Grassroots Award from ACE Director of Member and Industry Relations Lacy Dixon. Griffith was recognized for the many ways Patriot has promoted ethanol to the public, including an electronic sign on the highway near the plant in Annawan, Illinois that features revolving messages about the benefits of ethanol. They also have been very active on social media with Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“Producers also have to help educate the public, as well as the industry associations,” said Griffith. Interview with Gene Griffith, Patriot Renewable Fuels

ace14-jerryRecognized for excellence in journalism was Jerry Perkins, editor with Biofuels Journal. Perkins was Farm Editor with the Des Moines Register for more than 15 years and says there is no conflict between him being a journalist and his support of ethanol.

This year’s Paul Dana Award went to Charlie Good, owner of the Good and Quick store in Nevada, Iowa. Good had a conflict and was unable to attend the ACE conference but I interviewed him in March at the ACE Fly-in where he told his story about deciding to offer higher blends at his store over his suppliers objections. “I had to de-brand because the oil company didn’t want that under their canopy,” said Good. “My sales are up 20-25% a month and of the gallons that they’re up, virtually all of it is the ethanol fuels.” Interview with Charlie Good, Iowa fuel retailer

As already noted, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) received the Merle Anderson Award this year, presented by Merle himself. The Father of Ethanol was in rare form as he presented the award to his congressman, as you can hear all of in the audio file and see a portion in the video below. Merle Anderson Presents Award to Rep. Collin Peterson

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Increasing Ethanol Plant Throughput

ace14-enogen-lopezSyngenta’s Enogen corn trait technology is the first genetically modified output trait in corn specifically for the ethanol industry and in the past two years since it has been released the industry has seen increasing adoption.

“We’re a new product that’s been adopted by 6-8 plants already,” said Paul Lopez with Syngenta who gave a break out session at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference on how Enogen is helping plants increase throughput. Giving the presentation with him was Tory Kort with Chief Ethanol Fuels in Nebraska, which uses Enogen corn, who shared the results they have seen. “Our enzyme is pretty unique in terms of how it works … it really reduces starches down, making more sugars available, increasing the plant’s efficiencies, so increasing yield and increasing throughput,” added Lopez.

The first plant to adopt Enogen was Quad County Corn Processors, which produced the first gallons of cellulosic ethanol just last month. “They’ve been using our product for two years now,” said Lopez. “This is a win-win. The ethanol plant wins, the local grower wins, the local community wins.”Interview with Paul Lopez, Syngenta Enogen

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

RFS Update from EPA at ACE Meeting

ace14-epaEnvironmental Protection Agency official Paul Machiele visited the American Coalition for Ethanol conference this week in Minneapolis to discuss various issues, including plans for the 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Machiele, who is director for Fuel Programs in EPA’s Assessment and Standards Division, said they understand the rule is very important and they are working very hard to get it finalized as soon as possible. “I can’t say when it’s going to come out because that will depend in a large part on the review time when it gets into the interagency review process,” he said. “That review can take anywhere from 30-90 days,” he continued, saying he hopes it will be expedited.

“We were blessed with 300,000 comments on this rule-making and not only do we have to finalize the rule-making but we have to respond to the comments that we receive,” said Machiele, adding that his staff is working on that project right now.

As it stands, Machiele says EPA has extended the compliance deadline for obligated parties so “they know what the standards will be for 2014 before they make their final decisions on buying, selling, trading, holding RINs for 2013.” Meanwhile, he acknowledged that the 2015 standards should already be proposed by now, but they expect to get that done shortly after the 2014 rule is finalized and “hoping that we can move that to final rule a little faster.”

Machiele also discussed final rules for new pathways, cellulosic feedstocks, and RINs, as well as Tier 3 regulations, and frankly answered several questions from producers at the conference. Comments from Paul Machiele, EPA

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album