Overview of 30th Fuel Ethanol Workshop

_DSC0011This year’s International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo (FEW), which took place in Indianapolis, had the largest number of attendees ever. Tom Buis with Growth Energy and National Corn Growers Association CEO, Rick Tolman were both keynote speakers at the opening general session of 30th annual event. A trade show and additional workshops were held for attendees.

I had a chance to catch up with Tim Portz with BBI International and discuss the workshop and what he hopes people take back to the industry with them.

You can listen to my interview with Tim here Interview with Tim Portz, BBI International

Check out the 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop photo album.

New USDA Report Validates Sustainability of Biomass

Experts from Iowa State University and the United States Department of Agriculture (UDSA) have dtermined that after five years of soil nutrient data gathered at POET-DSM’s Project Liberty site are consistent with more than 500 site-years of additional soil research. The research team has concluded that the results show that biomass harvesting, which is now being done in the Emmetsburg, Iowa area, is consistent with proper farm management.

POET-DSM Project Liberty May 2014“Successful deployment of cellulosic bioenergy production operations such as the POET-DSM ‘Project Liberty’ program near Emmetsburg, Iowa can strengthen rural economies, help ensure energy security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions without contributing to soil degradation – another global challenge,” said Dr. Douglas Karlen with USDA-ARS.

POET-DSM is currently finishing construction on its 25 million gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant located in Emmetsburg, Iowa. That plant will use crop residue – corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk – to produce renewable fuel. Since 2008, POET-DSM has commissioned soil research from Karlen and Dr. Stuart Birrell (Iowa State University BioSystems and Agricultural Engineering Department) to determine changes in soil quality under different biomass harvest scenarios. That data has now been aggregated with 500+ years of additional soil data from four separate sites.

Karlen said fields that would be good candidates for biomass harvesting have qualities including

  • Slopes of less than 3%
  • Consistent grain yield histories of 175 bu/acre
  • Good nutrient management plans with soil test records

At a 1 ton per acre harvest rate, which POET-DSM advocates, Nitrogen and Phosphorus applications should not need to change, but Potassium should be monitored. Karlen also said that by monitoring natural variability within a particular field, “even more stover may be harvested from some areas in a sustainable manner.” These recommendations are in line with previous recommendations from Karlen and Birrell for the Emmetsburg area.

“We’ve been working with farmers for almost eight years now to ensure that biomass harvesting is done right,” said POET Biomass Director Adam Wirt. “We’ve developed an EZ Bale harvest system that maximizes our cob content and minimizes stalk removal. It’s a quick, clean and effective method for farmers to get more revenue from their fields while managing what is often excess crop residue.”

Patriot Renewable Fuels is an Innovation Leader

Last week Patriot Renewable Fuels announced the news that the biofuels plant is making plans, and hopes to add, ICM’s Fiber Separation Technology as well as their Generation 1.5 cellulosic technology to their biorefinery facility located Annawan, Illinois. Patriot is one of the first ethanol plants in the country to adopt both technologies together. During 2014 FEW this week Gene Patriot Renewable Fuels Gene GriffithGriffith, co-founder and president of Patriot updated DomesticFuel on the project. It should be noted that this is just one of several major value-added projects Patriot has announced in less than a year making them one of, if not the most innovative ethanol plant/biorefinery in the U.S.

Griffith said they are pretty excited about the projects and after spending several months doing due-diligence on ICM’s technologies as well as other technologies, they felt that this was the right time to begin the project.

“If we get it implemented, we’ll be one of the earlier, maybe one of the earliest independent ethanol producers to this form of cellulosic ethanol, and we’re really excited about it,” said Griffith.

Griffith said being at FEW is a great networking opportunity because the the people Patriot works with are entrenched and have a lost of useful information and they are able to learn information they wouldn’t be able to generate on their own.

Last December, Patriot added another ICM platform, Select Milling Technology, and the Fiber Separation Technology builds upon this platform. “The Select Milling Technology is a separate mill that further processes the starch in the corn kernel as its ground before it goes into the fermentation process, explained Griffith. “The platforms we’re adding will be the Fiber Separation Technology which separates the fiber from the starch. Essentially, by removing the fiber from the starch, it improves our ethanol production efficiency so we get more ethanol from the corn,” explained Griffith.

Then he noted that they are able to take the fiber and do two-three things with it. One, they could add it back to the distiller’s grain (DDGs) and sell it has a high fiber form of distillers grain protein. Two, they could keep the fiber separate and sell a higher protein feed for a premium that is better for monogastric animals (such as pigs). The third option, which is what Patriot would like to do, is to ferment the fiber for additional ethanol.

Corn delivery to Patriot Renewable FuelsPresently Patriot is producing around 130 million gallons of ethanol per year and Griffith thinks they can produce another 10-12 percent ethanol production from the same kernel of corn. Griffith hopes that they can have all their permits by the end of the year and implement the two new technologies by 2015.

Griffith said many producers are doing similar things with different company’s technologies but they spent a lot of time with him learning about the technologies they implemented. He also said other producers will be watching their progress to help them decide if and when the technologies might be a good addition to their plants.

Learn more Patriot’s ethanol innovations by listening to Gene Griffith: Interview with Patriot's Gene Griffith

Check out the 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop photo album.

Don’t Miss the Innovators Panel at ACE’s Conference

The American Coalition for Ethanol’s (ACE) 27th annual Ethanol Conference is set for August 4-6, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the line-up of great speakers and sessions is already being unveiled. The Innovators Panel on August 5th will include: Ron Alverson from Dakota Ethanol; Ray Baker with Adkins Energy; Delayne Johnson with Quad County Corn Processors; and Mike Erhart with Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy.

Some of the topics panelists will cover include projects to add biodiesel or renewable diesel to existing ethanol plants, progress with conversion of corn kernel fiber to cellulosic biofuel, and steps to reduce the carbon footprint of ethanol.

“The people who make ethanol are always looking forward, they are never satisfied with the same old, same old. This panel discussion will be an outstanding example of the type of product and process technology innovations being developed by ACE members to create new revenue streams and improve efficiency,” said Brian Jennings, executive vice president of ACE.

Power_by_people_bannerThe ACE Conference will also feature a Retailer Roundtable, involving gas station owners who are making money and attracting new customers by selling higher blends of ethanol fuel. Other topics to be covered at the event include a discussion of the octane and high performance potential of ethanol in automobiles, a look at proposed regulations based upon the Food Safety Modernization Act, overseas opportunities for ethanol producers and an examination of rail regulations and possible long-term improvements of the domestic rail system.

Click here to register to attend the upcoming ACE Conference.

FEW Kicks off with Record Crowd

The 30th annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) has official kicked off with a record-breaking number of ethanol producers from around the world attending. The attendees represent more than 500 producers from 194 facilities representing more than 15 billion gallons of ethanol produced per year. Producers represent traditional and advanced ethanol facilities from the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Norway and Hungary.

30th Annual FEWEthanol enthusiasts may note the significance of the 15 gallons of ethanol produced per year – the amount called for in the first-gen ethanol category of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). A hot topic for the past few months and sure to be a hot topic during FEW, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to finalize the 2014 RFS rules and announced yesterday that they were delaying compliance for 2013 obligated parties until September 30, 2014.

The host of this year’s FEW is Indianapolis, Indiana. “The record level of ethanol producers at this year’s event has created an unprecedented opportunity for industry suppliers and supporters to network with ethanol producers and share their products or services,” said John Nelson, marketing director at BBI International. “We have 520 ethanol producers representing 194 ethanol production facilities already registered and we are expecting that number to grow.”

Drawing nearly 2,000 attendees, there will be at least 25 countries represented, 43 U.S. states represented and six Canadian provinces. During the course of the event, attendees will discuss issues categorized into four tracks:

  • Track 1: Production and Operations
  • Track 2: Leadership and Financial Management
  • Track 3: Coproducts and Product Diversification
  • Track 4: Cellulosic and Advanced Ethanol

DomesticFuel.com will be bringing you coverage of FEW throughout the week.

Edeniq Stresses Cellulosic Ethanol is Here

edeniqAt the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference last week, Steve Rust with Edeniq talked about new processing technology and products taking ethanol to the next level.

“Cellulosic ethanol is for real now,” says Rust. “People need to know that because this is key right now with discussions on the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

rust-headRust says new technology like Edeniq’s PATHWAY Platform is helping to make cellulosic ethanol a reality. “We have a piece of equipment that pre-treats the slurry in a corn ethanol plant and then we add a helper enzyme in it that we co-fermentate cellulosic and corn ethanol in the same fermenter,” he explained. “The nice thing about our technology is that it can be used in any dry mill ethanol plant for them to be able to get cellulosic gallons for a small capitol investment.”

Interview with Steve Rust, Edeniq


2014 CUTC Photo Album

USDA Announces BCAP Funding

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that the USDA will begin accepting applications June 16 through July 14, 2014 from energy facilities interested in receiving forest or agricultural residues to generate clean energy. The support comes through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Agriculture residues, such as corn cobs and stalks, also may qualify as energy-producing feedstock.

BCAP provides financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility. Of the forest residuetotal $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, the 2014 Farm Bill provides up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) each year for matching payments for the harvest and transportation of biomass residues. BCAP matching payments will resume this summer, while crop incentives will begin in 2015. Some matching payments will support the removal of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management public lands. This will be turned into renewable energy while reducing the risk of forest fire.

“Removing dead or diseased trees from forests to use for biomass production creates clean energy while reducing the threat of forest fires and the spread of harmful insects and disease,” said Vilsack. “Increasing our country’s production of biomass energy also helps grow our economy. Food is made in rural America, but fuel is made in rural America, too. This program is yet another USDA investment in expanding markets for agricultural products made in rural places across the country.”

With the 2014 Farm Bill requiring several regulatory updates to BCAP, the resumption of payments for starting and maintaining new sources of biomass (Project Areas) has been deferred until a later date when the regulatory updates occur.

Patriot Hires Leifmark for Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

patriot1Patriot Renewable Fuels has hired Leifmark to plan the first stage of its cellulosic ethanol plant in Illinois. This news release from Patriot says the Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology will be the centerpiece of the platform on the site of Patriot’s 130 million gallon per year grain ethanol plant.

“Leifmark’s analysis will give us a clear picture of the overall technical and economic factors,” says [Gene Griffith, Co-Founder & President of Patriot]. “Their study will provide a sound basis for deciding whether Patriot should go ahead with the engineering phase of the project.”

Paul Kamp, Leifmark co-founding partner in Chicago, says, “Patriot has a history of innovation since its Annawan plant opened in 2008. Adding cellulosic ethanol production is a natural next step.”

At the centerpiece of the technology platform is the Inbicon biomass conversion technology, which Denmark’s DONG Energy began developing in the late 1990s and has demonstrated for over 15,000 hours at its Inbicon Biomass Refinery in Kalundborg, where it typically processes 4.4 tons an hour of wheat straw.

About 1320 tons per day of corn stover will be turned into cellulosic ethanol using the Inbicon’s technology.

REPREVE Launches Biomass Crop System

A North Carolina-based biomass company has launched a brand new system for the production of high-yielding energy crops that can be used for biofuels and other bio-based products.

repreveREPREVE® RENEWABLES LLC is collaborating with farmers and landowners across the country to use the innovative biomass crop system grow giant miscanthus grass on marginal and underutilized land.

REPREVE developed a comprehensive solution to the challenge of planting rhizome-propagated crops like miscanthus on a commercial scale, according to Jeff Wheeler, chief executive officer. “We’re really excited to be launching this year our new ACCU YIELD™ system,” said Wheeler, explaining that they had to develop specialized equipment to extract and process the rhizomes for planting, and then develop a precision planter to accurately and efficiently plant the crop for the highest yields.

ACCUDROP planter in fieldThe system is comprised of three elements: the ACCU LIFTER™ machine lifts rhizomes from a field in such a manner that reduces damage to the rhizomes thus increasing viability; the ACCU PROCESSOR™ unit sizes and cleans rhizomes for improved germination and quality and the ACCU DROP® planter provides optimal row spacing at varying planting densities to ensure a uniform, consistent and rapid stand establishment.

Farmers and landowners in Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Wisconsin are among the first to adopt this inventive approach to diversified land management. “These early adopters of commercial-scale biomass are trailblazers,” Wheeler says. “We provide turnkey solutions to farmers and landowners whereby we plant and harvest the crop. Plus we provide the market for the harvested crop each year.”

The crop is marketed to end users for a variety of renewable products, from biofuel to animal bedding. “Biofuels is one of the markets that we are working to develop,” said Wheeler, who says they have projects ongoing with companies in the advanced cellulosic biofuels arena. “There’s been such great progress made in those technologies and they hold such great promise for energy independence … but the biggest thing the industry needs is consistent and stable policy from Washington.”

Learn more in this interview with Wheeler: Interview with Jeff Wheeler, REPREVE Renewables

EPA and USDA Dispute Corn Stover Study

Two federal agencies joined the biofuels industry last week in seriously questioning the results of a University of Nebraska study that claims negative greenhouse gas emissions impacts in using corn stover for ethanol production.

corn_stover03 Photo: USDOE-NRELA statement by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Liz Purchia about the report noted problems with “hypothetical assumption that 100 percent of corn stover in a field is harvested” which she calls “an extremely unlikely scenario that is inconsistent with recommended agricultural practices. As such, it does not provide useful information relevant to the lifecycle GHG emissions from corn stover ethanol. EPA’s lifecycle analysis assumes up to 50 percent corn stover harvest. EPA selected this assumption based on data in the literature and in consultation with agronomy experts at USDA to reflect current agricultural practices.”

During a forum on climate change right after the study hit the headlines last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also pointed out that it is based on a false premise. “The study started with an assumption about the way corn stover would be removed from the land. The problem with the assumption is no farmer in the country would actually take that much crop residue,” Vilsack said. “It’s not what’s happening on the ground. If you make the wrong assumption, you’re going to come up with the wrong conclusions.”

Work done by Dr. Douglas Karlen with the USDA Agricultural Research Service was cited several times in the UNL study. In response to questions from POET-DSM, which is using corn stover as feedstock at a plant in Iowa, Karlen said the study “makes unrealistic assumptions and uses citations out of context to reinforce the authors’ viewpoint.”

According to Dr. Karlen, the research fails to differentiate between responsible biomass removal and “excessive” biomass removal, projecting a removal rate of approximately 75% across the entire Corn Belt.

“Harvesting 75% of all corn stover produced in the 10 Corn Belt states is unrealistic, far greater than any projections made by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in their projections for developing a sustainable bioenergy industry, and would certainly result in the depletion of soil organic matter.”

Get a Piece of the Renewable Energy Funding Pie

Find Grant Funding Now coverProsperity Consulting, LLC has identified two grant programs from the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) that could make significant investments in alternative forms of energy.

EERE has announced the Biological and Chemical Upgrading for Advanced Biofuels and Products Grant. The grant is focused on supporting production of the fuels from cellulosic sugars, lignocellulose derivatives, lignin, cellulosic alcohols, bio-solids and biogases. Awards range from $1 million to $3.5 million. Concept papers are due on May 1, 2014, and full proposals are due June 13, 2014.

The second grant program from EERE focuses on solar energy. The Solar Market Pathways Grant seeks to drive down solar energy costs and encourage a significant increase in solar deployment. The funding includes costs for planning and stakeholder meetings. Awards range from $1 million to $4 million. Concept papers are due on May 28, 2014, and full proposals are due July 3, 2014.

For companies, universities, communities and others interested in applying for these grants who are seeking assistance, Prosperity Consulting is available to assist. The company aids it clients in market research and feasibility study development as well as the development of strategic plans.

Ethanol Groups Fight Back with “Oil Rigged”

fuels-americaA coalition of biofuels organizations is fighting back against the oil industry by launching a new campaign called “Oil Rigged.”

Members of Fuels America today unveiled the details of its new “Oil Rigged” television and digital ad campaign and OilRigged.com designed to “expose the many ways the oil industry is rigging the system to protect their profits and block the transition to clean, American renewable fuels.” The announcement included representatives of member organizations Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Growth Energy, and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

“They’ve rigged Washington,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, noting the oil industry has spent $855 million on lobbyists and campaign contributions over the past five years “more than a million dollars for every member of the House and Senate.” He added that the oil industry has also rigged the market “by refusing to invest in the infrastructure” to sell higher blends of ethanol, rigged the tax code and rigged the debate over renewable fuels.

oil-rigged“They are trying to rig the debate with misinformation, junk science and misleading ads all designed to scare consumers and Congress about ethanol to protect their market share,” said RFA president Bob Dinneen.

The group chose Earth Day for starting the campaign to make the point that biofuels are making a positive difference for the environment. “What we’re really talking about here is doing the right thing for the planet,” said Brent Erickson, BIO Executive Vice President. “Of everything the United States is doing from a policy standpoint to reduce carbon pollution, the Renewable Fuel Standard is making the biggest impact by far.”

Listen to all the comments from Buis, Dinneen and Erickson here: Fuels America Oil Rigged Campaign

USDA Rural Development Supports Biofuel Investment

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno went on a three-state Midwest tour last week to highlight USDA investments that are helping expand business opportunities in the bio-economy, including biofuels.

usda-salerno“Creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity for rural small businesses are top priorities for the Obama Administration,” said Salerno, who visited companies in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “The new Farm Bill expands the potential for economic growth in rural America by maintaining momentum for the emerging bio-based industry and the more than 3,000 bio-based companies across the country.”

Salerno’s tour started with a visit to Quad County Corn Processors near Galva, Iowa where they are working on a process to turn corn kernel fibers into cellulosic ethanol and as a result boost the plant’s ethanol production. “It’s a co-op, so all the farmers around there have a vested interest in making this processing unit work,” she said. The company has received nearly $22 million in USDA Rural Development loan guarantees since it opened 13 years ago.

Salerno noted that the United States has the capacity to provide one billion tons of biomass per year by 2030. “This has a possibility of hundreds of thousands of jobs – actually 1.7 million estimated,” she said.

Americans Vote for Biofuels

According to a new national poll conducted by American Viewpoint on behalf of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), Americans support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and other key federal initiatives that support the expanded use of biofuels such as ethanol. Sixty-five percent of adults support the RFS, up from 61 percent in 2012.

E85 pump in Ottumwa Iowa

Photo: Joanna Schroeder

Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO said of the poll results, “It is telling that support for the RFS continues to grow in spite of the relentless attacks on ethanol and the RFS financed by Big Oil’s deep pockets. Repeatedly Americans have decisively said they place a premium on energy independence, job creation, and a cleaner environment.”

For these reasons and more, Americans overwhelmingly support the RFS for its ability to strengthen this great nation,” continued Dinneen. “Members of Congress and the Obama Administration should review this data before taking action to reduce or eliminate a program with broad national appeal and tangible energy and environmental benefits.”

Expanding on the polling results, Dinneen added, “Americans see great value in investing in the next generation of fuel, cellulosic ethanol, and they support the idea of an open fuel standard which encourages the manufacturing of cars that run on any number of alternatives to petroleum. In fact, Americans appear to have a visceral dislike for the billions and billions of dollars in government subsidies and special tax treatment that Big Oil has enjoyed for 100 years.”

Sixty-six percent of the respondents favor incentives for the expansion of cellulosic ethanol while 78 percent of respondents favor auto manufacturers to build cars that will run on fuel other than oil. In addition, 66 percent of respondents oppose oil company subsidies while only 22 percent favor oil subsidies.

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DuPont Calls for Support of RFS

In testimony before the Senate Agriculture Committee, Jan Koninckx, global business director for Biorefineries at DuPont, called on Congress to preserve the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which Koninckx said has spurred hundreds of millions of dollars of private investment in advanced biofuels and is expediting the transition from a petroleum-based to a bio-based global economy.

Koninckx delivered his testimony as part of a Committee hearing on advanced biofuels’ role in creating jobs and lowering gasoline prices. He emphasized the scope of the opportunity and also how quickly the promise of biofuels has been realized.

“The bottom line here is that driven by the RFS, we have completely re-imagined how we fuel our planet. We do so with renewable resources without adding any additional CO2 into the atmosphere. It is a remarkable DuPont Logoachievement. And when you look at this from the perspective of a science company – this has actually gone quite fast,” said Koninckx.

“Certainly faster than the fossil fuel industry developed over a century ago and with a footprint they still can’t come close to achieving today. DuPont has over 210 years of bringing scientific innovation to market. In my estimation, we’ve never delivered this type of disruptive technology so quickly,” he added.

Koninckx cited DuPont’s investment in biofuels, including cellulosic technologies that use corn stover – or the crop waste left over after a corn harvest – to produce ethanol.

“For the past four years we have brought together growers, academia, public institutions like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and custom equipment makers to conduct harvest trials on corn stover. Together, we have developed an entirely new model for biomass harvest, transportation and supply to a biorefinery. It is cost competitive and fully sustainable – preserving the land for generations to come.”

DuPont also is leading the industry in the development of another type of advanced renewable fuel, biobutanol, Koninckx noted, pointing out that the company’s joint venture Butamax with partner BP, is on track for commercial scale production in the United States around 2015. Biobutanol, with advanced fuel properties and high energy density helps to further secure U.S. leadership in the global biofuels market.

“The Renewable Fuel Standard is working as intended. 2014 is a watershed in our history as an industry – the year we take this technology commercial – and a critical year for all parties to remain steadfast in their commitment to biofuels,” Koninckx concluded.