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

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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.

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

ACA Bio Fuel Ethanol Plant in Argentina Goes Online

The ACA Bio Cooperative Limitada (ACA Bio) dry-mill corn ethanol plant has been commissioned in Argentina. The ethanol plant is located near Villa Maria in the central province of Cordoba, Argentina. During the start-up phase, the plant met or exceeded all performance guarantees according to ICM, who designed the plant. The plant will produce both ethanol and animal feed (dried distillers grains/DDGs).

ICMlogo1Santiago Acquaroli, ACA Bio plant manager, said, “ICM fulfilled all of our expectations. They provided the engineering documents and the process equipment on time and their technical group always helped our people to complete the erection properly. During the start -up and training period, we felt very well supported. Looking back over the past two years, we can only say thank you to ICM for your help and friendship.”

The construction of the plant and equipment installation was completed in February, 2014. ICM, Inc. supplied the process equipment and components for the ethanol plant. ICM also provided on-site representation throughout the build and installation process, as well as guided ACA Bio through the startup, commissioning and training processes.

“We are thrilled to see the successful start-up and the completion of our first project in Argentina. We look forward to further developing our partnership and collaboration with ACA Bio by providing our expertise, services and process technologies to help advance their success and contribution to the advancement of the local renewable energy industry,” said Dave VanderGriend, CEO of ICM, Inc.

Julian Echazarreta, ACA deputy general manager, added, “If any company comes to Argentina trying to be successful in this type of project, it must have the spirit of full collaboration with their customer like ICM had. Many times ICM went further than the scope required and we appreciate it a lot. Since the beginning we realize that we have in ICM a dependable partner and for this reason we will continue doing business with them.”

USDA Predicts Record Corn Crop

U.S. farmers are expected to produce more corn than last year, according to the latest USDA report out today.

The August Crop Production report finds that good growing conditions are expected to help growers bring in a record-high crop at 14.0 billion bushels of corn, up 1 percent from 2013 which was also a record at the time. Yields are expected to average 167.4 bushels per acre, which would be the highest yield ever for the United States. Objective yield data indicate the greatest number of ears on record for the ten largest corn producing states.

NCGA-LogoDue to the increased production, the average farm price was lowered a dime from its July estimate, to a range of $3.55 to $4.25 per bushel, which National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre says makes it important to keep demand moving forward. “Now is not the time for our federal policymakers to be cutting into the ethanol standard, imposing undue regulations or going slow on trade agreements,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre. “Our farmers are doing their part, working hard and smart on their farms to bring in a good crop. It’s time Washington removed obstacles and cleared a path so we can sell America’s biggest and most versatile crop at a good and fair price.”

growth-energy-logoThe new World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate projects ending corn stocks to be 1.808 billion bushels, up 7 million bushels from July and the highest level of carryover stocks since 2005. “It is clear from this report that the food versus fuel debate over the U.S. renewable fuel policy can be put to bed,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. “It is time to stop attacking a homegrown American industry that is creating jobs, improving our environment and mitigating climate change, all while decreasing out dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. It is time that the facts, not rhetoric drive the debate and today’s WASDE report should finally end these ridiculous claims. This report makes clear that the American farmer can fuel America and feed the world.”

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

American Ethanol Driver Picks Up Trophy at Pocono

dillon1Ethanol-powered engines and sponsorship helped a young NASCAR driver to a recent win and could propel him to rookie of the year honor’s in NASCAR’s top division. According to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), American Ethanol spokesman Austin Dillon picked up a trophy at Pocono in the Camping World Truck Series this past weekend and has himself racing for a slot in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Championship.

The feat accomplished three things: it reminded people how the rising race star got to be the truck champion in 2010; the win in a Chevy truck ended Toyota’s 12-race winning streak in the series; and it showcased American Ethanol, which was displayed on the side of his truck. Dillon scored his sixth career Truck Series win by surviving a green-white-checkered finish.

Ethanol supporters behind American Ethanol hitched a ride with Dillon three years ago as we he was just emerging as a household name in the sport. The move has proven to be a good one, with Dillon moving through the ranks of NASCAR’s finest, first winning the truck series in 2010, capturing the intermediate Nationwide title last year, and now vying for Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors.

Some experts say this year’s competition has been the best in a decade, as Dillon and fellow rookie Kyle Larson have been battling for one of the 16 spots in the race for the chase where the Sprint Cup Champion will be determined.

Ethanol Plant Innovators

Four ethanol producers who are innovating plants through new process and product technology took the podium at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference this week to talk about what they are doing.

ace14-ronFirst up was ACE president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol who talked about the importance of carbon, particularly the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and how it impacts ethanol production. Alverson is a corn farmer in South Dakota and he discussed how carbon intensity ratings for corn ethanol are improving and will continue to improve down the road. Ron Alverson, Dakota Ethanol

ace14-baker-adkinsRay Baker, general manager of Adkins Energy in northwest Illinois, who talked about the new biodiesel plant they are building to co-locate with their 50 million gallon ethanol plant and use corn oil as a feedstock. “Having corn oil as your main feedstock gives you a competitive advantage,” he said.
Ray Baker, Adkins Energy

ace14-erhart-prairieMike Erhart, CEO of Prairie Horizon Agri Energy in Kansas, says he runs a biorefinery, not an ethanol plant. “I think ethanol plant is antiquated,” he said. “It’s now time that we become a biorefinery and start touting that.” Erhart also talked about why his plant is producing renewable diesel. Mike Erhart, Prairie Horizon Agri Energy

ace14-delayneDelayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors, has the distinction of producing the very first gallons of cellulosic ethanol, just about a month ago. He talked about his plant being the first to use Syngenta Enogen corn and efficiencies they have implemented in the production process.
Delayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Increasing Ethanol Yield

cutc-14-novozymesOne way enzyme technology can help ethanol plants is by yielding more ethanol per bushel of corn.

At the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference, Nathan Kreel with Novozymes talked about Olexa, a unique enzyme designed for oil recovery. “We developed it mainly to enhance corn oil extraction for the customer, but we are seeing there are a lot of other benefits,” he said. That includes an increase in ethanol yield, better yeast health, and more efficient fermentation.

“The most important thing is that we see back end process improvements with an average of 13% oil increase,” Kreel said. “It’s a simple drop-in product that is added right to the fermentation and you can see improvements right when it’s used.”

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Nathan Kreel, Novozymes

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Oxygenate from Ethanol and Corn

xfxF Technologies Inc. is an advanced biofuel company that has developed a chemical process to convert corn or biomass plus alcohol (especially ethanol or methanol) into an oxygenate that can be blended with gasoline and diesel.

cutc-14-rob-randle“It’s a completely chemical process – no enzymes, no bacteria, no fermentation,” said Bob Randle of xF Technologies, who spoke at the recent Corn Utilization and Technology Conference. The end products are furoates – from either ethanol, methanol or butanol – that can then be used as oxygenates for fuel transportation to improve mileage, reduce emissions, increase lubricity, and more.

Randle says the technology offers co-location and add-on opportunities for ethanol and corn wet milling plants. “Because our primary feedstocks are corn and ethanol, or biomass and ethanol,” he said. “We can also be co-located with a cellulosic ethanol plant as well.”

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Bob Randle, xF Technologies

2014 CUTC Photo Album

DF Cast: Syngenta Helps Ethanol Infrastructure Efforts

A company that is getting more ethanol out of corn is trying to get more infrastructure for higher blends of ethanol. Recently, Syngenta announced a new fund to help fuel retailers put in infrastructure to handle higher blends of ethanol from E15 to E85. The announcement was made at a NASCAR event, where fans have been able to witness just how good the higher blends are for engines.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from Syngenta’s David Witherspoon and Growth Energy’s Kelly Manning, as they talk about the effort to get more ethanol infrastructure into gas stations and how Americans, especially NASCAR fans, have really come around to the green fuel.

Domestic Fuel Cast - Increasing Ethanol Blends

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