EPA Hears Corn Grower Concerns About RFS

Members of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) meeting in Washington DC were able to share their concerns about the delayed rule on 2014 volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard with EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

epa-ncga“The number needs to be out, it’s really ridiculous,” said NCGA president Martin Barbre, pictured here on the right with Perciasepe. “He said ‘we’re behind time frame’ and we had some delegates stand up and say ‘you’re not behind time frame, you’re way late.’” The final rule was expected by the end of June but EPA officials say it is being delayed because of the massive volume of comments that need to be studied in order to make a decision.

Barbre says while they appreciate the fact that EPA is taking the time to make sure they make the right decision, delaying it until almost the end of the year causes problems in the market. “Sort of what has created this issue with RINS and that run up in the RINS price is the lateness of the oil companies getting the numbers,” said Barbre. “They’re supposed to have these number in the spring, they get them in the fall, and by the end of the year they have got to have met their obligations. So it puts them in somewhat of a bind.”

“We’re not usually on the side of defending the oil companies, but in this case they just need to get the numbers faster so they can get themselves where they need to be,” Barbre added.

Listen to Barbre’s comments here: Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre

Mudsummer Classic Features American Ethanol

dillon-ethanolAmerican Ethanol will be in the spotlight today as driver Austin Dillon will be defending his crown at Eldora Speedway for NASCAR’s Mudsummer Classic World Truck series race in Ohio.

Last year, Dillon won the historic race driving his American Ethanol branded truck, his first truck race since winning NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011.

“Eldora is always an exciting race for NASCAR fans, but it is an exciting opportunity for corn farmers too,” said National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) NASCAR Advisory Committee Chair Jon Holzfaster. “With American Ethanol spokesman Austin Dillon firmly in the spotlight, Eldora provides a great platform to get our message about the environmental and economic benefits ethanol offers all Americans to a broader audience. The buzz continues to grow. Ethanol helps clean our air, improve our economic independence and benefits American consumers and farmers alike.”

American Ethanol is a partnership of Growth Energy and the National Corn Growers Association.

Nebraska Corn Farmers, Aventine In Sugar Fight

According to a Reuters article, the corn-based ethanol industry in Nebraska is fighting an ethanol sugar-based ethanol plant over its feedstock. The Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings plant re-opened its Aurora, Nebraska ethanol plant back in May 2014. However, the plant, located in corn country, is reportedly using sugar from sugar beets to produce ethanol.

The United States Agricultural Department (USDA) has as program where ethanol plants can purchase cheap beet sugar for use in producing biofuels or biochemicals and Aventine is producing ethanol from this sugar source. Aventine’ use of sugar is the first large-scale production of sugar alcohol in Nebraska since the Prohibition.

sugar beetHowever, local corn farmers have sued Aventine claiming their use of sugar violates an agreement to use their grain exclusively as a feedstock for ethanol production. Aventine denies any wrongdoing, saying it has abided by its contract.

George Hohwieler, president and chief executive of the Aurora Cooperative Elevator Co., was quoted in the article as saying, “Hamilton County, Nebraska, by any measure is one of the most productive corn-producing counties in the world,” he said. “The message being sent to the marketplace is that they’re making ethanol out of sugar.”

Aventine chief executive Mark Beemer was quoted as saying the farmers’ coop was being short sighted in suing the company. “We’ve been very blunt. This is just a very short-term pathway to get the plant open and then convert back to corn ethanol,” he said.

There has been a long-running dispute between Aventine and the Nebraska farmers’ coop. In February, when Aventine received delivery via rail of the sugar, the coop filed suit claiming they were not allowed to use the rail line to receive any feedstock other than corn. The coop also filed suit in 2012 when the plant did not produce its nameplate capacity of 110 million gallons of ethanol per year, costing them $1.7 million.

As the lawsuits and harsh words continue to fly, Aventine argues that using sugar allowed them to re-open the plant, that had been idled for nearly 5 years and bringing jobs back to the area. At this point, Aventine says they have begun bidding to buy corn as an ethanol feedstock but because of the lawsuits, they are not negotiating to buy corn from the Aurora Cooperating Elevator.

As the lawsuits continue, it can only be said in a fight between corn and sugar, no one wins.

Twin Cedars FFA Raises Money for Ethanol Infrastructure

Josh Lopez is a sophomore at Twin Cedars high school (Bussey, Iowa) and he is already an ethanol advocate. During the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen, Josh who is a member of FFA, along with several other FFA members from his high school, walked around Iowa Speedway talking to NASCAR fans about the benefits of ethanol. But they didn’t stop there.

Josh LopezJosh and his team also raised money for ethanol infrastructure and Syngenta matched the funds raised – dollar-for-dollar- and donated the money plus the $1 per acre funds to Growth Energy. The $1 per acre program is one that donates $1 dollar per acre of Engoen corn grown to the renewable fuels industry. In total, more than $108K was donated this year.

I asked Josh why he came out to the races to talk about ethanol. “I love racing and our school has a strong agricultural program,” so he said it was a good fit. I also asked him what he thought about ethanol and he said his dad works for Syngenta so he grew up knowing that ethanol is better for the environment, a lot cheaper and reduces America’s need for foreign oil.

Josh said the most common question he is asked is what is ethanol? He noted that after talking with most consumers, and mentioning the NASCAR drivers are racing on the same E15 fuel that consumers can use, most of them become excited about ethanol.

Listen to my interview with Josh Lopez here: Josh Lopez interview

Visit the 2014 American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen photo album.


Corn Growers Keep Ethanol in Focus

Ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were big topics this week as members of the National Corn Growers Association met in Washington DC.

ncga-ethanolMichigan farmer Jeff Sandborn, chair of the Ethanol Committee, said they spent the week talking with administration officials and members of Congress after being updated on the issues. “Right now, Congress faces rapidly evolving issues crucial to our members. The information and understanding coming out of these meetings will help each of our delegations make the strongest case possible for farmers.”

During the Ethanol Committee meeting, staff from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality provided an update on the regulatory issues facing the ethanol industry. On Thursday, the entire NCGA delegation heard from EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe about the status of the pending 2014 volume obligation rule under the RFS.

“We greatly appreciate the deputy administrator’s willingness to participate in an open, well-considered conversation,” said NCGA President Martin Barbre of Illinois. While Perciasepe mainly dealt with the proposed Waters of the United States rule, he also fielded questions from growers pertaining to both the reduction in volume, and the continued delays of final RFS rule.

QCCP-Syngenta Collaboration Produces Cellulosic Ethanol

Syngenta and Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) are collaborating to produce cellulosic ethanol from corn kernels as well as to license the technology to other ethanol plants. The first-of-its-kind technology is known as Adding Cellulosic Ethanol and was developed by QCCP, who expects to produce one million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2014 and two million gallons in 2015.

This breakthrough was made possible through the integration of Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology at QCCP, a 35 million gallon per year capacity ethanol production facility. The introduction of the technology Delayne Johnson Quad County Corn Processors will enable QCCP to increase ethanol yield per bushel by six percent, produce an additional two million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year and realize a number of other important benefits including increased production of corn oil and distillers grains (DDGs).

Delayne Johnson, CEO of QCCP discussed the technology during a press conference held at the Iowa Speedway last Friday. The event was part of the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen sponsorship. The NASCAR Camping Truck World Series races on E15.

“Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology will help us to increase the protein content of dried distillers grains (DDGs) by 40 percent, improve corn oil extraction by 200 percent and realize more ethanol out of the same kernel of corn,” said Johnson. “The commercialization of this technology represents a major advance in the production of cellulosic ethanol. For example, Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology could produce one billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by converting the corn kernel cellulose from corn currently being processed in existing dry grind ethanol plants. And, once hemicellulosic yeast is FDA-approved, Adding Cellulosic Ethanol will be capable of producing an additional one billion gallons – all from corn already being processed.”

Johnson said tests have also shown that Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology, in conjunction with Enogen® trait technology, will deliver significant benefits to ethanol plants beyond what can be achieved through either technology alone.

“The combination of Adding Cellulosic Ethanol and Enogen corn is expected to generate significant synergies when used together in dry grind ethanol plants,” Johnson added. “It will produce advanced and cellulosic ethanol while decreasing natural gas usage, increasing ethanol throughput and reducing an ethanol plant’s carbon footprint. These advantages, combined with higher protein DDGs and increased corn oil production, make the technology package appealing for ethanol plants looking to improve their bottom line.”

Jack Bernens SyngentaCellulosic Ethanol Technologies is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Quad County Corn Processors. Earlier this year, Syngenta announced an agreement with Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies to license Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology to ethanol production facilities.

“Ethanol is helping America reduce its dependence on foreign oil, lowering prices at the pump, improving the environment with lower emissions, and growing the economy with jobs that can’t be outsourced,” said Jack Bernens, head of marketing and stakeholder relations for Enogen Trait Technology at Syngenta. “The combination of Adding Cellulosic Ethanol technology and Enogen could represent the next leap forward for ethanol production.”

Listen to my interview with Delayne Johnson here: Delayne Johnson interview

Visit the 2014 American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen photo album.


Ethanol & Corn Production Up, Food & Gas Prices Down

Growth Energy is attacking the myth that ethanol production increases food prices.

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy notes that time and again, Big Oil, big Food and special interests are attacking the ethanol industry and placing blame on them for rising food prices. “But when you look at the facts, nothing could be further from the truth. Recently, there has been a surge in ethanol production, while at the same time corn prices have been falling. Currently, corn is trading at $3.99, half the cost of Growth_Energy_logo-1what it traded for two years ago, yet food prices continue to rise because the cost of oil continues to climb. In fact, a recent World Bank study outlines how crude oil prices are responsible for 50 percent of the increase in food prices since 2004.”

Buis continued by noting that while Big Oil continues its “fear mongering” about the use of ethanol, American Consumers have just experienced a six year high in gas prices over the 4th of July weekend. In fact, he said, gas prices continue to stay at near record prices while ethanol is trading around one dollar per gallon below the cost of wholesale gas.

“Clearly global political unrest is once again responsible for driving consumer fuel prices higher, ” said Buis. “And, because of Big Oil’s monopoly over the fuels market, consumers currently have to pay more to drive to the store and the hits keep on coming when they check out at the grocery line! What I find interesting is that while Big Oil and Big Food continue to propagate the same old myths about food and renewable fuels, they are not as forthcoming when it comes to explaining to the public why they are making record profits on the backs of American consumers.”

“As President John Adams once said, ‘Facts are stubborn things.’” “Clearly,” said Buis, “this is the case for Big Oil, Big Food and their cronies, who are doing everything in their power to find a straw man to divert attention away from their excessive appetite for increased profit margins at the expense of hardworking American families.”

Syngenta & FFA Team Up for American Ethanol 200

Syngenta is joining forces with several Iowa FFA chapters during the upcoming American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen on Friday, July 11-12, 2014. The team will be helping to increase awareness of the benefits of American ethanol as well as raise funds to support flex-fuel availability. The funds raised by the FFA members will be matched by race-sponsor Syngenta.

Renewable fuels are an essential part of the American energy equation, benefiting American Ethanol 200 Presented by Enogenconsumers, farmers and American energy independence,” said David Witherspoon, head of Renewable Fuels at Syngenta. “Ethanol, whether from corn or other biomass sources, is an energy source for today and tomorrow driving economic growth and innovation.

According to Growth Energy, there are more than 16 million flex fuel vehicles on America’s highways today. There are also more than 2,800 E85 fueling stations across the country, with 450 having flex fuel pumps offering mid-level ethanol blends, and more than 80 locations in 14 states that offer E15. Investments in flex fuel pump infrastructure are needed to support continued growth and help to expand the market for ethanol.

Witherspoon added, “For more than 45 years, Syngenta has demonstrated its commitment to the future of agriculture through its partnership with the National FFA Organization. We are proud to be partnering with local FFA chapters in Iowa to tell the ethanol story – and to raise money to make flex fuels more widely available by investing in flex fuel pump infrastructure.”

DomesticFuel.com will be bringing readers live coverage from American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen. This is the second year Syngenta has sponsored the race.

Export Exchange 2014 Registration Open

2014-export-exchangeRegistration is now open for Export Exchange 2014™, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products.

Approximately 300 U.S. suppliers and agribusiness representatives and more than 180 international buyers are expected to attend Export Exchange 2014. The conference is being held Oct. 20-22 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel and is co-sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“Export Exchange brings together a group of U.S. suppliers and international buyers in a unique event focused on the expansion of established export markets and the development of new markets for U.S. coarse grains, distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) and other ethanol co-products,” said USGC Chairman Julius Schaaf.

“Over the past decade, the U.S. ethanol industry has emerged as a major producer of high quality animal feeds like DDGS and corn gluten feed,” said Bob Dinneen, RFA president and CEO. “Export Exchange is the premier forum for connecting the producers and marketers of those co-products with customers around the world.”

Export Exchange is held every two years. The 2012 event broke records in attendance and attracted buying teams from 33 countries, including all of the top U.S. international coarse grains and ethanol co-products markets. Attendance at this year’s event is expected to set a new record, creating more opportunities for U.S. merchandisers to connect with buyers and build business.

Early registration discounts end July 31. USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing and should identify themselves as such at the time of registration.

RINs Around the Rosy

Renewable Identification Numbers, better known in the renewable energy world as RINs, are serious business, but there’s actually an app on the market to make them a bit more fun.

rins-appThe Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc. (EPRINC) introduced the RFS compliance calculator earlier this year as a free download on Apple’s App Store, allowing you to “model various RFS and refined product market scenarios until your thumbs fall off.”

RINs Around the Rosy enables you to take on a variety of roles, from EPA Administrator to gasoline blender, in an attempt to guide the refined products market through the Renewable Fuels Standard whilst avoiding a crash into the blendwall. Think of it as an RFS compliance calculator.

This app serves as a model of the RFS and refined products (gasoline and diesel) market. It gives you control over nearly two dozen variables, enabling you to set an infinite number of volumetric mandates and product demand forecasts, measure RIN carryover, test various gasoline and diesel blending options, and examine the impact of custom waiver scenarios. RINs Around the Rosy will track your inputs and assumptions and let you know if you have met the mandate you set or if and how you fell short.

To download the app, just search in the app store for RINS Around the Rosy.

Corn Fiber Approved as Cellulosic Feedstock

epaThe Environmental Protection Agency issued final rules Wednesday to qualify additional fuel pathways for the production of cellulosic biofuel, including crop residue such as corn fiber.

EPA has now determined that crop residue does meet the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements for cellulosic biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) provided that “producers include in their registration specific information about the types of residues which will be used, and record and report to EPA the quantities and specific types of residues used.”

corn-cobsThe final rule comes just as the first gallons of cellulosic ethanol are being produced this week from corn fiber in Galva, Iowa. “As demonstrated by Quad County Corn Processors—which produced its first commercial gallon of cellulosic ethanol from corn fiber just yesterday—this feedstock holds tremendous potential to contribute meaningful volumes toward compliance with the RFS cellulosic biofuels standard,” said Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen.

Dinneen says EPA should be commended for using a straightforward approach to accounting for the cellulosic content of biofuel feedstocks. “The ‘cellulosic content threshold’ method finalized in today’s rule is a common sense approach that minimizes administrative and accounting burdens for commercial producers, but upholds the spirit and intent of the RFS,” Dinneen said.

The EPA also finalized some minor amendments related to survey requirements associated with the ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) program and misfueling mitigation regulations for 15 volume percent
ethanol blends (E15) in announcements made on Wednesday.

Corn Interns Educate About E85 Cost

Illinois CornLet’s put those interns to work. That’s what Illinois Corn is doing. Interns Tim Marten, a student at SIU-Edwardsville, and Elizabeth O’Reilly, a student at ISU, have been tasked with creating short videos that promote corn. The internships are funded by two communications scholarships from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. Here’s an example of one of them below. You can find others here.

The first video highlights how gas prices are determined, illustrating the cost that E85 SHOULD be at the pump when priced appropriately.

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.

Argonne Scientists Blast EWG Corn Ethanol GHG Report

A recent Environmental Work Group corn ethanol greenhouse gas report has caused lifecycle analysis experts and economist from Argonne National Laboratory and three universities to lash out and what they call “erroneous conclusions”.

The experts isEWG report Ethanols broken promisesued a scathing 13-page response to EWG’s May report titled “Ethanol’s Broken Promise.” EWG “confused parameters” and “misunderstood” previous modeling results, according to experts from Argonne, North Carolina State University, Purdue University and University of Illinois-Chicago. “…based on an analysis of the methodology EWG used and a comparison of their results to those in the literature, from models, and from other data sets, EWG appears to have overestimated the amount of land converted for corn farming between 2008 and 2012. Second, EWG used emission factors that appear too high.”

More specifically, the experts found the following problems—among many others—with EWG’s report:

  • “EWG confused parameters in GREET with those in an economic model, the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP).”
  • “EWG misunderstood EPA’s GHG emissions for years 2012 and 2017.”
  • “In their report, EWG picked the EPA 2012 GHG emissions for corn ethanol and applied them to the EPA-proposed reduced volume for corn ethanol in 2014 to make the erroneous conclusion that the proposal resulted in 3 million tonnes of CO2 reduction in 2014.”
  • “…the emission factors they applied are high compared to those in other reports and studies that take into account important variations in initial and final land states.”
  • The satellite data set used by EWG is “…explicitly not designed to be used for pixel-by-pixel or localized analyses.”
  • The land use change data used by EWG is “…based on data that is decades old, reflecting wetland conversion over a much longer time horizon.”
  • The report “…overestimated wetland conversion, especially for the conversion of wetlands to corn farms.” Wetlands and grasslands conversion estimates are “…too high when compared with estimates in other studies and data sources.”

The authors also point out that EWG is stuck in the past when it comes to lifecycle analysis. They write, “Since 2009, when EPA conducted corn ethanol LUC GHG modeling…, significant efforts have been made to improve economic models and soil carbon models to better estimate biofuel LUC GHG emissions. EPA and other federal agencies should consider updating RFS LUC modeling so that up-to-date LUC results can be used for biofuel policy making.”