Corn Oil Gains in Popularity as Biodiesel Feedstock

cornoilbiodiesel1Corn oil, squeezed from the seeds at the Nation’s many ethanol plants, has seen a meteoric rise in popularity as a feedstock for biodiesel. This article from Ethanol Producer Magazine says use of corn oil as a biodiesel feedstock grew by an impressive 245 percent between 2011 and 2013.

Corn oil’s role as a popular feedstock choice in the biodiesel arena is quite apparent and growing, which made 2013 a great year for corn oil-derived biodiesel. More than 1.04 billion pounds of corn oil were utilized for biodiesel production by the end of 2013, an EIA biodiesel production report showed, making it the second most popular feedstock choice. During the second half of 2013, corn oil finally broke the 100 million pound mark not once, but on three separate occasions.

Corn oil producers have options to sell within local markets, as well as destination markets, says [Joseph Riley, general manager of FEC Solutions]. Locally, the oil can be transported via truck to nearby biodiesel plants or feed producers. In the case of Marquis Energy, the company is located relatively close to one of Renewable Energy Group’s biodiesel plants, says Tom Marquis, director of marketing at Marquis Energy LLC, which installed corn oil separation units in 2008. REG is one of the leading North American biodiesel producers with a 257 MMgy capacity and has been using the feedstock since 2007. “Our freight to their facility is pretty reasonable, so that has been the best market for our plant,” Marquis added.

The article goes on to say that growing markets for corn oil include plants in Louisiana, which use a variety of feedstocks for renewable diesel and California, which likes corn oil’s carbon-related benefits.

Corn Growers at Biofuels Beltway March

ace14-dc-corn-teamMore than 80 people turned out for the American Coalition for Ethanol Biofuels Beltway March this year, the most ever, and the diverse group included ethanol producers, retailers, bankers, truckers, cattle ranchers, students – and a whole bunch of corn farmers. The team here consisted of (LtoR) Missouri farmer Gary Porter, Missouri Corn Growers public policy director Shane Kinne, and Minnesota farmers on the board of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Dale Tolifson and Dave Thompson.

Cindy caught up with them as they were heading out of the Capitol after making their rounds and asked them each to give a brief impression of their visits.

Shane said the highlight of the trip was getting folks into meet with their lawmakers, telling the personal stories of farmers and fuel retailers and how ethanol is making a difference.

“They have a great story to tell, and it makes a huge difference when [lawmakers] hear it firsthand.” Shane said.

Gary said he appreciated the different points of view that he heard, such as viewpoints from folks not from the Midwest who aren’t involved in ag or ethanol.

“It’s interesting for me to talk to them and listen to what they say, and also for me to share with them the way I see it,” adding that since he’s a corn grower, cattle feeder and fuel retailer, he has a pretty well-rounded view and is willing to talk to even those he doesn’t agree with.

“That’s the ones we need to talk to,” Dave pointed out. “Even though they didn’t agree with us, they were very receptive to listening, they had good questions, and I think we have a great story to tell.”

Dale echoed those sentiments and was glad to tell his personal story.

“We tell about our experiences on the farm, how we helped grow the ethanol industry, and how that industry is not only important for clean air, but it’s important for jobs and the ag community,” as well as advancements in agriculture that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for ethanol, including boosting yields to meet all demands.

Listen to what they said here: Interview with Biofuels March team


2014 ACE Biofuels Beltway March photo album

Prospective Plantings Down, But Corn Stocks High

ncga-logo-newThis year’s corn plantings are expected to be down this year, but growers say there will be plenty of stockpiles for all needs, including ethanol. The latest U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show that American farmers expect to plant 3.7 million fewer acres of corn this year, down four percent from 2013. But the National Corn Growers Association says, don’t worry, there are plenty of stocks going into the year, and it would still be the fifth-largest U.S. corn acreage planted.

“In 2013, U.S. farmers produced a record crop abundant enough to meet all needs and provide an ample carry over into 2014,” National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre said. “While it is still early in the season and many factors may change the reality on the ground as planting progresses, the public can rest assured that bountiful stockpiles and adequate plantings will ensure our corn security for the year to come.”

NCGA says the plantings will yield 13.37 billion bushels, and corn stocks stand at more than 7 billion bushels, up 30 percent from the same time last year.

IRFA: Strong Plantings Report Calls for Strong RFS

IowaRFAlogoExpected big plantings of corn and soybeans underscore the need for a strong Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). New estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show a possible record amount of soybeans expected to be planted this year and the fifth largest corn acreage to be planted as well. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says these factors show why a strong and growing RFS is needed this year.

“The past eight years were prosperous for agriculture because the RFS was allowed to act as a sponge, soaking up additional corn and soybeans when needed,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The vast amount of corn and soybeans expected to be planted in 2014 demonstrates the importance of a strong and growing RFS. If the EPA’s proposal to essentially gut the RFS is allowed to become final, we could see huge carryovers, crop prices plummet below the cost of production, and family farms placed in jeopardy.”

Nearly 92 million acres is expected to be dedicated to corn this year and a record 81.5 million acres for soybeans, a six percent increase from last year.

American Ethanol on the NASCAR Green® Team

nascar-race-greenAmerican Ethanol is once again partnering with NASCAR® for the NASCAR Race to Green™ initiative now through April 25 to promote environmentally friendly biofuels.

The goal of the initiative is to highlight the accomplishments of green programs that have helped reduce the NASCAR’s carbon footprint. “This partnership with NASCAR Green truly shows the sport’s commitment to preserving our environment. Each race further proves ethanol is a reliable, high-performance fuel that has revitalized our rural communities and created more than 400,000 jobs across the country,” said Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy.

American-Ethanol-and-NASCAR-LogoAmerican Ethanol has partnered with NASCAR since 2011 to promote the use of biofuels by using Sunoco Green E15, a 15 percent ethanol blended fuel, across its three national series. American Ethanol also sponsors the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet SS driven by Sunoco Rookie of the Year™ contender and 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series™ Champion Austin Dillon.

I had a chance to catch up with Buis while in DC last week and this year’s American Ethanol program was one of several topics we discussed. Interview with Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis

Ethanol Advocate Honored by Corn Growers

Jere White (center) with his wife Linda and son Robert, honored by NCGA CEO Rick Tolman and president Martin Barbre

Jere White (center) with his wife Linda and son Robert, honored by NCGA CEO Rick Tolman and president Martin Barbre

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) celebrated the long and productive career of an ethanol advocate and industry leader during the recent Commodity Classic.

Jere White is retiring from the Kansas Corn Growers after leading that organization for a quarter of a century and was presented with the Meritorious Service Award from NCGA. He has been a strong supporter of the ethanol industry during that time and his son Robert is Director of Market Development for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

An avid motorcyclist, White had a serious accident in September 2012, and while he has made a remarkable recovery from critical injuries, he recently decided it was time to pass the reins of the association on to someone else.

classic14-greg-jereThe new Kansas Corn CEO, pictured here with Jere, is Greg Krissek – also a long-time ethanol advocate and industry leader. In his career, Greg has served as Assistant Secretary at the Kansas Department of Agriculture; Director of Operations at Kansas Corn and Kansas Grain Sorghum; Director of Government Affairs for ICM Inc. and, most recently was a manager at Kennedy and Coe, LLC. He has also served on many ethanol and agricultural association boards and on seven ethanol plant boards of directors.

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

California to Consider Updating ILUC for Biofuels

carb-14The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is holding two public workshops regarding the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) this week – one to discuss general updates to the LCFS regulation, and the second to discuss updates to the indirect land use change (iLUC) values. Stakeholder feedback is being solicited for both workshops.

The board will discuss a proposal to update iLUC values for corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, and soy biodiesel, as well as proposed iLUC values for canola biodiesel, sorghum ethanol, and palm biodiesel.

According to a staff concept paper released prior to the meeting, based on recommendations provided by an Expert Working Group, “(p)reliminary results indicate reductions in the iLUC values for soy biodiesel, sugarcane ethanol, and corn ethanol.” The paper states that ARB staff “contracted with experts to refine and improve the iLUC analysis” and as a result “has incorporated significant changes in the estimation of iLUC for biofuels.”

Among the model and data updates that were included in the new estimates are re-estimated energy sector demand and supply elasticity values; improved treatment of corn ethanol co-product (DDGS); improved treatment of soy meal, soy oil, and soy biodiesel; modified structure of the livestock sector;improved method of estimating the productivity of new cropland; adopting a consistent model version and set of model inputs for all biofuel pathways; and revised yield and demand responses to price.

The question is whether the reduction for corn ethanol will be significant enough to be what the industry believes is closer to reality. Some scientists consulted by CARB believe that they are still not using the most updated modeling methods to determine iLUC and that analyses conducted since the LCFS was adopted in 2009 show emissions for corn ethanol are less than half what was estimated at the time.

The adjustments will be presented by staff at the iLUC workshop, scheduled for Tuesday, March 11, from 1:00 – 5:00 pm.

Arming for a Fact-Based Fight Over Ethanol

bernens1It’s not always fact-based arguments proponents of ethanol are up against when battling Big Oil. But that’s why it’s all more important to make sure you have good facts on your side in the fight. Farmers who attended the recent Commodity Classic in San Antonio were able to sit in on a session titled, “Biofuels and the Renewable Fuels Standard, A Farmer’s Avenue to American Energy Independence,” to make sure they can talk about the success stories and silence ethanol’s critics.

“Because of our success, we’ve had Big Oil really come after us and say, ‘We’re not going to lose anymore market share,’” says Jack Bernens, session moderator and marketer of Syngenta’s Enogen corn, specifically designed for ethanol production. “When monopolies get threatened, they like to push back hard.”

Hear more of what Jack had to say here: Jack Bernens, Syngenta

jennings1Jack was joined on the panel by Brian Jennings with the American Coalition for Ethanol, who echoed Jack’s view that you’re not necessarily battling facts when it comes to taking on some of the myths put out by the petroleum industry.

“The message I was trying to relay to the corn growers is stay involved, remain engaged, get your neighbors and friends involved, and know that this isn’t a fact-based fight. When the fight is about facts, we always win,” Brian says, adding that ethanol doesn’t have to stoop to the lies and scare tactics of Big Oil.

Listen to Brian’s interview here: Brian Jennings, American Coalition for Ethanol

doxtad1Another effective tool in the fight is showing the positive change ethanol has brought to Rural America, creating better markets for farmers’ corn, helping the country achieve energy independence, and building up communities, like the one that Northwest Iowa corn farmer James Doxtad comes from. He says while many folks back in his home state are aware of the good the renewable fuel has brought to the heartland, too many people in the country just don’t know. “It’s amazing how many people out there are unaware of the advantages of ethanol. Ethanol is a good thing, and we’re producing a good product, and we’re doing it for a good reason.” he says.

Check out James’ interview here: James Doxtad, Holstein, Iowa

Meanwhile, all three might get some help spreading the word as Syngenta released a new documentary video titled, “Ethanol: Fueling Rural America’s Future – One Community at a Time,” that provides a platform for farmers, ethanol producers and industry advocates to share their passion for an industry critical to the future of agriculture and rural America.

Biodiesel Finds Allies at Commodity Classic

jobe1Commodity Classic is the annual meeting that attracts more than 7,000 corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum farmers, but it’s also a great place to find biodiesel and ethanol producers. Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) says they make sure to connect with their allies from the commodity groups, especially those soybean growers.

“Biodiesel is made from a variety of feedstocks, but soy has always been the predominant feedstock for biodiesel and will be going forward,” he says, although corn oil from ethanol plants and animal fats have been making their mark in the green fuel as well. “The soybean leadership has really created the roots for biodiesel, and we still come to connect with our soybean farmer friends and leaders and talk about the status of biodiesel.”

And there was plenty to talk about at Commodity Classic when it comes to biodiesel. The double-whammy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposing to cut in half the amount of biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply and the expiration of the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax credit has made for plenty of conversations. Joe is really perplexed at the cut to the share of biodiesel in the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) considering how biodiesel is able to make up a lot possible shortfalls from cellulosic and blend wall issues facing ethanol.

“Biodiesel filled virtually the whole advanced biofuel pool, not just the biomass-based diesel pool. And because biodiesel has been so successful, the advanced biofuel goals have been met or exceeded every single year of the [RFS, despite] other advanced biofuels not coming online as quickly as hoped,” Jobe says.

The soybean growers Jobe and his folks have been able to connect with at Commodity Classic have been big allies in the push to get the RFS levels restored, but he’s also seeing help coming from corn growers who obviously have a bigger stake in what happens to ethanol but are pushing to keep the RFS as it was intended because of how it lifts all biofuels. He’s optimistic all of their efforts will be successful. “We have to believe the EPA is going to do the right thing, because the right thing is so easy and so obvious,” said Jobe.

Listen to my interview with Joe here: Joe Jobe, CEO of NBB at Commodity Classic

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Documentary: How Ethanol Fuels America

Syngenta has released a new documentary video entitled “Ethanol: Fueling Rural America’s Future – One Community at a Time.” According to the company, the video provides a platform for farmers, ethanol producers and industry advocates to share their passion for an industry critical to the future of agriculture and rural America.

Syngenta developed the video to reinforce the ethanol industry’s positive impact on the U.S. economy and American energy independence. The company says ethanol production is a vital Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 9.57.34 AMcontributor to the national Gross Domestic Product, federal tax revenues, and the creation and support of new jobs across the country.

“As ethanol plants have moved into small towns and established their businesses, they have provided well-paying jobs and stabilized the corn market price,” said Jack Bernens, head of marketing and stakeholder relations for Syngenta. “That income is circulating back through rural communities. With the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) under scrutiny, we wanted to help tell that story.”

Ethanol is also helping consumers. A University of Wisconsin/Iowa State University study found that in 2011 ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by $1.09 per gallon nationally. Looking ahead to the adoption of blends with an ethanol level greater than E10, Growth Energy reports that the more than 170 million cars manufactured since 2001 are currently eligible to use E15, while more than 16 million flex-fuel vehicles are on the roads today.

“This demonstrates that there is a market ready for a less expensive, higher octane, more environmentally friendly alternative fuel,” added David Witherspoon, head of renewable fuels for Syngenta. “We have the vehicles capable of using blends higher than E10, but greater access to stations capable of providing it and the petroleum marketing industry’s support are needed to make that access a reality.”

Corn Growers Vow to Protect the RFS

nec14-insidersNow that the farm bill is a done deal, National Corn Growers Association Public Policy Vice President Jon Doggett says his organization has three main priorities for this year in Washington – protect the RFS, and protect the RFS, and protect the RFS.

That may seem redundant, but that’s just how important the Renewable Fuel Standard is for corn growers.

Doggett sat on the annual Washington Insiders panel at the National Ethanol Conference this week with Aaron Whitesel of DuPont, Kris Kiser with the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, and Shane Karr from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and Bob Greco of the American Petroleum Institute. Listen to the whole conversation between them, moderated by Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen: NEC Washington Insiders Panel

nec14-doggettOne of the questions directed to the panel was if they thought Congress would take any action on the RFS this year, and most said no but API’s Greco said they would continue to push for a permanent fix to the RFS, and NCGA’s Doggett warned the ethanol industry to be vigilant. “These folks are spending millions and millions of dollars to take away the RFS, the thing that has built your industry,” said Doggett. “Frankly I think everybody in this room ought to embrace a little paranoia on this one.”

During an interview with Domestic Fuel, Doggett was asked if the industry could continue to grow without the RFS. “I really don’t want to find out if that’s true or not … I don’t want to take that risk,” he said. Interview with Jon Doggett, NCGA

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Biofuels’ Feedstock Growers to Host Ag Secretary

vilsackccThe growers of the two biggest biofuels feedstocks, corn for ethanol and soybeans for biodiesel, will once again host the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for their biggest meeting of the year. For the fifth time in a row, Tom Vilsack will deliver the keynote address to Commodity Classic, the annual convention and trade show for corn, soybean, wheat and sorghum growers. This news releases says Vilsack speaks to an expected crowd of more than 6,000 during the event’s General Session on Friday, Feb. 28, in San Antonio, Texas.

“We are honored to welcome Secretary Vilsack-someone who has been a strong advocate and voice for agriculture-to a conference that is both focused on and led by farmers,” said American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser. “As we face many challenges in this industry throughout this next year- trade agreements and access, conservation and water quality, moving the RFS forward and access to innovative technology-we are excited to hear the secretary speak on these issues and other important topics that impact farmers who grow the nation’s food.”

“Secretary Vilsack has done a lot to support our growers, and to encourage all farmers to speak out and represent their industry at a time when the general public is more removed than ever from the farms that feed them,” said National Corn Growers Association President Martin Barbre. “We’re looking forward to his visit to Commodity Classic so he can speak with our growers and learn more about our great efforts to rebuild consumer trust in what we do.”

The 19th annual Commodity Classic is Feb. 27-March 1, 2014, along the banks of the famous River Walk at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Tex. Your ZimmComm New Media team will be there, including myself, bringing you the latest from this annual meeting of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers and National Sorghum Producers, America’s largest farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show.

Check out the 2014 Commodity Classic website www.commodityclassic.com for additional information.

Biofuel Groups React to SOTU

Corn farmers and biofuels producers are questioning President Obama’s commitment to an “all of the above” energy strategy mentioned in the State of the Union address, considering the administration’s proposal to cut the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) this year. The address Tuesday evening came just hours before the comment period on the EPA proposal ended.

sotu-2014“It was great to hear President Obama talk about the importance of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy,” commented National Corn Growers President Martin Barbre. “And you can’t have such a policy without biofuels. So, we call on his Administration to back away from its irresponsible proposal to reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

Fuels America released a statement echoing a similar sentiment, adding that they hope EPA will listen to those who will be impacted by changes in the RFS. “We hope the agency considers the thousands of comments from farm families, small business owners, labor groups and environmental advocates. These are the real people who will lose their livelihoods and their faith in this Administration’s commitment to a clean energy future if the EPA proceeds down its current path.”

The president mentioned agriculture in the opening minute of his speech, with an image of a farmer in a corn field as an example of the “citizens, who make the state of our union strong.”

President Obama did make note of progress made in solar energy during his address and called for an end to tax breaks for the oil industry. “Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar,” said the president. “Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.”

Farm Polices Impact on Precision Ag

nbb-14-kevin-rossMember of the National Corn Growers Association Board and director of Western Iowa Energy, LLC, Kevin Ross, chatted with Chuck after the opening session at the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference. They discuss farm policy and how precision agriculture technology has impacted his farming operation where he raises cattle and grows corn and soybeans.

Kevin shared that if we don’t move past what RFS has already provided then we become stuck and the innovation stops. He says everyone needs to do what they can to ensure the investments continue and technologies are utilized. He feels the government has given mixed signals and believes simple education on the issue could help.

“The Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) itself is vitally important to my operation at home and to my neighbors. Not just from the farming side, but also from the livestock side. Especially, operations like mine in western Iowa where we can utilize the fats and add value back to the livestock. I am not sure how many people know that its even possible. Let alone be done on an industrial scale. Agriculture is about value-added. Creating markets in those new economies within a broader ag industry is what it is all about.”

Kevin goes on to discuss what types of precision agriculture they have taken advantage of on his operation.

“On our farm it has been a fast ramp up of precision technology. Just a couple years ago on our own farm we’ve gone to auto steer. I couldn’t plant straight rows if I tried. We also use single row shut-offs and it has been a huge plus for us. Overall newer equipment is more efficient with yield monitors and data that we collect. We are going into a new soil data collection phase on our farm which is an entirely new way of doing it then before. We have made major advancement in the recent years and profitability in ag and RFS have really had a huge role in making that possible.”

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Kevin here: Interview with Kevin Ross

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Growing Use of Technology for Growers

nbb-14-frank-legnerCommodity groups across the country also took interest in the happenings at the recent National Biodiesel Conference. Frank Legner, Legner Farms is a member of the Illinois Soybean Association and attended the conference to relay the update on biodiesel to growers in Illinois. He talks about how he uses precision agriculture on his farm where they grow 50/50 soybeans and corn.

“With the high prices of commodities in the years previous farmers have used their capital in many different ways. Our farming operation decided to put our capital towards technology. Where we farm you could have about four different soil types on a piece of land and those soil types all have different productivity indexes that have been benchmarked from the University of Illinois. We use those soil maps as a good foundation of how we are going to come up with a plan. We soil sample on two and a half acre grids and when we make these sample sites we overlay them on our SMS advance desktop software to make sure that sample site is in one soil sample. When we get the readings from the lab, we use that to write our VRT recommendations.”

They can then compare results from previous years and start selecting what hybrids will work in each field. Frank said it is kind of like a draft. The multiple hybrid planting is something that he sees them utilizing in the very near future as well.

Frank also shared that colors don’t mix when you are dealing with this level of technology. He shared that precision planting has been the best way for them to use their green planter with their red tractor. Legner Farms has truly adopted the use of technology to create efficiency and increase profitability. He goes on to explain how they have taken advantage of different precision ag company’s innovations and looks forward to seeing what’s next.

You can listen to Chuck’s complete interview with Frank here: Interview with Frank Legner

2014 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album