The award was given by RFA at the National Ethanol Conference this week in Orlando “in gratitude for the sustained vision, innovation, and devotion to making cellulosic ethanol a commercial success.”
“Gerson is truly one of the great pioneers in the cellulosic ethanol industry. His work at the Department of Energy two decades ago helped provide the scientific foundation many companies are relying upon today to move advanced biofuel technologies forward.” said Dinneen. “And his continued leadership over the past 10 years in bringing cellulosic ethanol to commercial success at Abengoa is a testament to his grit, his genius and his creativity.” 2014 RFS Industry Award
On Tuesday at the conference, Abengoa Bioenergy executive vice president Christopher Standlee participated in a panel on advanced ethanol plants coming on line this year, including their facility in Hugoton, Kansas. “We’re very excited to finally start that up and we’re in the process of that right now,” he said.
I talked with Standlee about the new plant, what the impact of changing the RFS could have on future plans for Abengoa, and mood at the 19th annual National Ethanol Conference. Interview with Chris Standlee, Abengoa
Tying in to the first part of the theme “Falling Walls, Rising Tides”, the second panel at the 2014 National Ethanol Conference was focused on Breaking Down the Blend Wall.
The panel, moderated by Renewable Fuels Association Director of Market Development Robert White, featured infrastructure experts who discussed efforts underway to expand options for retailers and overall availability of ethanol blends above E10.
Bruce Sprague, Product Manager, Gilbarco Veeder-Root
Patrick Jeitler, Dispenser Product Manager – North America, Wayne, A GE Energy Business
Steve Walk, VP of Business Development, Protec
The Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency addressed the National Ethanol Conference on Wednesday morning on issues related to the Renewable Fuel Standard and EPA’s proposal for the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO).
Chris Grundler was scheduled to be on a panel at the NEC Tuesday but had a conflict and instead had the stage to himself to talk about how the EPA came up with the proposal that shocked the ethanol industry when it was released last fall. “You deserve to really understand what went into our thinking on that,” he said. “The most disappointing thing I heard in the reporting is that EPA no longer supports the development of biofuels, and I’m hear to tell you that’s wrong.”
“Our overriding goal with this 2014 RVO proposal is to put the RFS in what we call a manageable trajectory while continuing to support the growth of renewable fuels in our transportation supply,” he said. “We have to address some of the practical realities that we see today in the marketplace.”
Grundler stressed that the proposal is just that and it could be changed. He also noted that EPA received over 100,000 written comments during the comment period with 6,000 “unique” comments, and that the hearing held in early December was a record. He added that they do intend to try and meet the goal of finalizing the rule by the end of spring.
A disarmingly un-bureaucratic bureaucrat, Grundler was forthcoming and even funny in his short presentation and afterword even met with reporters to answer questions. Comments by Chris Grundler, EPA
I never got to see Led Zeppelin live but last night I found out what it would have been like when Led Zeppelin 2 performed for the National Ethanol Conference. This band is fantastic. You can see what I mean in the video below (Dazed and Confused).
Playing Jimmy Page on stage is Paul Kamp, founding partner of Leifmark and heads the commercialization efforts for Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology. In other words, he’s directly involved in the ethanol industry. After his performance I got to talk with him about his dual role career.
The first panel of the 2014 National Ethanol Conference dealt with the impact of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) on the ethanol industry – today and tomorrow. Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President for Research and Analysis Geoff Cooper moderated the panel which featured remarks from Bruce Babcock, Cargill Chair of Energy Economics at Iowa State University and Steffen Mueller, Principal Economist with the University of Illinois at Chicago and Genscape, Inc.
Mueller talked about his research into how biofuels have helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The RFS2 works as intended,” he said. “It reduces greenhouse gas emissions relative to petroleum. The biofuels industry has a very high rate of technology adoption – much higher than in other sectors – and that reduces the greenhouse gas balance. The RFS2 encourages the adoption of that technology and will so in the future.”
He specifically noted that “tight oils” or fracking have higher greenhouse gas emissions or carbon intensity values compared to traditional petroleum.
The chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association this year is Neill McKinstray, President of the Ethanol Group for The Andersons, Inc.
McKinstray welcomed attendees to the 19th annual National Ethanol Conference on Tuesday in beautiful, sunny Central Florida. “Like many of you here I’m very happy to be away from the polar vortexes and the snow drifts of the Midwest,” he said, noting that his company is headquartered in Toledo, Ohio and is part owner of four ethanol plants located in Ohio, Iowa, Indiana and Michigan. NEC Welcome by Neill McInstray, RFA Chairman
During an interview with Domestic Fuel, McKinstray expressed optimism about the future of the ethanol industry as it heads into the future. “We have our challenges, but the industry continues to show strength and vitality,” he said.
It is often said that the goal of a keynote speaker is to set the tone for a conference but the goal of the address given by Dave Whikehart of Marathon Petroleum Company at the National Ethanol Conference was more to allow the ethanol industry to hear the perspective of a fuel refinery partner.
Whikehart tried to explain why the petroleum industry has problems with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “Marathon petroleum supports corn ethanol because it is a transportation fuel and we are in the transportation fuel business,” he stressed, noting that they have a history of investing in and marketing corn ethanol blends. “What we do not support is government intervention in our markets and mandates that attempt to force products on our customers.”
As director of Product Supply and Optimization for Marathon, Whikehart made quite a few comments that the ethanol industry disputes when it comes to refiners being able to comply with the RFS going forward. He stated that demand for E85 is “non-existant” and that “E85 sales have limited growth potential.” In addition, Whikehart called introduction of E15 a “non-starter” due primarily to liability issues.
The ethanol industry disagrees and the rest of the NEC program this week is dedicated to proving that the RFS is working and that refiners and retailers can do what is needed to meet the goals of the program.
Calling it a “mixed metaphor,” Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen said in his “State of the Ethanol Industry” address today that it is appropriate and will come to define the year ahead.
“2014 will be the year the blend wall comes crashing down. 2014 will be the year the cellulose wall is cracked.” said Dinneen. “And 2014 had better be the year we take the brick and mortar away from Big Oil and deny them their wall of ignorance and misinformation that undermines public support for ethanol.”
“How will these walls tumble? By reminding people time and again that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’”
Dinneen hammered home the simple message they will be delivering to Washington this year. “Keep. Your. Word.” when it comes to the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Hello from the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, FL. This morning we’ll live stream Bob Dinneen’s, Renewable Fuels Association, annual state of the industry address. Introductions will start at 8am, est., with Bob scheduled at 8:15am. We’re also recording it to post afterward. When you click on the player below it will start with a short commercial before the live feed.
Post Update: You can now watch the recorded video of the live stream below.
Breaking news. Ethanol industry gets break from winter. How? By attending the 2014 National Ethanol Conference in Orlando. The Domestic Fuel team is on the scene.
It’s a beautiful sunny day to start things off with some fun activities like the annual golf tournament or an Everglades airboat ride. I took golf pictures while Cindy is checking out the Florida wildlife.
To kick off our coverage of this year’s conference I interviewed the Reverand of Renewable Fuels, Bob Dinneen, Renewable Fuels Association. As you might expect, Bob says they’ll be talking a lot about the EPA and the Renewable Fuels Standard. He likes the mood of attendees and says they’re optimistic. I personally think the sunshine and warm temps are helping!
Cellulosic ethanol is not just a fuel of the future; it’s here today. And at the recent 8th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit held in Altoona, Iowa, Steve Mirshak from DuPont’s cellulosic division talked with Joanna about what this fuel will soon bring.
“This is a real fuel,” Steve said, pointing out that DuPont is on track to commercializing the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa this summer… a project worked on for nearly 15 years and will produce 30 million gallons a year. He went on to say that cellulosic ethanol has zero net carbon emissions, contributes to energy independence, and is great for economic development. Plus, Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) goals are being achieved today. “This is the second generation [of biofuels]. It’s here. We’ve been talking about it for a long time, and in 2014 it’s here.”
Steve said, though, the only thing that could stop the momentum now seems to be the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to cut the amount of ethanol and biodiesel to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply.
“Clearly the policy debate in the United States is dampening investors’ commitment to build out this industry. We don’t need [our leaders in Washington] to change anything. We need Washington to reinforce their commitment to the [RFS]. With stable policy, we’ll see rapid growth [in the advanced biofuels industry], and we’ll meet the bi-partisan goals Congress already passed,” Steve said.
U.S. exports of the ethanol co-product distillers grains set a new record last year and exports of ethanol were lower but still strong.
According to the latest government statistics, exports of distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS) totaled a record 9.7 million metric tons (mmt) last year, up 31% from 2012 and well above the previous record of 9.0 mmt set in 2010. China was the leading destination for U.S. distillers grains, taking 46% of the total, with Mexico and Canada a distant second and third.
U.S. exports of ethanol totaled 621.5 million gallons in 2013, down from the previous year but still the third-highest annual total on record. Canada was by far the leading export market for the year, receiving 52% of the total. The Philippines ranked second, followed by Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, and Mexico. Meanwhile, U.S. ethanol imports were down 27% from 2012, making the United States a net exporter of 226.3 mg in 2013, roughly a 24% increase over 2012 net exports.
“U.S. produced ethanol is the world’s lowest cost liquid transportation fuel. As such, we anticipate that export opportunities will continue to grow as countries across the globe recognize the air quality, high octane and superior performance of renewable ethanol,” said Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association.
Signing the new farm bill into law on Friday, President Obama commented that the legislation “supports businesses working to develop cutting edge biofuels” which have the “potential to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” The president also announced a new “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative “to help more rural businesses expand and hire and sell more products.”
In response, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen noted the great economic benefit biofuels production has brought to rural America. “Under the Renewable Fuel Standard, the U.S. ethanol industry created and supported over 386,000 jobs in the past year,” said Dinneen. “To build on the success of the Farm Bill, we call on President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the RFS and restore the 2014 conventional ethanol requirement to its statutory level.”
During a press call about the benefits of the farm bill for bioenergy, Matt Carr with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), also pointed out the importance of the RFS. “The Renewable Fuel Standard is really the fundamental policy foundation for the growth of the advanced biofuels industry,” said Carr, noting that BIO submitted comments to EPA regarding the proposal to lower the volume requirements under the law. “That proposal puts at serious risk the investment (our members) have made in advanced biofuels projects.”
“We like to say that the farm bill policy as well as the tax code work hand in hand with the RFS to help accelerate the adoption and deployment of advanced biofuels,” Carr added.
“Renewable chemicals are now defined in the farm bill, an important and long overdue change,” said Matt Carr, BIO Industrial and Environmental Director about that inclusion in the Biorefinery Assistance Program and Biomass Research and Development Program, which had been primarily for advanced biofuel projects.
One of the participants in the call was Hugh Welsh, President of DSM North America, the Netherlands-based company that partnered with POET two years ago on cellulosic ethanol production. “We’ve made significant investments in the United States over the past three years,” said Welsh. “Some of that, in excess of $150 million, has been directly into the biofuels base and we’re encouraged by the inclusion of biochemicals in the farm bill.”
While DSM used its own funds for investment rather than taking advantage of the program, Welsh says it will help others. “We see the loan guarantee program now extended to biochemicals as something that offers greater opportunity for the development of this technology going forward,” in licensing the technology to others and “ultimately creating a true biorefinery.”
Welsh noted that the two technologies will work together. “We’re looking to grow both the advanced biofuels business and the biochemistry business,” he said.
Also participating in the call were Agriculture Energy Coalition co-director Lloyd Ritter, and Renmatix Senior VP Mark Schweiker.