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.

Idea Leads to Cellulosic Ethanol, Scholarship

classic14-basf-soyAn idea that started back when he was just an elementary school student has led a Tennessee high schooler to picking up a substantial scholarship that he says will help him further his own energy business. Caleb Brannon of Puryear, Tenn. was selected as the recipient of the 2014-2015 ASA Secure Optimal Yield (SOY) Scholarship, a $5,000 award presented to an outstanding high school senior who has achieved high academic and leadership requirements, and is planning to pursue a degree in an agriculture-related field at an accredited college or university.

“I’m really thankful to the American Soybean Association and BASF who were so generous in this scholarship,” he says. Brannon, a senior at Calloway County High School, will pursue a degree in agricultural business at Murray State University, Murray, Ky. beginning this fall. He already has his very own business, Brannon Agri-Energy, a company focusing on cellulosic ethanol that he actually thought up way back in the fifth grade!

“Our family farm was in a partnership with the University of Tennessee to grow switchgrass in a pilot program to be bailed and put in a coal-fired plant [in Alabama].” While other area farmers gave up after a few years, it led Brannon to researching other crops for what is now his cellulosic ethanol business, finding his own markets.

He adds that the scholarship money will free up what he would have spent on college to invest back into his business. But he says this is more than just his future; it’s the Nation’s future.

“I want to help our country become just a little bit more energy independent. That’s really important to me.”

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Brannon here: Interview with BASF SOY Scholarship Winner


BASF at the 2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Advanced Ethanol Here at Last

nec14-cellulosic-panelDuring the National Ethanol Conference, representatives of four leading companies talked about how advanced ethanol is here at last. Moderated by Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman, the panelists included Chris Standlee with Abengoa; Kenneth Hill with DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol; Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors; and Steve Hartig, Licensing General Manager for POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC.

nec14-standlee-2

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am thrilled to finally be able to say that this is the pivotal year for second generation ethanol for the United States and perhaps in the world,” said Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy, who talked about the upcoming launch of their 25 million gallon/year cellulosic ethanol facility in Hugoton, Kansas. The company has invested nearly 10 years into developing its own proprietary second-gen technology and the biorefinery in Kansas that will go online in 2014 is the fruition of this commitment. Learn more about Abengoa’s cellulosic refinery here: Remarks by Chris Standlee, Abengoa

Kenneth Hill with DuPontKenneth Hill with DuPont noted that his company is focused on bridging the gap between agriculture and advanced materials. This includes enzymes and cellulosic biofuels. DuPont is working with companies around the world to develop cellulosic biofuels, yet the project that may have the most attention is currently under construction in Nevada, Iowa. Learn about this project and others here: Remarks by Kenneth Hill, DuPont

Delayne Johnson Quad County Corn ProcessorsDelayne Johnson said that since Quad County Corn Processors went into production in 2002 they have continuously been looking for niche ways to add value to a kernel of corn. With the aid of R&D expert Travis Brotherson, five years ago he developed a now patented cellulosic process. The technology has added 6 percent to their yield, they are getting 2 1/2 times more corn oil than they had been getting, and are able to produce a higher protein feed product (DDG) than they had in the past. Quad County is currently in the process of building the technology out at full-scale and the cellulosic portion of their biorefinery is expected to begin production this summer. Learn more about Quad County’s cellulosic technology here: Remarks by Delayne Johnson, Quad Council Corn Processors

Steve Hartig with Poet DSMFor many years Poet has been talking about the future of cellulosic ethanol using corn residue – corn stover, corn cobs, etc. According to Steve Hartig, With major strides over the past few years and a key strategic partnership with DSM, Project Liberty is set to go into production later this summer. Project Liberty is co-located with a first generation ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Once in production, co-location will be their key strategy for several reasons included excess energy, infrastructure and personnel. Learn about Poet-DSM’s take on the advanced biofuels here: Remarks by Steve Hartig, POET-DSM

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Cold Winter Challenges Ethanol Plant Logistics

nec14-rail-bobAt the National Ethanol Conference last week, Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen had a discussion with Ed Hamberger, President and CEO, Association of American Railroads, on Regulatory Crackdown on Rail Transport. They discussed current government proposals focused on rail cars.

Hamberger kicked off the discussion by noting that ethanol has been one of the fastest growing commodity segments for the railroads growing from 40,000 rail cars of ethanol in 2000 to 330,000 in 2011- an 800 percent increase. While he said there were some challenges, new routes, new track, new employees, he said that over the years, the ethanol industry and the rail industry have become good partners for America. Rail Transportation conversation

nec14-patriot-vondraOne ethanol plant of many that is using the railroads to transport its ethanol and byproducts such as dried distillers grains (DDGs) is Patriot Renewable Fuels, located just off I-80 in Annawan, Illinois.  Using rail and trucks involves a lot of logistics and Patriot’s Rick Vondra has noted that with the cold weather over the last couple months they, along with other ethanol plants, have had challenges in moving their product, in particular rail movement.

“It’s been a tremendous challenge and we’ve had to find alternative ways to move our product,” explained Vondra. He said they are using more trucks but so are other plants and on top of the increased demand from their plant and the ethanol industry, the trucks still have other products to deliver.

So how is the weather affecting the railroad industry? Vondra said snow and ice have been a big factor because rail workers have to go and move switches that can get frozen. They have to remove ice from lines and with temperatures getting as cold as 20 below zero, workers can’t be outside long.

With the goal of increased use of E15 and other higher blends of ethanol being a recurring theme during the conference, I asked Vondra what some of his takeaways of this conversation were. He noted that Patriot is working closely with retailers, wholesalers, distributors and car dealers in their local community to educate people on the benefits of ethanol, but also to encourage more adoption and use of ethanol in the community.

Listen to my interview with Rick where he talks about cold logistic challenges as well as their work on ethanol education. Interview with Rick Vondra, Patriot Renewable Fuels

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Social Media War Room for Ethanol

Make no mistake about it. The ethanol industry is engaged in a war of words with anti-ethanol forces and every weapon in the arsenal needs to be deployed to fight against these well-funded opponents.

Christina MartinCommunications and Social Media War Room was the title of one of the breakout sessions at last week’s 2014 National Ethanol Conference. Renewable Fuels Association executive vice president Christina Martin moderated the discussion which included comments from Anne O’Neil, Vice President of The Glover Park Group, which is working for Fuels America, and Michael Fleischer, Senior Vice President of marketing agency Direct Impact.

Martin says the purpose of the session was to “capture the momentum” that a lot of ethanol producers built during the EPA comment period for the proposed change in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “They reached out as they never have before to their employees, to their investors and local communities and general supporters,” said Martin. Many ventured into social media for the first time and she says they want to keep that momentum going regardless of where the EPA decision on the RFS ends up.

Find out more in Chuck’s weekly podcast, the ZimmCast: Social Media with Christina Martin

Driving Through the Blend Wall

nec14-autos-panelWe’ve heard a lot about how higher ethanol blends might affect the producers of the green fuel and the impacts to consumers on the other end. But what about the viewpoint of those who have to build the vehicles on which these higher blends would run? Representatives from General Motors and Mercedes-Benz were among the experts on a panel at the National Ethanol Conference discussing “Driving Through the Blend Wall” from the automotive perspective.

Renewable Fuels Association vice president for technical services Kristy Moore moderated the panel which included Bill Woebkenberg, U.S. Fuels Technical and Regulatory Affairs, Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America; Coleman Jones, Biofuels Manager, General Motors; and Robert McCormick, Fuels Performance Platform Leader, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Woebkenberg pointed out that flex fuels are already here and should be attractive to consumers, considering the high-performance, high-octane features.

“It’s not a filler fuel; it’s a race fuel,” and he believes overcoming consumers’ misperceptions of poor performance is key. But he and his colleague from GM, said carmakers are worried less about the rhetoric that might be swirling around flex fuels and more about what the final rules coming out of Washington might say.

“Automakers are a regulated industry, and we pay a lot more attention to the regulations than we pay attention to the words, because these regulations are the deeds by which we have to live with our business and have to be distinguished from the words we hear,” said Jones.

McCormick offered some insight to their review of 43 studies about ethanol, which should give the rulemakers more information by which those automakers have to live. He said overall they found no failures of E15 in performance.

“The use of E15, in our opinion, is likely to have little impact on 2001 and newer model year vehicles,” he told the audience gathered.

McCormick concluded the panel saying there are paths forward with the higher ethanol blends in the market, for carmakers and consumers alike.

Check out the entire session here: NEC Auto Perspective Panel

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Patriot Out Front with Ethanol

nec14-patriot-darryllPatriot Renewable Fuels wants to be the “poster child” for other ethanol plants when it comes to marketing higher blends in their own communities.

You might remember Darrell Rakestraw as the veteran we interviewed last fall about the EPA proposal to lower the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). When we spoke to him last week at his first National Ethanol Conference, Rakestraw was three months into his job as market development manager for Patriot. “I’ve learned a lot in three months,” he said. “The one thing I got out of (the conference) is that we have to help ourselves, we have to put the funds in to do the educational piece because no one else is going to do it.”

Listen to my interview with Darrell here: Interview with Darrell Rakestraw, Patriot Renewable Fuels

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

State Level Blend Walls Update

nec14-randy-jenningsThe phrase “all politics is local” seems like it sure could apply to some of the decisions to overcome the ethanol blend wall. Challenges to increasing ethanol in the marketplace exist on the state level as well as the federal level, and participants at the National Ethanol Conference learned more about efforts to break down the blend wall in various states, including Tennessee, where Randy Jennings is Director of Program Operations for the state Department of Agriculture Division of Consumer & Industry Services.

“Definitely, the walls are falling,” is how Jennings described the results so far of their efforts, along with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), to increase the amount of ethanol to be blended into gasoline in his state.

He said they brought together various Tennessee state agencies, such as the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation (the regulator of fuel storage tanks), Commerce and Insurance, and Department of Labor and Workforce Development, as well as stakeholding industries in Tennessee. They are proposing some key changes in current rules to also be proposed at this summer’s National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM). Those changes include: an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waiver for up to 15 percent ethanol, redefining E85 and how it is marketed, and proposing yellow grip guards at the pump just for flex-fuels, among other proposed changes. Jennings hopes that there will be more fuel choices for consumers, while working with the industry.

“We remain committed to working with all stakeholders in a fair, consistent manner.”

Hear more of his remarks here: Comments from Randy Jennings, Tennessee Department of Agriculture

nec14-kristy-mooreMeanwhile, RFA Vice President for Technical Services Kristy Moore outlined some of the challenges they face on the state level, including EPA’s restrictions during the summer volatility season.

“[For example in the Kansas City, Kansas area], gasoline in the summer must [meet EPA's capped requirements]. Gasoline in that area blended with 9-10 percent ethanol is allowed an 8 PSI requirement. But gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, has to meet the more restrictive [requirement],” she explained. And then in the rest of the state of Kansas, there are other requirements for E10 and E15 and above blends.

Moore said they have needed to work state-by-state, making sure they were not crossing laws already on the books and trying to get legislatures to make changes so there could be an increase in blends and more uniform blending rules across the country. She believes they’ve helped eliminate impediments in many states.

“We’ve really have had some major success, major education, and a lot of good partnerships in these state regulators to understand what E15 fuels can do, what blender pumps can do, what E85 can do for their marketplace and their fuel markets.”

Listen to more of here remarks here: Comments from Kristy Moore, RFA

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Ethanol Exports Important to Industry

nec14-patriot-juddExports of both ethanol and the animal feed co-product distillers dried grains (DDGs) are important for Patriot Renewable Fuels, located near the Quad Cities and not far from Chicago.

Patriot commodity manager Judd Hulting attended a trade mission with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) to Brazil last fall. “It’s just another outlet for our 200 or so investors,” he says. “We are actually close to 100% dependent on the export market for our distillers grains so branching out both in the ethanol and the DDG market is very important for our profitability going ahead.” Interview with Judd Hulting, Patriot Renewable Fuels

nec14-hubbardRFA General Counsel Ed Hubbard led that mission to Brazil last fall and talked about it during a panel at the National Ethanol Conference on Expanding the Global Marketplace for U.S. Ethanol.

“We had a very successful mission opening new business for individuals that participated,” said Hubbard. “We are the global leader in ethanol production, producing 57% of the world’s output.”

Hubbard noted that U.S. ethanol exports surged to 82.4 million gallons in November, with large volumes finding their way into new or emerging markets such as China and India, as well as the Philippines, Tunisia, Panama, and Mexico. Ethanol exports totaled 621.5 million gallons in 2013, the third-highest annual total on record. Comments from RFA General Counsel Ed Hubbard

Also on the export panel were:

Eco-Energy CEO Chad Martin – Comments from Chad Martin, Eco-Energy
DATAGRO Consulting president Plinio Nastari – Comments from Plinio Nastari, DATAGRO
U.S. Department of Commerce trade specialist Cora Dickson – Comments from Cora Dickson, US Commerce Dept.

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

NEC Global Ethanol Conversation

nec14-globalIt is always interesting to hear the perspectives of different countries during the National Ethanol Conference global panel and to see the similarities as well as differences in viewpoint.

The panel was moderated by Bliss Baker, Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, and included Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen, as well as (from left to right): Joel Velasco, Senior Advisor to Board of UNICA; Scott Thurlow, President, Canadian Renewable Fuels Association; Jayant Godbole, President and Director PRAJ Americas, Inc.; and Robert Vierhout, Secretary-General, ePURE

nec14-epureA few years ago, it was Brazil and the United States sparring with each other over ethanol trade and tariffs, but now it is the Europeans who are challenging the U.S. ethanol industry in the export arena.

“The real loser in the EU’s nonsensical action is the European consumer, who is being denied access to low cost high performance renewable fuels,” Dinneen said in his state of the industry address. Vierhout challenged that assertion on the panel. “Bob, please wake up,” said Vierhout. “If you would export your ethanol to Europe, who’s going to gain? Not the consumer, it’s the oil companies.”

Even Brazil and Canada fired back at Vierhout over Europe’s policy. “I’ll summarize for Rob,” said Velasco. “He’s never met a gallon, or a liter, or hectoliter, of ethanol imports that he likes.”

Thurlow questioned how this would play in the current European-U.S. trade negotiations. “I don’t see how your position can be tenable, Rob, if you are going to have a dispute resolution mechanism that will basically make it impossible for these types of ‘snap-back tariffs’ to be put on,” he said. To which Vierhout replied, “There’s still a possibility (the trade agreement) will exclude ethanol.”

Listen to the conversation here and watch the European exchange on video below: Growing Global Ethanol Industry Panel Discussion

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Students Interested in Ethanol

The 2014 National Ethanol Conference scholarship winners are three totally different young men who all share the common interest of ethanol.

nec14-gavin-bobGavin Kenney is a farm boy from Nebraska who is about to graduate from the University of Nebraska with a major in agricultural economics and minors in agronomy and entrepreneurship. He grew up around the ethanol industry and is the brother of a previous scholarship recipient. Tyler will be going to work for Producers Hybrids when he graduates in May. “A conference like this gives me a good opportunity to network and talk to people,” he said. Gavin is pictured here with Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. Interview with student Gavin Kenney

nec14-grundler-aaronAaron Walsh, pictured here with EPA official Chris Grundler, gained industry attention when he drove all the way from Michigan on his own dime to testify at the EPA hearing in December on the RFS proposal. A self-described “activist” who is devoted to using E85 in his flex fuel vehicle, even when it is inconvenient, Aaron got a job at a local ethanol plant as a result of that testimony. “Both my fuel and my car are made less than a hour from where I live,” he says proudly. Interview with student Aaron Walsh

nec14-tylerTyler Machado was born in Mexico, grew up in North Carolina and is currently attending San Francisco State University studying Environmental Studies and Spanish. His interest in renewable fuels began when he converted a 1981 Mercedes 300D to run on vegetable oil and he plans to travel to South America this summer to learn about renewable fuel projects and sustainable energy methods. Interview with student Tyler Machado

This is the fifth consecutive year Renewable Fuels Foundation has funded the scholarship to attend the NEC has been available to students in higher education with a focus on renewable fuels and intending to pursue a career in the industry.

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Engine Experts Talk Ethanol

nec14-engine-panelSpecialists in the areas of auto, motorcycle and small engines presented their experience with ethanol fuels in the real world during the National Ethanol Conference.

The panel was moderated by radio host and automotive expert Bobby Likis of Bobby Likis Car Clinic in Pensacola. “In 43 years, more than 200,000 cars have rolled through the doors of my automotive service shop,” said Likis. “Not one of my customers has lost or damaged an engine due to ethanol.” Comments by Bobby Likis, radio host and automotive expert

The panel featured:
Dr. Andrew Randolph, Technical Director with Earnhardt Childress Racing Engines – Comments by Andrew Randolf, Earnhardt Childress
Brian West, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Deputy Director Fuels, Engines and Emissions Research – Comments by Brian West, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bryan O’Neill, Auto Service Consultant and Vice President of the Iron Order International Motorcycle Club, Pensacola Chapter – Comments by Bryan O'Neill, motorcycle expert and advocate

O’Neill’s related that his own ride – a 2012 Victory Cross Country that “runs like a scalded dog” – has run on only E10 “from day one.” Regarding the use of E15, O’Neill made it clear that the bikers he knows are well aware that it is illegal to use that in their rides and they are capable of reading labels at the pump. “We’re bikers and I admit we’ve been known to do some dumb things, but we’re not stupid,” he said. “We know what to pump. It’s that simple.”

O’Neill is the star of a Bobby Likis Car Clinic/RFA video on motorcycles and ethanol.

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Ethanol Report on New Economic Study

ethanol-report-adAt the 19th annual National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, the Renewable Fuels Association unveiled a new study by ABF Economics entitled “Contribution of the Ethanol Industry to the Economy of the United States.”

The author of that study was John Urbanchuk, who is the go-to economist for the biofuels industry – but he was unable to be at the conference so we caught up with him by phone for this edition of “The Ethanol Report.” Ethanol Report with economist John Urbanchuk on new ethanol economic study

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

RFA Ethanol Industry Outlook and Pocket Guide

nec14-guideEvery registration packet at the National Ethanol Conference included two new publications from the Renewable Fuels Association – the annual 2014 Ethanol Industry Outlook and 2014 Pocket Guide to Ethanol.

The publications offer both a comprehensive look at the ethanol industry today and a succinct industry overview in a pocket-sized package. They include information about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), next generation biofuels, expansion of higher level ethanol blends, the global marketplace, food vs. fuel, and an updated map of biorefineries across America.

If you would like to get copies of the publications contact RFA’s Chris Findlay at 202-289-3835 or cfindlay@ethanolrfa.org – and both are available on line.

2014 Ethanol Industry Outlook
2014 Pocket Guide to Ethanol

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

19th National Ethanol Conference is a Wrap

nec14-bob-zepThe 19th annual National Ethanol Conference was one of the best ever, with strong attendance and a program that rocked.

Personally, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen thought the Led Zeppelin 2 concert for the networking reception was the highlight of the conference, but there were lots of other great acts.

“It was a substantive agenda and from start to finish there were really good conversations about issues of real importance,” Dinneen said at the conclusion of the event on Wednesday. “I’m really happy with the content, but just the mood around the room was really phenomenal.”

An address by the EPA official
in charge of making the proposed changes in the volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was definitely another highlight of the conference. “He truly is just trying to do the right thing,” Dinneen said about Chris Grundler, EPA Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “I think the world of him. I may not agree with everything he says or does but I know that he’s doing it sincerely.”

nec14-pacSomething new at the NEC this year was the membership PAC auction that was held to support the RFA Political Action Committee which started just last year. “We hadn’t had one up until that point,” said Dinneen, who gave a lot of credit to auctioneer Todd Barlow of Kentucky for helping to raise a good amount of dollars for a good cause. “It really is challenging to raise money in this fashion but it was a lot of fun and we’re going to continue to grow this event.”

Among the more entertaining acts of the conference were the traditional Washington Insiders panel and the global ethanol panel. Attendance was more than 1100 at the event in Orlando, more than the past two years, and they are the “right people, people that are truly invested, truly committed, truly looking to build a future for their companies and their communities as well,” said Dinneen.

The RFA’s marching orders in 2014 are simple – Protect the RFS and tell the government #KeepYourWord. Next year the 20th anniversary National Ethanol Conference will be held in Dallas. Interview with Bob Dinneen, RFA at close of NEC14

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC