Minnesota Gov Mark Dayton Kicks Off 27th ACE Conf

Minnesota Gov Mark DaytonThe 27th Annual Ethanol Conference kicked off last night with some brief remarks from Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) annual event, taking place at the Depot Renaissance Hotel, began with hundreds of ethanol advocates who heard from Governor Dayton that he appreciated ethanol producers, “for what you are doing,” to boost the nation’s energy independence, lower gas prices, and clean the environment.

Governor Dayton noted that ethanol enjoys overwhelming bi-partisan support in the Minnesota legislature “because we know it is good for Minnesota and the nation”. He noted that Minnesota is the nation’s fourth largest ethanol producing state and there is support for higher blends of ethanol, such as E15 and E85. He also advocated that every vehicle should be a flexible fuel vehicle (FFV), capable of burning higher blends of ethanol so consumers can have a choice at the pump.

Check out the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

Increasing Ethanol Yield

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

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

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

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

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Oxygenate from Ethanol and Corn

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

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

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

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

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Pacific Ethanol Gets $3 Mil Grant for Sorghum

Pacific Ethanol logoCalifornia-based Pacific Ethanol, Inc. received a $3 million grant from the California Energy Commission to develop sorghum as a feedstock for ethanol. This company news release says it will work with Chromatin, Inc., CSU Fresno’s Center for Irrigation Technology and the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center.

This undertaking also includes the California In-State Sorghum Program to support a lasting expansion in California’s ability to produce low-carbon ethanol from in-state feedstock that meets both the renewable fuel and greenhouse gas reduction goals stipulated under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard.

Neil Koehler, the company’s president and CEO, stated: “We are honored to receive this important grant, which supports Pacific Ethanol’s collaboration with California Agriculture and the other ethanol producers in California toward the long-term development of sorghum feedstock for advanced biofuel production at both our Madera and Stockton California facilities.”

Pacific Ethanol is the leading producer and marketer of low-carbon renewable fuels in the Western United States with four ethanol production facilities capable of producing a total of 200 million gallons each year.

Ethanol on the Road to Sturgis

Fueled with Pride 2014 Motorcycle RallyMany bikes are already rolling into the Black Hills of South Dakota ahead of the 74th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which officially kicks off on Monday. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) will once again be there at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground to promote ethanol to the motorcycle set. Approximately 500,000 motorcyclists from all over the world gather in Sturgis, S.D., for the week-long rally that offers a unique opportunity to promote the benefits of high-octane, low-cost ethanol.

Robert White, director of market development for RFA, says this year marks the 6th year that RFA has been involved in the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the Free Fuel Happy Hours are back by popular demand, offering motorcycle riders a free tank of E10 93-octane fuel. The fuel is brought in specifically for the rally and riders can receive their free tank at 1–4 pm Tuesday-Thursday, August 5-7. Robert says that they really just want to help educate the riders about using E10 in their bikes.

I’ll be attending the rally this year with RFA and looking forward to the Legends Ride as well as spending time at the Buffalo Chip Campground that turns into quite the entertainment junction where many of the concerts will be taking place. Domestic Fuel will have all your coverage from Sturgis Motorcycle Rally once again. Stay tuned!

Interview with Robert White, RFA

Ethanol Safety Seminars Head to Alabama & Kansas

The Ethanol Safety Seminars are heading to Alabama and Kansas. The first seminar will be held August 7, 2014 at the Alabama Fire College in Tuscaloosa and is co-hosted by Alabama Southern Railroad and the second seminar will be held on August 8, 2014 at Doster Community Center in Prattville and is co-hosted by Autauga Northern Railroad. Tuscaloosa is hosting two sessions: from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and 5:30 pm to 10:00 pm.
Seminars are free, but registration is limited. Lunch and dinner will be provided. Certificates will be awarded to attendees at the completion of the course.

The Ethanol Safety Seminars then head to Kansas. The first seminar is August 11–12, 2104 at the Overland Park Fire Training Center near Kansas City co-hosted by the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad with sessions from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. The next seminar is August 13, 2014 at the Webster Conference Center in Salina, followed by the final seminar on August 14, 2104 at Pratt Community College near Wichita. Both will be co-hosted by Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad and both will have morning sessions (9 am- 2pm) and evening sessions (5 pm- 10 pm).

Ethanol Safety Seminar LogoAll seminars are funded by a Federal Railroad Administration grant through TRANSCAER. RFA has been a TRANSCAER member since 2007.

The goal of these seminars is for attendees to gain full ethanol emergency response training experience that they can put to use immediately in the field as well as pass along to other first response teams. A majority of this training is based on the “Training Guide to Ethanol Emergency Response,” a training package created by the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition (EERC) that has been distributed throughout the United States and to several countries worldwide.

“Rail has proven itself to be one of the safest modes of transportation for hazardous materials over the years,” said Jimmy Patterson, general manager at Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad. “We must be mindful of possible risks, however, and be ready to respond should an incident occur. The Ethanol Safety Seminars provide emergency responders with the training they need to effectively react to a sudden event.”

Attendees will receive in-depth information on proper training techniques that first responders and hazmat personnel need to effectively respond to an ethanol-related emergency. While primarily targeting first responders, hazmat teams, safety managers, and local emergency planning committees, it is also open to the general public.

“The public relies on the nation’s first responders to protect them during the worst of emergency events,” said Kristy Moore, RFA vice president of technical services. “With these seminars, RFA makes sure that personnel receive the training they need to tackle these safety challenges before venturing into potentially hazardous conditions.”

USGC Calls on China to Approve Biotech Cert for DDGS

China is considering whether it will approve MIR 162, a biotech certification requirement for distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS) by the Chinese import inspection authority (AQSIQ). Today, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is calling on China to approve the certification that would follow the point of origin. In this case, U.S. shipments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, guaranteeing that the shipment is free of the biotech trait. Although MIR 162 is not been approved, the country has already passed a mandate against biotech traits that have caused disruptions in existing DDGS trade and making future trade more difficult.

distillers_grains_ Photo US Grains Council“China is asking for something that cannot be done. This certificate they’re asking for does not exist,” said Tom Sleight, USGC’s president and CEO. “It’s time for China to look at and approve this trait. It’s been approved for commercialization in the United States since 2010, and it’s been approved by all importing countries, including the European Union, for quite some time. We think that the lack of approval of MIR 162 is becoming an undue impediment on trade.”

The Council is working to address the new disruption to DDGS trade with the U.S. government and the U.S. ambassador to China, as well as with MAIZALL, which represents grower organizations in several major corn exporting countries. In addition, USGC staff and consultants around the world are working with other markets interested in DDGS, in part because prices have declined.

Sleight concluded, “We have some really excellent prospects that are panning out quite nicely, particularly in Mexico, Taiwan, Canada, the rest of Latin America and Korea. There’s a lot of interest in this product.”

Oily Palms

According to Americans United for Change (AUC), Iowa Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst has attracted national attention with her stance on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – that she is not supportive of subsidies. This before the news broke last week that the billionaire oil baron Koch brothers maxed out their contributions to Ernst’s campaign on top of the over $20,000 the Koch donor network has funneled to her campaign coffers. The new breaking news is that ExxonMobil PAC is toasting Ernst at a $1,000 a plate in Washington, D.C. this Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

In response, AUC, a pro biofuels and pro-RFS organization, is hitting the radio waves this week in Des Moines, Iowa calling on Ernst to choose a side: Iowa jobs, or Big Oil profits. However, AUC said Ernst seemed to side with the latter.

The group cites that when Ernst was pressed to take a firm stand on the RFS, Ernst stressed she’s “philosophically opposed” to farm subsidies and that she “want[s] people to choose products that work for them and not have them mandated by the United States government.” Not exactly the ringing endorsement for ethanol that Iowa rural communities may be hoping to hear, said AUC.

Jeremy Funk, Comm. Dir., Americans United for Change, which recently ran full page ads in Iowa urging Ernst to clarify her muddy RFS position, said, “There’s easy choices and there’s hard choices. For someone hoping to represent a state that leads the nation in renewable fuels production, you might think that unconditional support for the Renewable Fuel Standard and 73,000 Iowa jobs would be a no-brainer. But for some reason, it’s a hard choice for Joni Ernst.”

“Big Oil has taken notice of Ernst’s begrudging support for the RFS while remaining ‘philosophically opposed’ to it. What is a telling choice is for Ernst to welcome Big Oil’s support with open arms at a decadent Washington fundraiser this week,” continued Funk. “Big Oil lobbyists would love nothing more than to be able to say, “You see, even a Senator from Iowa thinks the RFS is unnecessary.” Big Oil would love to be able to use Ernst as a poster child in their multi-million smear campaign to drive ethanol out of business. They hate that consumers have a cheaper and cleaner option at the pump thanks to Iowa renewable fuels. They hate that every gallon sold of ethanol produced domestically means one less gallon sold of gas made from dirty crude oil from unstable regions like Iraq.”

Funk noted that the more money Ernst receives from Big Oil interest, the more reluctant her support for renewable fuels.” Ernst needs to get her priorities straight: choosing between Iowa’s economy and the special interests shouldn’t be a choice at all,” Funk concluded.

RFA to DOE: Update Your E85 Data!

Today the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling on the Department of Energy (DOE) to accurately account for all stations selling E85. According to RFA, the DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center is missing a vast number of E85 stations – nearly 1,000- after comparing the list to the “crowd-sourced” website E85Prices.com that lists 3,449 retail locations offering E85.

RFANewlogo“The AFDC database is way off in its reporting of E85 stations, and this is negatively influencing discussions over the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements. It isn’t just a handful of stations that are missing; we are talking about the exclusion of hundreds of stations nationwide. In fact, they missed 40 percent of the stations that are included in other databases! That’s simply unacceptable,” said Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA.

In a letter sent to the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the RFA illustrates the central role of the database in crucial policy decisions, stating, “EPA’s mistaken belief that existing E85 refueling infrastructure is insufficient to distribute the 2014 RFS volumes specified in the statute is based in large part on information from the AFDC. As a result, the Agency wrongly proposed to reduce required renewable fuel blending volumes in 2014.”

Dinneen stressed the urgent need for updated, accurate information as the EPA decides the final 2014 RFS blending requirements. He noted, “Accurate data is the foundation of well informed decisions. The so-called ‘blend wall’ — the level at which oil companies claim they can no longer blend ethanol into gasoline — can be scaled through increased use of E85. Therefore, an accurate accounting of E85 stations distributing low-cost, renewable fuels is vital to informing the debate over RFS implementation.”

The letter concludes, “The correctness and completeness of the database has never been more important, as crucial policy and regulatory decisions are being informed by the information. Inadequate data leads to ill-informed policy decisions, which can have significant consequences for affected industries.

ACE Announces Final Ethanol Conference Agenda

The 27th annual Ethanol Conference agenda is set and will include an update on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) from the Environmental Protection Agency. The event is taking place August 4-6, 2014 in Minneapolis. In addition to the RFS update, Paul Machiele, director for fuel programs for the EPA will also be discussing other agency ethanol priorities. Registration is still available.

“As EPA and the White House close-in on a final decision about the 2014 RFS we’re pleased that Paul Machiele will be on hand to meet with our members,” said ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings.

ACElogo“Consistent with our conference theme of ‘Power by People’ we’re pleased that the 2014 conference will feature updates from ACE members and other speakers on the policy, marketing, and innovation initiatives that will help position the industry for future profitability,” Jennings added.

The ACE conference will also feature new findings from an economic study on “Eco-Performance Fuel,” an Innovators panel of four ACE-member ethanol producers who are adding new processes and technologies, a Retailer Roundtable involving gas station owners who are making money and attracting new customers by selling higher blends of ethanol fuel, and panel discussion focusing on international sales opportunities for ethanol and distillers grain.

Three breakout session tracks will be offered for ethanol plant board directors, mangers/CEOs, and operators focused on technology advances. Breakout session topics include risk management, the impact of proposed FDA regulations on plant operations, and technology to speed or increase yeast fermentation rates.

Kansas Ethanol Plant to Add Renewable Diesel Ops

EKAEA Kansas ethanol maker is going to integrate a renewable diesel operation into its facility. East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC (EKAE) says it will soon start building and hopes to complete construction within about a year of the 3 million gallon per year facility at its ethanol plant in Garnett, Kansas that will make renewable diesel from the corn distillers oil (CDO) already produced at the plant.

“This is about maximizing revenue, leveraging activities that we already do every day, and enhancing the value of products we already produce now,” said EKAE President & CEO Jeff Oestmann. “Adding renewable diesel capability aligns perfectly with our business strategy of diversifying our energy portfolio and creating additional enterprises that are sustainable on their own.”

“The main driver is to create greater value for our unit holders,” said EKAE chairman Bill Pracht. “We’ll be taking advantage of our experience and current facilities to create two biofuels out of one kernel of corn. Furthermore, we’ll be adding value to the corn oil we already produce.”

Oestmann said that EKAE already has a receptive market for this new fuel. “We have positive relationships with customers and within the biofuels industry that have come to know EKAE as a reliable and trustworthy supplier,” he said. “By using corn distillers oil we produce as the primary feedstock, we will have quality control that will underscore our reputation for quality in the marketplace.”

Company officials hope to double the 3 million gallon per year capacity sometime after starting operations.

White House Gathers Senate Dems on RFS Proposal

nbb-senatorsIn what could be seen as a sign that an unpopular decision is about to be rendered by the Obama Administration on ethanol and biodiesel, a select group of Senate Democrats have met with the White House. The Hill reports White House adviser John Podesta met with the group on Thursday to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The senators said they wanted to discuss “urgent concerns” with the RFS, which requires that diesel and gasoline refiners mix a certain amount of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol into their traditional fuels each year. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed last year to keep the biodiesel volume in 2014 at least year’s level, despite an increase in biodiesel production, and reduce the ethanol volume.

The EPA has not yet finalized its 2014 volumes for renewables.

[Minnesota Senator Al] Franken and his colleagues took particular issue with the biodiesel mandate.

“Such a decision would not only harm the economic growth surrounding biodiesel production in our states, but would be a setback in our national efforts to continue boosting U.S. energy security while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” they wrote.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) seems concerned about the meeting as well and issued a statement from from Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel:

“While we are encouraged by these discussions, the biodiesel industry remains concerned that the Administration still appears to be considering a proposal that would backtrack from last year’s proven production and that threatens biodiesel plants around the country. The fact is that biodiesel is the most successful Advanced Biofuel under the RFS, yet it could see its production cut significantly. This meeting, which was originally requested by a diverse group of 14 Democratic senators from across the country, makes clear that there are serious concerns about the impact that the proposal would have on jobs and economic growth nationwide, in states from Rhode Island to Minnesota to Washington state. This is a critical decision, not just for the biodiesel industry but for the future development of clean, American-made renewable fuels that will help us reduce our dangerous dependence on petroleum.”

Many of those senators participating in this week’s meeting were also critical back in May on the Obama Administration’s proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, with some of the President’s staunchest backers calling it “disastrous” and a miserable failure of policy.

Grains Council Working on Ethanol Exports

usgrainscouncil1The U.S. Grains Council (USGC) is working on promoting exports of U.S. ethanol through a partnership between USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service, Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

“We’ve been working since late March, early April to determine which markets we’re going to do market assessments in and then next year we’ll shift into market development activities,” said Ashley Kongs, USGC manager of ethanol export program. The Grains Council is planning three regional market assessment programs this year, going to Japan and Korea in September, Latin America in November, and southeast Asia in early December.

Earlier this year, USGC participated in a trade mission to China with USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse where they were able to discuss the possibility of ethanol exports to that country. “They visited with a Chinese ethanol plant and they had meetings with the National Energy Administration in China,” said Kongs. “Currently ethanol can only be sold in six designated markets in China for blending with fuel, but the group had discussions about the possibility of expanding ethanol use nationwide.” Kongs says while there are challenges in the Chinese market, the Grains Council sees great potential for the future to open the door for U.S. ethanol exports.

USGC continues to build on its success in promoting exports of the ethanol co-product distillers grains and will be again this year joining RFA in hosting the Export Exchange, an international trade conference focused on the export of U.S. coarse grains and ethanol co-products held every two years. Early registration for the event is open until July 31 and USGC and RFA members are eligible for discounted pricing.

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

“Climate of Opportunity” Theme for Biofuels Conference

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.23.20 PMSome biofuels producers have had some profitable times in the last couple of years, and an upcoming conference will give attendees information on how to take advantage of the opportunities put before them. Nationally known accounting and consulting firm Christianson & Associates will host its 10th annual Biofuels Financial Conference with the theme “Climate of Opportunity,” Aug. 27-28, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minn. at the Bloomington Embassy Suites.

This year’s Biofuels Financial Conference is focused on the best ways to take advantage of the many opportunities to optimize financial health and stability in today’s changing biofuels industry. By understanding current policy and knowing all available options for improving and diversifying production, attendees will learn how to capitalize on current strengths, identify and shore up any potential weaknesses, and create a strategic plan for growth creates an ongoing climate of opportunity.

“It’s important for board members and financial decision-makers to understand the opportunities in the current liquid fuels marketplace,” said [John Christianson, CPA and Partner at Christianson & Associates]. “What is the impact of the latest legislation changes, what are the marketplace opportunities, what are the technology investments that will bring a plant successfully into the next generation?”

Those attending the conference will be able to network with and learn from biofuels professionals from across the industry. More information is available here.