Genera: Feedstocks, Start Early & Think Big

FEW13-genera-randleWhen it comes to biomass feedstocks for biofuels, you need to think ahead.

“Start early and think big,” was the advice Bob Randle, VP Sales and Marketing for Genera Energy gave attendees of the recent Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) in St. Louis, Mo. “Because there’s a lot of moving parts in providing 250,000 to 700,000 tons of material annually, on a 24-7 basis, particularly if you’re dealing with a perennial crop since it takes two to three years to establish.”

Bob says Genera, a relatively new company out of Tennessee, focuses its efforts on the front end of the biofuels chain, developing and delivering energy crop and biomass feedstock solutions, starting with switchgrass and now branching into other stocks as well. They work with farmers to develop long-term supply contracts, to grow, harvest, store and finally deliver the crops to the plants that convert it into biofuels.

“We’re the middleman on the feedstock supply side,” Bob said, adding they partner with the seed companies specializing in energy crops. He also said they try to look to the long term.

“That’s been one of the big revelations in the industry in the last year or so, is that as these technologies developed, the companies didn’t think about where massive quantities of feedstock would come from.” His company finds the solutions that bridge that gap between what was a concept for a biofuel to what is needed to produce it at commercial scale. Plus, Bob said they are focused on U.S. operations.

Listen to more of Joanna’s interview with Bob here: Bob Randle, VP Sales and Marketing for Genera Energy

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POET-DSM Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Ready in ’14

The POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels’ first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant is on track to start in 2014. The announcement for the plant was made at the recent Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) in St. Louis, Mo., where Wade Roby from POET took part in a panel discussion.

FEW13-poetdsm-hartigSteve Hartig, General Manager for POET-DSM, talked with Joanna and said Project LIBERTY, currently under construction and co-located with POET’s grain ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa, will turn bales of corn cobs, leaves, husks and some stalk into 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year, with plans to move that amount up to 25 million gallons.

“We’re in the middle of construction, so we have a lot of the concrete done, the large biomass building, a lot of the tanks for the fermentation are up and running, and basically we’re on schedule to start up end of first quarter, second quarter next year,” Steve said.

He said they’ve been working with the local farmers over the past five years on how to collect and bring in the corn stover biomass, bringing in 70,000 tons last year and expecting to bring in 120,000 tons this year and up to 250,000 tons next year. Steve points out that the biomass can be stored out in the weather for at least a year, and he defends against criticisms that they are taking valuable nutrients off the field.

“The fields with the high productivity, high-yield corn crops, you have about five tons of stover per acre that’s left on the field after the harvest. We’re taking about one ton of that,” and citing their work with Iowa State University, he said that taking some stover off the field is actually good for it. “If we can take a bit more we will, but we’ll do it slow, steady and in a conservative way, working closely with the farmers and local universities.”

Steve said they’re building this plant together with DSM, and that’s the model they’re carrying forward – taking the technology to other companies and partnering with existing facilities, especially corn ethanol plants, and he believes they could even take the technology internationally.

Finally, he concluded that they have learned a lot building this plant and look forward to their next project going up next year. And they’re sticking with cellulosic ethanol.

“Cellulosic ethanol is real. It’s been called the ‘fictional fuel,’ [but] big companies like ours are putting a lot of commitment to it.”

Listen to more of Joanna’s interview with Steve here: Steve Hartig, General Manager for POET-DSM

Edeniq Squeezing Every Penny Out of Ethanol Plants

FEW13-edeniq-thomeAfter the ethanol industry went through such a tight year last year, it’s no wonder refineries are looking to squeeze every penny out of profitability out of every gallon that comes out of the plant. During the recent Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Mo., Joanna had a chance to talk with Brian Thome, the President and CEO of Edeniq, a company that specializes in doing just that.

“It was founded with the idea of how do you take corn plants and migrate them over to a world class cellulosic operation. And what we’ve done is transition that into how do you take a corn ethanol plant and make it better,” he said. Edeniq has developed an end-to-end cellulosic process, pulling individual unit operations out of that process and finding applications in the real world to help customers with commercial uses. “Our goal is to simply incrementally make a plant better and better over time and then add cellulosic, [so] a corn ethanol plant has a more diverse feedstock and output with better economics.”

Adding in Edeniq technology adds bit by bit to a plant’s value with adding all the product lines. In addition, the other co-products, such as sugars, can add to those value streams. Brian also said that it could help either idled or closed plants get back in operation.

“Is there an opportunity? And the real key question becomes, ‘Has that ethanol plant been idled for a specific reason relative to the technology that someone could come in and take advantage of new product offerings, new additions on the technology side? Or has it been idled by other macroeconomic factors?” He added every plant is different with positive and negative attributes now and in the future.

Brain said Edeniq’s bolt-on technology could give some plants immediate returns, while others will need more time. But, as an ethanol man with more than 15 years in the industry, he certainly believes in the long-term of the green fuel and the potential it holds.

“There’s a 24 billion gallon worldwide market, and ethanol is not going away. Whether a person wants to argue if it should be 13.5 billion gallons or 30 billion gallons, the key for me is that it is still a very robust, very large product that needs to find its way into the market.”

Listen to more of Joanna’s interview with Brian here: Brian Thome, President and CEO of Edeniq

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Enzyme Trio Minimizes Inputs & Maximizes Profits

Novozymes made a big announcement during the recent Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) – they have launched a new enzyme technology that can increase ethanol yield from corn by up to 5 percent. According to Jack Rogers, bioenergy marketing manager, the technology also increases corn oil extraction by 13 percent while saving 8 percent energy.

In a time when corn-based ethanol plants are looking for every way to squeeze out profits FEW13-Novozymeswith high corn prices, Rogers says the return on investment in the enzyme trio is immediate. Rogers explained that efficiency improvements can be achieved when two new enzymes, Spirizyme® Achieve and Olexa® are used together with another Novzoymes’ enzyme, Aventec®, that was launched in late 2012.

An typical U.S. ethanol plant uses around 36 million bushels, or 900,000 tons, of feed-grade corn per year to produce an average of 100 million gallons of ethanol, 300,00 tons of distillers grains (DDGs) and 8,500 tons of corn oil. When adding the enzyme trio, a plant can save up to 1.8 million bushels, or 45,000 tons of corn, while maintaining the same ethanol output, increasing corn oil extraction and generating up to $5 million in additional profit per year. Rogers also noted that a plant can use less bushels per year while maintaining maximum output if corn prices remain high and a plant chooses to scale back its purchases.

Learn more about the new enzyme trio in my interview with Jack here: Enzyme Trio Minimizes Inputs & Maximizes Profits

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A New Twist to an Old Story

The ethanol industry is no stranger to controversy. As Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) pointed out during a recent panel discussion on policy issues at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW), the industry has been in a battle for decades.

In a recent conversation I had with Dinneen, he noted that a lot of issues the ethanol industry faces are issues they have faced for decades. “Food versus fuel, nothing new there. We’ve been hearing it for a long time. Energy balance, nothing new. We’ve been hearing it for a long time,” said Dinneen.

FEW13-rfa-dinneen“The one new twist that you have on the Hill is that the RFS (Renewable Fuel Standard) itself is an anachronism today because we’re producing more oil domestically. We’ve found this nirvana in North Dakota where we get all these tight oil supplies. And so since we’re getting all this oil from North Dakota, we should stop producing ethanol from South Dakota. Well, I don’t really think so.”

Dinneen explained that members of Congress are interested in the industry’s arguments about the impact on the consumer because all that North Dakota oil isn’t helping to reduce the price of oil because those facilities, that production is not going to pencil out at ninety dollars a barrel.

“You need a high oil price to encourage those investments to continue,” explained Dinneen. “So the only relief that consumers are going to have is if we continue to add supply with domestic renewable fuels that pencil out a lot lower than that.”

Why the new twist to an old story now? Listen to my interview with Bob here to find out: A New Twist to an Old Story

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EPA Set for Action

During the Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW), Executive Vice President for the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Brian Jennings sat on a panel with other ethanol industry leaders to discuss key policy issues in Washington, D.C. However, in a follow-up to the discussion, Jennings said the real action is taking place on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

EPA is set to release the final 2013 RFS volumes. And this is important, said Jennings, to make sure the cellulose numbers are high enough to incent some of the production. At FEW13-ace-jenningsvirtually the same time, the EPA will propose the 2014 RFS volumes, or numbers.

“What’s really important here, is that in the past EPA has reduced cellulose but have assumed that other advanced biofuels, sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, domestic advanced, biodiesel, can make up the difference when they reduce cellulose.” Next year the cellulose number is so high, 1.75 billion, that they’re going to have to reduce it such that there probably isn’t sufficient advanced biofuels to make up the difference, explained Jennings.

“So we could be looking for the very first time in 2014 with changes across the board of the RFS from EPA not Congress.” Jennings added that ACE is trying to get their arms around how they want to tackle this with EPA.

Jennings also discussed the farm bill and the Energy and Commence Committee Renewable Fuel Standard (RFA) white papers. He believes hearings may take place in July but is not sure if ACE or any other association will be invited to participate in the hearings. But, he stressed, ACE will be active in the debate.

Listen to my interview with Brian here: EPA Set for Action

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Needed Now: Farm Bill with Energy Funding

For two years the Senate has passed its version of a farm bill. Last year the House did not and later this week is set to debate its version of the bill. During this process, the current farm bill was extended but ag, energy and other groups are at a full court press to get a bill passed before the legislators break for summer vacation.

I sat down with Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy recently who is a Washington insider and FEW13-growthenergy-buishas been working on behalf of the agricultural industry and now the biofuels industry for many years to learn more about the current farm bill, or lack thereof.

Buis explained that the 2008 Farm Bill was the first ever with an energy title, all designed to help investment into next generation biofuels. This year, the Senate extended the program and funded it and those are two critical programs said Buis. If a new bill isn’t passed, the extension will expire on September 30, 2013 and with it all the energy programs.

He continued, what the House does is only authorize the programs but don’t put in any money in the bill. “It’s a good press release but it doesn’t mean anything. And the battle will probably end up like that if and when it gets through the House they won’t have any funding for the programs and restrictions on whether or not USDA can fund development under the REAP program, flex pumps in rural communities. They’ll probably have a prohibition which the Senate does not and will have it work in out in conference.”

Tom along with his members have been extremely active in defending ethanol on the Hill and will continue to do so. Realizing that they need more boots on the ground, several years ago Growth Energy launched its “Growth Force” where anyone from around the world can sign up to support biofuels. Now the association is taking it one more step, and individuals from around the country can become members of Growth Energy.

During our sit down, Buis also discussed several other current issues including market access and the ongoing debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Listen to my interview with Tom here: Needed Now: Farm Bill with Energy Funding

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Ethanol Veterans Honored During FEW

few13-schwartzkopf and hicksTwo 30-year ethanol veterans were honored during the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Missouri this week. Kevin Hicks, research leader for the Sustainable Biofuels and Coproducts Research Unit of the USDA’s Eastern Regional Research Center, received the Award of Excellence. And long-time friend of DomesticFuel, ethanol dragster, and true ethanol champion Dan Schwartzkopf with ICM, was presented with the High Octane Award.

Listen to Kevin Hicks’ remarks here: Award of Excellence

Listen to Dan Schwartzkopf’s remarks here: High Octane Award

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Genscape Adds to Biofuels Info with Landviewer Buy

Genscape LogoProvider of energy information for commodity and financial markets Genscape has bought LandViewer to expand its technology footprint in the biofuels industry. Genscape says, using NASA satellite data to get daily updates of corn vegetation progress, the LandViewer platform gives corn traders and buyers land use and crop progress information on a sub-regional level so they know where to source grain and how to set the best prices.

“The LandViewer platform opens a lot of doors for Genscape customers to make informed grain management decisions ahead of market movements. When you know the supply of corn you can set better prices, hedge investment risk and stay ahead of the competition,” says Robert Barton, Managing Director of Agriculture and Biofuels at Genscape.

To complement the LandViewer acquisition and to provide additional value to ethanol customers Genscape has also launched a unique QAP specifically for the ethanol industry. The new program offers a way for ethanol plants to create QAP-B RINs desired by Obligated Parties with a minimal impact on plant operations. Using their proven technology, the company can offer a cost-effective method to directly manage RIN generation compliance while eliminating the hassle of onsite auditing.

Also designed for traders, LandViewer uses a combination of historical data, national yield regressions and fundamental crop data to deliver highly accurate projections of crop yields on a national level to inform trading and investment strategies.

The LandViewer technology was developed at the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center.

By the way, Genscape is at this week’s Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in St. Louis, Mo., as is our own Joanna. Genscape will be talking about LandViewer and the QAP program for ethanol plants.

Check out the FEW Photo Album.

All the World’s A Stage

With debate on Capitol Hill on the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and pressure from oil companies to lower cellulosic fuel mandates as part of the legislation, BBI FEW-13-World-Stagerealized that the time was right to feature a panel discussing the progress to commercialization of several major renewable fuels players to bring advanced biofuels to market.

All the World’s a Stage: A Front Row Seat to the Construction and Commissioning of the Industry’s First Cellulosic Facilities panel during the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in St. Louis, Missouri, was moderated by Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council. Also on the panel (from left to right):

  • Henrik Maimann, CEO New Bio Solutions Section & VP, Dong Energy Power
  • Mark Niederschulte, Chief Operating Officer, INEOS Bio
  • Steve Mirshak, Global Business Director – Cellulosic Ethanol, DuPont Industrial Biosciences
  • Chris Standlee, Executive Vice President, Abengoa Bioenergy
  • Wade Roby, POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels

Each panelist gave an update on their company’s project and from there, an open question and answer dialogue occurred. One of the major themes: how to bring and keep investments in the advanced biofuels sector to ensure commercialization is achieved.

Listen to the full panel discussion here: All the World's A Stage

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Association Roundtable: Mid-Year Ethanol Policy Update

This year’s general session during the Fuel Ethanol Workshop diverged from past years. Rather than have a keynote speaker, the three leaders of the country’s largest ethanol associations came together on one stage to discuss current U.S. ethanol policy. The Association Roundtable: Mid-Year U.S. Ethanol Policy Update, panel was moderated by Tom Bryan, president of BBI International and FEW13-Association-Roundtablefeatured Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Group (RFA), Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy and Brian Jennings, executive vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE).

The discussions ranged from market access and how Big Oil is trying to block higher blends of ethanol, such as E15 and E85 from being sold to consumers, RINs, the ongoing debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the recent three white papers that were released for comment and the status of a farm bill. Interestingly, all three ethanol advocates, who are also Washington insiders, noted that all of the current issues and debates have been fueled by Big Oil.

The panel was informative, entertaining and at some points downright uncomfortable but Buis, Dinneen and Jennings all agreed that although there is a battle, they are confident ethanol will win. The groups’ final call: each and every person needs to be involved in the fight.

Listen to the full panel discussion here: Association Roundtable: Mid-Year Ethanol Policy Update

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Mike Bryan’s Call to Arms

FEW13-mbyranMike Bryan, CEO of BBI International kicked off the 29th International Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) with a call for action for not only the biofuel associations, but for every single person who attended the event. He began by asking the standing room only crowd if they were getting angry, frustrated and a little nervous over the bashing from some legislators as well as ethanol detractors such as Big Oil.

“Ladies and gentleman, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, we are at war,” said Bryan. “And this morning, I’m going to issue a call to arms. We are in a battle for the very survival of this industry.”

Listen to Mike Byran’s opening session remarks here: Mike Bryan, BBI

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Ethanol Policy Update to Kick Off Discussions at FEW

FEWroundtableLooks like the discussions are going to kick off right at the upcoming International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo (FEW), June 10-13, 2013, in St. Louis, Mo. One of the first sessions will be the Association Roundtable: Mid-Year U.S. Ethanol Policy Update, featuring moderator Tom Bryan, President, BBI International; Bob Dinneen, President & CEO, Renewable Fuels Association; Tom Buis, CEO, Growth Energy; and Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President, American Coalition for Ethanol, set for Tuesday, June 11 at 9 am:

Join the top executive officers of the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and the American Coalition for Ethanol for a vital summer policy update on safeguarding RFS2, correcting misinformation about RINs, building the market for E15 and mid-level blends and maintaining our national commitment to commercializing advanced and cellulosic ethanol.

Still plenty of time to make your reservation for the event. Click here for more information.

Agenda Announced for Int’l Fuel Ethanol Workshop

FEWMore than 140 speakers will be talking during four track session at the upcoming 2013 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, the ethanol industry’s largest and longest-running conference. Officials released the agenda for the June 10-13, 2013 event in St. Louis, Mo.

“Attendees of the 29th annual FEW will gain extremely important information about the ethanol industry,” said Tim Portz, Vice President of Content & Executive Editor at BBI International. “This year we had an overwhelming number of speaker abstracts. The large number of submissions, coupled with the feedback from last year’s attendees, that included producers representing 87 percent of all U.S. installed capacity, is helping to shape this conference’s agenda into the most current and relevant FEW we’ve ever produced.”

The 2013 FEW is expected to draw more than 2,000 attendees and will include national and international ethanol producers, investors, industry suppliers and policymakers. During the course of the event, they’ll discuss issues categorized into four tracks:

Track 1: Production
Track 2: Leadership & Financial Management
Track 3: Coproducts
Track 4: Cellulosic & Advanced Ethanol

Check out the entire agenda, and find more information at www.FuelEthanolWorkshop.com.

Producers Discuss Life After VEETC at the 2012 FEW

The general session panel was a highlight for many Monday morning at the 28th Annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop. Tom Bryan, Vice President BBI International, served as the moderator for the group with panelists Mark Marquis, President and General Manager Marquis Energy Inc., Ray Defenbaugh, President and CEO Big River Resources, Randy Doyal, CEO Al-Corn Clean Fuels and Walt Wendland, President and CEO Golden Grain Energy.

Topics varied from the future of RFS and E15 to traits these industry leaders take to continue their success. But the theme for the event centered around how U.S. ethanol producers are achieving profitability without VEETC. These ethanal plant CEOs and general managers shared their early experiences in this new reality and outlined operational and financial strategies for staying not just on line, but in the black.

Listen to the full panel discussion here: FEW Panel Discussion

2012 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album