DF Cast: Finding Ways to Increase Ethanol Blends

While the ethanol industry awaits the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision on the amount of ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply, ethanol producers are looking at other ways to make sure the green fuel increases its blend amounts.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, Dean Drake with the consulting company the Defour Group, Scott Zaremba, president of Zarco Incorporated, and Ken Parrent, the ethanol director for the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, as they give their thoughts on how consumer demand will be a bigger driver for higher ethanol blends after attending an Indiana Corn Growers Association ethanol forum that focused on marketing mid-level ethanol blends and ran following the recent 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Indianapolis.

Domestic Fuel Cast - Increasing Ethanol Blends

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Overview of 30th Fuel Ethanol Workshop

_DSC0011This year’s International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo (FEW), which took place in Indianapolis, had the largest number of attendees ever. Tom Buis with Growth Energy and National Corn Growers Association CEO, Rick Tolman were both keynote speakers at the opening general session of 30th annual event. A trade show and additional workshops were held for attendees.

I had a chance to catch up with Tim Portz with BBI International and discuss the workshop and what he hopes people take back to the industry with them.

You can listen to my interview with Tim here Interview with Tim Portz, BBI International

Check out the 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop photo album.

FEW Panel Looks Back and to Future of Ethanol

Lucy Norton IRFAAttendees of this week’s 30th Annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) heard a discussion of 30 years of past and the next five years ahead for ethanol.

“I think one of the opportunities we missed 30 years ago was developing a national brand for ethanol,” says Lucy Norton with the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA). “We let the industry that didn’t like the fact we were taking away 10 percent of their market name it, label it, sell it the way they wanted to,” missing out on a huge opportunity to create an image for ethanol of a high-performance, low-cost fuel.

But, she’s not just about looking back. Lucy credits their new efforts to market and brand ethanol to the high-performance vehicles of NASCAR as a way to correct that image. Fans are able to see ethanol’s performance in their favorite racers’ vehicles and realize they too can have ethanol in their tanks. She says as they build that demand for the green fuel, they also need to make sure the infrastructure is in place so consumers are able to access ethanol.

Moving forward, Lucy says they are looking to higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, as the way to increase the amount of ethanol sold and used in this country.

“We need a way to sell unhindered higher blends of ethanol and convince marketers and petroleum refiners that there is market for low-vapor pressure gasoline in the Midwest and other parts of the country. If they would just ship it here, we would find them the customers.”

You can listen to Leah’s interview with Lucy here:Interview with Lucy Norton, Iowa RFA

Check out the 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop photo album.

Patriot Renewable Fuels is an Innovation Leader

Last week Patriot Renewable Fuels announced the news that the biofuels plant is making plans, and hopes to add, ICM’s Fiber Separation Technology as well as their Generation 1.5 cellulosic technology to their biorefinery facility located Annawan, Illinois. Patriot is one of the first ethanol plants in the country to adopt both technologies together. During 2014 FEW this week Gene Patriot Renewable Fuels Gene GriffithGriffith, co-founder and president of Patriot updated DomesticFuel on the project. It should be noted that this is just one of several major value-added projects Patriot has announced in less than a year making them one of, if not the most innovative ethanol plant/biorefinery in the U.S.

Griffith said they are pretty excited about the projects and after spending several months doing due-diligence on ICM’s technologies as well as other technologies, they felt that this was the right time to begin the project.

“If we get it implemented, we’ll be one of the earlier, maybe one of the earliest independent ethanol producers to this form of cellulosic ethanol, and we’re really excited about it,” said Griffith.

Griffith said being at FEW is a great networking opportunity because the the people Patriot works with are entrenched and have a lost of useful information and they are able to learn information they wouldn’t be able to generate on their own.

Last December, Patriot added another ICM platform, Select Milling Technology, and the Fiber Separation Technology builds upon this platform. “The Select Milling Technology is a separate mill that further processes the starch in the corn kernel as its ground before it goes into the fermentation process, explained Griffith. “The platforms we’re adding will be the Fiber Separation Technology which separates the fiber from the starch. Essentially, by removing the fiber from the starch, it improves our ethanol production efficiency so we get more ethanol from the corn,” explained Griffith.

Then he noted that they are able to take the fiber and do two-three things with it. One, they could add it back to the distiller’s grain (DDGs) and sell it has a high fiber form of distillers grain protein. Two, they could keep the fiber separate and sell a higher protein feed for a premium that is better for monogastric animals (such as pigs). The third option, which is what Patriot would like to do, is to ferment the fiber for additional ethanol.

Corn delivery to Patriot Renewable FuelsPresently Patriot is producing around 130 million gallons of ethanol per year and Griffith thinks they can produce another 10-12 percent ethanol production from the same kernel of corn. Griffith hopes that they can have all their permits by the end of the year and implement the two new technologies by 2015.

Griffith said many producers are doing similar things with different company’s technologies but they spent a lot of time with him learning about the technologies they implemented. He also said other producers will be watching their progress to help them decide if and when the technologies might be a good addition to their plants.

Learn more Patriot’s ethanol innovations by listening to Gene Griffith: Interview with Patriot's Gene Griffith

Check out the 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop photo album.

Tom Buis Discusses Ethanol Challenges at FEW

The 30th Annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) kicked off this week with an annual ethanol industry update from Growth Energy’s CEO Tom Buis. Leah Guffey was able to catch up with Buis after his presentation and asked him what some of the biggest challenges facing the ethanol industry are right now.

growth energy Tom Buis 2014 FEW“The most immediate challenge confronting us is what the EPA and the administration is going to with the 2014 renewable fuel volume obligations (RVOs),” answered Buis. This is in essence what the industry calls the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard.

The rule, noted Buis, should have been finalized by January 1, 2014. He said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is late and the proposed rule is a very controversial rule. “The proposed rule really missed the mark in our opinion,” said Buis. “We don’t think they based it upon the facts. We’ve spent the last six months trying to convince them they got it wrong and they’ve got to move it forward not backwards.”

When asked when he thought the final rule would come out Buis answered, “Pick your rumor.” He said there were over 300,000 comments about the proposed rule and he believes EPA is working as fast as they can.

While there are many steps that have to be taken before the rule can be finalized, Buis said, “Hopefully they get it right. I’ll take it late if it’s right as opposed to early and wrong.”

Learn more about some of the challenges facing the ethanol industry in Leah’s interview with Tom Buis:Interview with Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis

Check out the 2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop photo album.

Corn Growers CEO Addresses FEW

few14-tolmanNational Corn Growers Association CEO Rick Tolman took the podium to address the general session at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Indianapolis this week. It’s the 30th year for the workshop and during his remarks he commented on how things have changed in the past 30 years – from the acres of corn planted and bushels harvested to the gallons of ethanol produced and where things are headed in the future of the industry.

“It’s so exciting to see the tremendous growth the industry has made,” said Tolman. “We have so many ethanol plants now and it’s part of the mainstream, it’s in almost every gallon of gasoline across the country … and ten years ago that wasn’t the case … we’ve made tremendous progress.”

In an interview after his address at FEW, Tolman talked about this year’s corn crop, which is expected to be another record. Emergence pushed past the five-year average last week, according to the latest USDA report, and 75 percent of all acres are rated in good to excellent condition as of June 8.

Tolman says while we have planted a few less acres this year we continue to push through the 10-million bushel barrier that was so difficult to reach early in his 14-year tenure as NCGA CEO. He will be stepping down from that position at the end of September. Interview with NCGA CEO Rick Tolman

2014 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

FEW Kicks off with Record Crowd

The 30th annual Fuel Ethanol Workshop (FEW) has official kicked off with a record-breaking number of ethanol producers from around the world attending. The attendees represent more than 500 producers from 194 facilities representing more than 15 billion gallons of ethanol produced per year. Producers represent traditional and advanced ethanol facilities from the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Norway and Hungary.

30th Annual FEWEthanol enthusiasts may note the significance of the 15 gallons of ethanol produced per year – the amount called for in the first-gen ethanol category of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). A hot topic for the past few months and sure to be a hot topic during FEW, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to finalize the 2014 RFS rules and announced yesterday that they were delaying compliance for 2013 obligated parties until September 30, 2014.

The host of this year’s FEW is Indianapolis, Indiana. “The record level of ethanol producers at this year’s event has created an unprecedented opportunity for industry suppliers and supporters to network with ethanol producers and share their products or services,” said John Nelson, marketing director at BBI International. “We have 520 ethanol producers representing 194 ethanol production facilities already registered and we are expecting that number to grow.”

Drawing nearly 2,000 attendees, there will be at least 25 countries represented, 43 U.S. states represented and six Canadian provinces. During the course of the event, attendees will discuss issues categorized into four tracks:

  • Track 1: Production and Operations
  • Track 2: Leadership and Financial Management
  • Track 3: Coproducts and Product Diversification
  • Track 4: Cellulosic and Advanced Ethanol

DomesticFuel.com will be bringing you coverage of FEW throughout the week.

Edeniq’s PATHWAY Validation Facility Shows Success

Leading into the Fuel Ethanol Workshop that is taking place this week in Indianapolis, Indiana (June 9-12) Edeniq, Inc., has announced the successful performance of its PATHWAY Validation Facility. The company’s PATHWAY Platform is a proprietary, integrated platform that produces cellulosic ethanol inside existing corn ethanol plants. Edeniq said their pilot facility showcases how their patented technologies, the Cellunator and PATHWAY Platform, work together to convert starch and break down corn kernel fiber, releasing cellulosic sugars into the fermentation process. The result is an ethanol yield increase ethanol of three to six percent. The pilot facility is located at the company’s headquarters in Visalia, California.

“The pilot facility confirms a necessary high-precision consistency in the PATHWAY Platform that is a first for our industry,” said Tom Griffin, chief technology officer, Edeniq, Inc. “Our customers are looking for a way to generate and validate cellulosic ethanol production, and with Edeniq’s PATHWAY Platform coupled with this unique pilot facility, we have equipped them with the solution.”

Edeniq facility at nightFunded jointly by Flint Hills Resources Renewables, LLC, and Edeniq, the pilot facility showcases the PATHWAY Platform and allows ethanol producers to quantify the impact of PATHWAY on yield enhancement and cellulosic ethanol production at their plants.

“The PATHWAY Validation Facility was developed to provide our customers and partners with data to verify the increase in ethanol yield the technology provides,” added Brian Thome, president and CEO of Edeniq, Inc. “Edeniq is committed to increasing the bottom line for our customers and partners by allowing ethanol producers to improve their efficiency and migrate to cellulosic ethanol.”

The PATHWAY Platform is currently in commercial testing and continues to demonstrate its ability to increase ethanol yield and boost customer profits.

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

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

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

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

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

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

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

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

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

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.

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

Visit the 2013 FEW Photo Album.