Diversifying The Ethanol Industry With Biodiesel

An ethanol plant that stops looking for ways to diversify its business and improve its profits is an ethanol plant that will drown faster in bad weather. A new option for the ethanol industry to diversify is to add a biodiesel plant to the end of its corn oil extraction technology. This idea lends itself one step closer to a true biorefinery.

So what is the value proposition of doing this? Profits, as Mark Fashian, president of Ethanol Analytical Solutions (EAS) and Biodiesel Analytical Solutions (BAS) explained to me during a Skype interview following the Fuel Ethanol Workshop recently held in Indianapolis, Indiana. For example, Fashian said a 100 million gallon per year ethanol plant will sell 100 million RINS. By adding a 3 million gallon biodiesel plant you’ll make your plant more valuable because each of these gallons is worth 1.5 RINS, or an additional 4.5 million in total.

With demand for biodiesel increasing and the need for more gallons (the biodiesel industry is still ramping up after the one year loss of the $1 per gallon tax credit in 2009), Fashian said this is the perfect storm for the ethanol industry.

You can listen to my full interview with Mark Fashian here: Diversifying the Ethanol Industry with Biodiesel

He also noted that one drawback to using corn oil for biodiesel is that it has a high acidic content, around 27.5 percent, and because of this it is hard to convert. Most plants use a two-step process to achieve this.

“It’s a lot of redo a batch, do a batch again because we didn’t get it just right, and that’s not what the ethanol industry is looking for,” said Fashian. “They’re looking for the silver bullet where you can take that corn oil right from the extractor and put it right in to another process to make biodiesel without having to mess with a second or third run to get the biodiesel to make ASTM grade. And that’s exactly what the McGyan process does. It’s patented for the corn oil process and with their everlasting catalyst you just pump the sample in with either ethanol or methanol and out the other end comes beautiful biodiesel.”

If a plant doesn’t have extraction technology, when all expenses are factored in, the return on investment (ROI) is less than one year, and this includes the lab. I should note that Fashian is also a director of Mcgyan and both EAS/BAS represent the technology. So their team would not only work with the ethanol plant on the biodiesel installation, but also help them update the lab for all the extra tests required for biodiesel and the proper equipment to achieve specs. For those plants who already have extraction technology, the ROI is less than 2 years.

It takes between 12-18 months to get the Mcgyan technology up and running and its already designed to be a perfect fit for an ethanol plant. Oh, and if you decide to sell your corn oil on the market rather than produce biodiesel, you can still produce biodiesel with other feedstocks.

DFCast: Biofuels Take Flight

In the past few months, biofuels have taken to the skies with a multitude of successful flights conducted by both the military and the commercial airline industry. This news has been even more welcome with the achievements taking place during the aftermath of the Rand report predicting that aviation biofuels would not play a role in the next few decades. But where biofuels really took flight was during the Paris airshow, which kicked off with the transatlantic flight from North America to Paris using a 50/50 biofuel blend derived from camelina.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack attended the Paris Air Show and told the audience that “extraordinary progress has been made in the last 12 months.” He continued by saying, “I think we’re nearing a tipping point” in terms of building momentum toward use of biofuel on commercial flights. I think [biofuel powering airline flights is] not long-term. In the short term you’ll see the benefits.”

To further spur the development of biojet fuels, the European Commission launched the Biofuels Flightpath, a roadmap to achieve the goal of using 2 million tonnes of aviation biofuels per year by 2020. Prior to this announcement, back in the U.S., Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest released a comprehensive report to speed up the commercialization and use of aviation biofuels in the Northwest. In addition, ASTM officially approved renewable jet fuel standards.

The region has been a leader in the U.S. in the movement to more sustainable airport practices as well as in the movement to adopt renewable fuels. Lawrence J. Krauter, CEO of the Spokane International Airport, one of dozens of entities participating in the Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest initiative, noted, “The course is clear that aviation biofuels are key to the future of sustainable air travel. We can no longer base our future on imported petroleum, especially if the United States wants to remain an aviation leader. The SAFN study proves domestic biofuels are feasible and offers an economic opportunity for us to remain competitive as an industry and move toward a sustainable, domestic fuel supply.”

Learn more about the flight of biofuels here: Domestic Fuel Cast

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

Scouting for Biofuels Crops in Indian Creek Watershed

The Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory is looking for the best biofuels crops to grow in the northeast Illinois Indian Creek Watershed.

CTIC TourDuring a recent field tour of the watershed sponsored by the Conservation Technology Information Center, Argonne agronomist Cristina Negri said they are looking at alternative crops that can efficiently use nitrogen to grow on marginal land in the area. According to Negri, the purpose of the Biomass Production and Nitrogen Recovery project is to “find a way to bring biofuels into the big conservation equation.”

Negri participated in the CTIC tour to learn more about the production practices being used by farmers in the watershed and also gave a presentation on the Argonne project: Cristina Negri Presentation

CTIC Indian Creek Watershed Project Field Tour Photos

Corn Growers Proud to Promote American Ethanol

At the 2011 Fuel Ethanol Workshop last week, the CEO of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) accepted an award for promoting the advancement of ethanol on behalf of the corn industry as a whole.

“It’s more of an award for the people that I work with, the farmers, our leaders, our great staff, the state groups,” said Rick Tolman after accepting the ethanol industry’s High Octane Award. “I think it reflects how committed we are to this industry, how much we have gotten engaged and involved.”

One way that NCGA has gotten involved in a big way in the promotion of ethanol recently is the commitment to the American Ethanol NASCAR program, which Tolman says has exceeded his expectations. “I think it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done,” he said. “It still has real potential to be a game changer for ethanol.”

Tolman says that NASCAR has proven to be a wonderful partner. “When they first came to us 2-3 years ago, I was impressed then that they did their homework. They knew the myths and the misinformation,” Tolman said. “They’ve been first class from day one.”

Listen to or download an interview with Rick Tolman here: Rick Tolman Interview

2011 FEW Photo Album

Our coverage of the 2011 Fuel Ethanol Workshop sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association.

Buy FREEDOM Learn Truth About Ethanol

During the 2011 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop attendees got a chance to see the new documentary from Josh & Rebecca Tickell. I first met Josh during a National Biodiesel Conference before he produced his award winning film, “Fuel.” Together with Rebecca they have now produced a film that should open a lot of people’s eyes about the myths surrounding ethanol. It is called “FREEDOM.”

FREEDOM is a one-hour documentary that takes a hard look at America’s perilous and unsustainable addiction to foreign oil. It explores the role that Ethanol plays as a homegrown alternative that will boost the domestic economy, create jobs and reduce our need to rely on dangerous and unstable parts of the world for our fuel. Filmmakers Josh Tickell and his wife Rebecca set out on a journey to take a fresh look at Ethanol and try to separate the myth from the hyperbole.

Following the screening which was viewed in a packed room at the FEW, I spoke with them about their latest project.

Rebecca says the devastation in the Gulf of Mexico last year spurred them to look into more alternatives to oil. So they did some checking to find out the truths about our main alternative fuel source, ethanol, and had their eyes opened when they looked into the myths surrounding the industry and the fuel. They spoke to experts on all sides of the debate including the authors of anti-ethanol studies.

They chose the title, “FREEDOM,” because event though we were promised by our current President in his election campaign that he would bring our troops home from the Middle East, we have actually increased the number of our soldiers there. Developing our own renewable fuel choices would give us freedom from that situation. They also point out the complete lack of a fuel choice at the pump and say that’s not freedom either.

The couple is embarking on a 30-city FREEDOM bus tour to promote their new film and you can see the schedule and find out more about the project on their website. You can watch and purchase the film there. They are producing a 90 minute theatrical version of the film too.

Josh/Rebecca Tickell Interview

You may want to consider purchasing the film to show to your neighbors and friends or your favorite skeptic. How about sending a copy to your elected leaders? It’s great for generating conversation!

2011 FEW Photo Album

Our coverage of the 2011 Fuel Ethanol Workshop is being made possible by the Renewable Fuels Association.

Ethanol Report on Energy Independence for Boaters

The Independence Day holiday is one of the biggest boating days of the year so it’s a good time to remind boaters that ethanol is helping to make our nation more energy independent.

This edition of “The Ethanol Report” is about how ethanol producers and boat racers have teamed up to show that 10 percent ethanol runs perfectly well in marine engines. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) became a sponsor for the National Boat Racing Association this year and worked with them on the championship race held in Kansas June 25-26.

Ethanol Report PodcastThis report features comments from RFA board member Steve Gardner with East Kansas Agri-Energy, NBRA president Dan Crummett, and race organizer Vernon Barfield.

Listen to or download the latest Ethanol Report here: Ethanol Report on Boating with Ethanol

See photos from the race here: NBRA Ethanol Boat Race

Pioneer DPP Goes Mobile

Pioneer was demonstrating the new mobile app for their Dynamic Pricing Platform during the just concluded 2011 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop. I spoke with Steve Crowe, Pioneer Business Manager, Biofuels about the new method of interacting with your DPP account. That’s his iPhone in the photo in front of the monitor showing the desktop version.

Steve says that smartphones have become so prevalent that they created both iPhone and Android versions of the app. You’ll need a DPP account to use the app but the app is free. He says producer feedback has been great. It allows ethanol plants a way to reach out directly to local farmers to purchase grain. No seed purchase is necessary btw. Steve Crowe Interview

2011 FEW Photo Album

Our coverage of the 2011 Fuel Ethanol Workshop is made possible by the Renewable Fuels Association.

IRL Moving To E85 In 2012

The CEO of the Indy Racing League is Randy Bernard, seen shaking hands with Iowa Corn Growers CEO, Craig Floss, during last weekend’s Iowa Corn Indy 250 activities. I spoke with Randy who says that the League has been working to create a lot more buzz and excitement this year. Judging by the sell out crowd for the Iowa race, things must be working.

I asked him to comment on the relationship with Pioneer and the Iowa Corn Growers. He said, “The fact that we’ve got a great title sponsor here with Iowa Corn Growers and that we run ethanol . . . this is the type of sponsor that we love to be working with because ethanol is a very important part of our business and next year we’re going to E85 to show pump relevancy.”

You can listen to my interview with Randy here: Randy Bernard Interview

2011 Iowa Corn Indy 250 Photo Album

Fuel Ethanol Workshop In Review

The mood was very upbeat at the 27th International Fuel Ethanol Workshop. I spoke with Tom Bryan, BBI International, about how he would characterize this year’s event which concluded yesterday.

Tom says the technical sessions were extremely well attended. In fact, chairs had to be added to some of them due to the attendance in them. He says there were over 2,000 in attendance this year. That may not be as high as several years ago but shows that the industry is resilient and upbeat for the future. Tom Bryan Interview

I have several more interviews from this year’s event that I will be posting over the coming days. Thanks a lot to BBI International for allowing me to attend and for all the support they provide us. Their crew is top notch and a joy to work with.

2011 FEW Photo Album

Our coverage of the 2011 Fuel Ethanol Workshop is being made possible by the Renewable Fuels Association.

Bob Dinneen Keynotes Fuel Ethanol Workshop

At the 2011 Fuel Ethanol Workshop the Reverend of Renewable Fuels, Bob Dinneen, CEO, Renewable Fuels Association took the stage as a keynote speaker. Bob started his presentation with a report on several policy issues and then moved to a “conversation” with attendees in which he took questions.

Bob first touched on yesterday’s EPA announcement of a label for E15. He says it’s not everything they hoped for but it’s not as bad as had been feared. It does show that the EPA considers E15 a viable fuel. Hopefully we’ll see the fuel in the market soon. Bob then moved on to the latest votes in Congress and what was really going on in the background and what those votes really mean. You can listen to Bob’s presentation here: Bob Dinneen Keynote

You can also watch Bob on stage with the first part of his presentation before he took questions and answers:

2011 FEW Photo Album

Our coverage of the 2011 Fuel Ethanol Workshop is being made possible by the Renewable Fuels Association.