API Releases “Flawed Study”

A new published study from the University of Michigan and funded by the American Petroleum Institute (API) finds that when using annual basis carbon (ABC) accounting, corn-ethanol is not better than its petroleum counterpart. ABC accounting uses spatially and temporally explicit analysis of the direct greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) exchanges between the atmosphere and a physical vehicle-fuel system. LCA is the analysis of the environmental impact of a product from cradle to grave, or in the case of liquid transportation fuels, “well to wheel”.

Michigan-API biofuels studyThe study abstract states that using an ABC case study of a corn ethanol biorefinery and the farmland that supplies it shows that using the ethanol it produced instead of gasoline provided no significant reduction in GHG emissions, in contrast to an LCA result that found a 40% GHG reduction for the same facility.

In response to the recent study Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, said, “We can add this study to the ever growing pile of flawed research funded by Big Oil, who has a vested interest in protecting its monopoly on our nation’s fuel and ensuring that America stays addicted to oil. The standard life-cycle assessment tool accepted by the scientific community, Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET model, shows that ethanol reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 34 percent compared to gasoline. No amount of self-serving science will change the fact that in addition to reducing GHG emissions, ethanol also reduces our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and the price of gasoline for America’s drivers.”

East Kansas Agri-Energy Celebrates 10th Anniversary

East Kansas Agri-Energy (EKAE) is celebrating its 10th anniversary of operations. The Garnett, Kansas ethanol biorefinery is hosting an event on Saturday, August 15th and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) will be onsite to share in the plant’s success along with government and industry officials and featuring a keynote speech from Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan). Attendees can also tour the facility.

EKAE_Logo_235Since opening in 2005, EKAE has produced and sold more than 376 million gallons of ethanol, more than 2 million tons of wet and dried distillers grains animal feed, and nearly 35 million pounds of corn distillers oil. The plant has processed more than 137 million bushels of corn since opening, creating an important new market for local farmers and adding value to East Kansas crops.

Following a plant expansion, EKAE can now produce 48 million gallons of ethanol each year. Construction is also underway for a co-located renewable diesel facility that will convert corn distillers oil into low-carbon advanced biofuel. Other accomplishments include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifying the ethanol plant as an efficient producer. The EPA determined that the plant’s corn ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 27.2 percent as compared to petroleum even when the elusive “land use change” calculations are included.

“We’ve come a long way since that first gallon of ethanol in 2005. What started as an idea at a local coffee shop is now a multi-million dollar advanced biofuel refinery,” said EKAE Chairman Bill Pracht. “Our company has evolved to become a leading driver of economic growth in our community, and we’re very proud of that fact. Once our renewable diesel project launches, we will employ more than 50 hard-working men and women at our facility. We’re also proud of our safety record and the fact that we have had no lost-time accidents since day one.”

“The entire EKAE family should be congratulated for this remarkable achievement,” noted RFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper. “The EKAE facility has made an indelible mark on the Garnett community, and for that the company’s board, staff, and investors should be very proud. But they should also be proud of the fact that the positive impacts of this plant—including lower gas prices, reduced dependence on foreign oil, and cleaner air—extend well past the borders of Anderson County.”

Jeff Oestmann, EKAE President and CEO, explained that the ethanol plant has experienced a tremendous level of success in an industry that is often known for its unpredictability. “East Kansas Agri-Energy has had an unquestionably positive economic impact on Garnett, helping to revitalize the community by creating demand for local producers and saving consumers cash at the pump.” Continue reading

EPA’s Ethanol Rules Pollutes Air Equal to 1 Mil Cars

ERCThe government’s proposal to cut the amount of ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply would pollute the air equivalent to one million more vehicles on the road. The Energy Resources Center (ERC) at the University of Illinois at Chicago conducted the analysis on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed ethanol blending rules.

The findings come in the wake of proposed rules by the U.S. E.P.A. that call for a reduction of the volume of ethanol blended in gasoline as mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a program of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 signed into law 10 years ago this month. If the rules are adopted as proposed, a total of 17.5 billion gallons of ethanol would be blended with gasoline by 2016, 3.75 billion fewer gallons than originally mandated by Congress.

“The RFS has been one of the most successful federal policies enacted in the United States because it achieved exactly what it was intended to do: spur research and investment, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Our work has demonstrated that, over the last 10 years, steady reductions in greenhouse gas emissions have materialized as biofuels became a more efficient, high quality product,” said Dr. Steffen Mueller, principal economist at the Energy Resources Center.

The peer-reviewed analysis was conducted using the GREET Model (Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation) developed by Argonne National Laboratory which examines the full life cycle emissions impacts of energy sources. As part of the analysis, carbon emissions related to the planting, growing, harvesting, transportation and production of corn into ethanol were compared to that of oil recovery and production.

Under the EPA’s proposed rules, conventional starch ethanol would likely be reduced to 13.4 billion gallons from 15 billion gallons in 2015. In this scenario, the analysis found that 4,520,000 tonnes of additional CO2 emissions would be incurred in 2015.

Both the National Corn Growers Association and the Illinois Corn Growers Association expressed disappointment in the direction the EPA has taken.

“It is very curious that some vocal audiences known for touting job creation, a stronger domestic economy, and reduced air and water pollution were largely mute on this significant occasion,” said Chip Bowling, NCGA president and a farmer from Maryland. “It is pretty hard to miss the irony of this anniversary-related RFS assessment hitting while the Environmental Protection Agency is weakening the successful legislation.”

“We are disappointed that the same federal agency charged to protect human health and the environment is proposing a rule change that would directly lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ken Hartman, president of the Illinois Corn Growers Association. “After 18 months of delay in proposing new rules, the EPA has chosen not only to shirk its legal obligation as set forth by Congress, but to lose sight of its own mission.”

The EPA is expected to release its final rule in November.

USDA Predicts Big Corn and Soybean Crops

USDAUSDA is forecasting the third largest corn crop on record and the second largest soybean crop in a new planted acreage update released today.

U.S. growers are forecast to produce 13.7 billion bushels of corn this year, according to the report from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). That is actually a four percent decrease from last year’s production, but if realized will be the third largest production on record. The numbers are up 156 million from the July projection, with the season’s first survey-based corn yield forecast at 168.8 bushels per acre, 2.0 bushels higher than last month’s projection.

Overall, the report says that growers nationwide planted 88.9 million acres to corn, unchanged from the June estimate. As of August 2, 70 percent of U.S. corn was reported to be in good or excellent condition, three percentage points below the same time last year.

U.S. soybean growers are now forecast produce the second largest crop on record although one percent less than last year. NASS forecasts U.S. soybean production of 3.92 billion bushels with a yield of 46.9 bushels per acre, which would also be the second largest on record, down 0.9 bushels per acre from the record set in 2014. Growers are expected to set new record-highs in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Virginia.

The new World Agricultural Supply Demand Estimate also released today increased usage of corn for ethanol from 5.225 million bushels to 5.250 million and lowered the average corn price estimate for the year five cents to $3.35-3.95 per bushel. “With the lower prices, domestic demand should kick up,” said analyst Jack Scoville of the PRICE Futures Group during the Minneapolis Grain Exchange call on the report. “Which will make ethanol that much more attractive in the corn … definitely should help biofuels consumption.”

MGEX Crop Call with Jack Scoville

IBISWorld Offers Buying Strategies for Ethanol

ibisworldThe ethanol market can be a pretty volatile place when it comes to pricing. IBISWorld is offering a report on how to identify where volatility exists, not just in ethanol, and how to reduce risks in price instability.

Because of fluctuating key input costs, prices of diesel and ethanol have displayed a high level of price volatility. While diesel and ethanol are both used for fuel, they do not share the same production process because diesel fuel comes from crude oil and ethanol comes primarily from corn…

Meanwhile, the price of corn is estimated to fall 21.7% in 2015, which will play a large part in the 29.2% drop in ethanol prices expected this year. Similar to diesel, ethanol prices are forecast to reverse and then stabilize at mild growth in the coming years.

The fuel market is known for its booms and busts, which can foster a hectic procurement environment. As such, buyers are encouraged to engage in long-term contracts with their fuel suppliers to reduce their exposure to price fluctuations. By locking in favorable rates now while prices are low, buyers can avoid the risk of anticipated prices rises in the future.

More information is available here.

Grains Council Presents Ethanol Export Strategy

During this week’s 55th Annual Board of Delegates Meeting in Montreal, Canada, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) unveiled an ethanol export promotion strategy. The program was developed with input from the ethanol industry including U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

U.S. Grains Council Chairman Ron Gray.

U.S. Grains Council Chairman Ron Gray.

“In 2014, the Council and its partners completed in-depth market assessments in Southeast Asia, Peru, Panama, Japan and Korea that produced valuable information used develop this strategy,” said USGC Chairman Ron Gray. “Our plans in these markets continue to develop, and we are carrying on market assessment work in places like Canada and the European Union. However, we are also moving forward aggressively with market development and policy-focused work in countries like the Philippines that have the potential to increase demand for U.S. ethanol in the near term.”

Ethanol was the subject of a general session panel at the meeting, including input from Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen and Green Plains Renewable Energy Executive Vice President for Ethanol Marketing Steve Bleyl, moderated by USGC’s Chief Economist Mike Dwyer, a leading global biofuels analyst.

Ethanol export plans were explored in more depth during the Ethanol Advisory Team meeting, comprised of members from throughout the value chain, and a breakout session focused specifically on USGC’s ongoing ethanol-focused programs.

“U.S. ethanol exports are becoming increasingly vital to our stakeholders’ bottom line, which makes finding new markets for U.S. ethanol is a priority for the Council,” Gray added. “This plan shows our and our partners’ commitments to making that happen.”

Among other activities, two trade teams in the United States and three missions traveling overseas are scheduled to focus on ethanol in the remainder of 2015.

New Ethanol Production, Corn Oil Comes to Market

Pacific Ethanol has begun commercial production of corn oil utilizing Valicor’s corn oil recovery system at its Columbia ethanol plant located in Boardman, Oregon. With the completion of this 2-year initiative, all four of the western Pacific Ethanol plants are now producing corn oil.

Neil Koehler, the company’s president and CEO, said of the milestone, “With the production of distillers corn oil at our Columbia plant, all eight of our ethanol facilities separate corn oil for sale into high-value markets. Corn oil production has been a major milestone for the company, and one that we expect to provide significant benefits as it broadens our co-product mix, further diversifies our revenue streams and enhances operating income.”

Cellulosic sugars, following extraction from bagasse at Iogen's Raizen Costa Pinto Plant (Brazil) where cellulosic ethanol is not being produced. Photo Credit:  novocana.com

Cellulosic sugars, following extraction from bagasse at Iogen’s Raizen Costa Pinto Plant (Brazil) where cellulosic ethanol is now being produced. Photo Credit: novocana.com.

Moving to the Midwest, the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol plant was fully commissioned. The 65 MMGy facility, located in Spiritwood, North Dakota, is the first corn-ethanol plant to be built in the U.S. in more than five years. The plant is unique in that the process steam is purchased from Great River Energy’s nearby Spiritwood Station and is used to help produce electricity.

Across the pond (and an ocean) in Brazil, Iogen Energy’s cellulosic ethanol plant is now up and running at the Raízen`s newly expanded Costa Pinto sugar cane mill in Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was on hand for a celebration and noted, “the production of second generation ethanol from sugarcane bagasse is the realization of a dream for the country. The collaboration between the State and Raízen is part of the government’s commitment to ethanol production as a strategic measure for economic development.”

Comment Deadline for RFS Proposal is Monday

The deadline for submitting comments to the Environmental Protection Agency on the proposed Renewable Fuel Standards for 2014, 2015, and 2016 is Monday, July 27.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy encouraged members of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) meeting in Washington DC last week to make their voices heard during the comment period. “Keep talking, keep communicating, take advantage of the public comment process,” she said. “This was a proposal, this was not a final rule, so tell us what you think. That way we’ll be able to produce a final standard that is based on all of the best information and data available.” EPA administrator encourages comments

rfs-mess-2NCGA has made it a priority to get growers involved in commenting on the EPA proposal, sponsoring rallies at the EPA’s public hearing last month in Kansas City, Kansas and on Capitol Hill last week. NCGA president Chip Bowling says they are doing everything possible to help their farmers make their voices heard. “Anyone out there in the countryside can send their comments to EPA,” said Bowling, who notes that they can also send your comments to the EPA through the corn growers website ncga.com/rfs. “We don’t have a whole lot of time to get your comments in but we could really use them.” NCGA president urges farmers to comment

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen says everyone who has a stake in the ethanol industry should send in comments on the proposal. “EPA needs to be hearing from farmers, from consumers, from renewable energy advocates across the country,” said Dinneen. “We made a difference before when we got EPA to not finalize a flawed program. We need to make a difference again.” RFA CEO on EPA comment deadline

Comments can be submitted directly to the EPA by going to the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

Corn Growers: Build it and They Will Come

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) has announced an additional $500,000 investment in Prime the Pump, a program that is expanding midlevel ethanol fueling infrastructure. The latest funds brings NCGA’s annual commitment in the program to $2 million. The organizations overseeing the E15-Blender-Pump-in-Cresco-IowaPrime the Pump program will use the monies as matching funds to secure grants under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USFA) Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership. The USDA has allocated $100 million in grants.

“The nation’s corn farmers have shown their commitment to domestically produced, clean burning ethanol repeatedly over the last 30 years and, when needed, have put their money where their mouth is,” said Chip Bowling, president of NCGA and a farmer from Newburg, Maryland. “Consumers should have fuel options that include cleaner burning ethanol and this investment will allow us to continue to move forward toward that important goal.”

Prime the Pump is aimed at retailers with high volumes and multiple locations. Retailers have to commit to a five-year marketing program, E15 must be offered at all dispensers under the canopy, signage on the street must include E15 and retailers must agree to actively promote the fuel.

“Big Oil and others opposed to ethanol keep setting up road blocks, so we need to work all the more to ensure domestic renewable ethanol moves forward,” added Bowling. “Family corn farmers are faced with the lowest corn prices in more than a decade and increased ethanol utilization is an efficient way to turn that around and help the U.S. economy and environment at the same time.”

Mycogen Supports Ethanol at Brickyard 400

mycogen-nascarMycogen Seeds and Richard Childress Racing (RCR) have unveiled a new paint scheme for the No. 3 Mycogen Seeds Chevrolet SS, which Austin Dillon will drive at the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on July 26.

“Mycogen Seeds is proud to partner with RCR to support the legacy of the No. 3 car,” says Damon Palmer, U.S. Seeds marketing director, Dow AgroSciences. “As one of America’s fastest-growing seed companies, we’re excited to be at the Brickyard 400 to cheer on one of the quickest-rising stars in NASCAR, Austin Dillon.”

Palmer says the company’s support of the No. 3 Mycogen Seeds Chevrolet SS goes deeper than its new red paint scheme. The car runs on 15 percent ethanol-blended fuel, which has powered every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race car since 2011. In 2014, ethanol production used more than 5 billion bushels of American-grown corn.

NASCAR drivers have traveled more than 7 million miles on the track with ethanol-blended fuel since its adoption. Ethanol use increases race car horsepower and reduces emissions.

“Just as NASCAR is improving efficiency on the track, Mycogen Seeds is improving productivity in the field,” Palmer says. “We provide American farmers with high-performance grain corn hybrids. Ethanol, which helps fuel the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, is an important market for U.S. corn.”

The 2015 Brickyard 400 is set for Sunday, July 26, at 3:30 p.m. ET at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is scheduled to air live on NBC Sports.