Cellerate Paving the Way for Cellulosic Ethanol

Lizzy Schultz

One of the new NEC Tech Connect sessions at this year’s National Ethanol Conference focused on new technologies that are working to increase the demand and value for ethanol and have successfully converted the fiber within the corn kernel into extremely valuable cellulosic ethanol.

Miloud Araba, head of technical services for the Enogen group at Syngenta, gave the presentation on the Cellerate process technology that is responsible for this new conversion.

“If we can convert that corn kernel fiber, which we can, into ethanol, that would add a lot of value to the ethanol by converting it into cellulosic ethanol,” he said. “Cellulosic ethanol has a lot of value for the corn industry and for the ethanol industry in general in terms of lowering greenhouse gas emissions, improving the yield of the plant on a bushel basis, and adding more value to the feed by concentrating the protein content and reducing fiber, which allows the ethanol plants to go to a higher value market.”

The process that has been running at commercial plants like Quad County Corn Processors since 2014.

“The interest is in why converting corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol is important, and the key piece is that the fiber is there to convert and is a low-hanging fruit to producing cellulosic ethanol,” said Araba. “There is an opportunity for using existing dry grain ethanol plants in the US to produce as much as 1.5 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol>”

Cellulosic ethanol in general is something of great interest to nations across the globe. While other feedstocks, such as switchgrass, are also being considered as possible sources of cellulosic ethanol, Araba explained that the Cellerate process of converting corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol is a key step to increasing the production of cellulosic ethanol, as it helps grow momentum and keep investments in that area going.

“It’s our job at Syngenta to continue to invest with the industry as well as internally to keep developing feedstocks, keep developing processes, and keep developing pathways, and those are the three main things we need to produce more ethanol,” said Araba.

Learn more in Chuck’s full interview with Miloud here:
Interview with Miloud Arabas, Enogen

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Point of Obligation Discussion at #RFANEC

Cindy Zimmerman

The extended comment period for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed denial to change the Point of Obligation under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) ended this week as panelists at the National Ethanol Conference were discussing the issue.

Pacific Ethanol CEO Neil Koehler refereed the cage fight discussion between Richard Walsh, SVP & Deputy General Counsel, Valero Renewable Fuels Company and Tim Columbus, Attorney, Steptoe & Johnson, who have opposite views on this complicated issue. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), of which Koehler is vice chairman, and the majority of industry organizations oppose changing the point of obligation under the RFS, but Valero has led the effort to move it.

Listen to both sides here: #RFANEC Point of Obligation panel

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Agriculture and Ethanol Working Together

Cindy Zimmerman

L-R: RFA CEO Bob Dinneen, former NPPC president Randy Spronk, NCGA CEO Chris Novak

At the National Ethanol Conference this week, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen sat down with representatives from the corn and livestock industries to talk about the current state of the farm economy, the policy impact of historic surpluses, and moving past food versus fuel.

Dinneen discussed common ground with National Corn Growers Association CEO Chris Novak and National Pork Producers Council past president Randy Spronk. Listen to the discussion here: #RFANEC Ag Groups discussion

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Pacific Ethanol CEO Receives RFA Industry Award

Cindy Zimmerman

The co-founder of California’s first ethanol production company received the Renewable Fuels Association 2017 Industry Award in San Diego this week at the 22nd National Ethanol Conference.

Pacific Ethanol CEO Neil Koehler, who is also vice chairman of the RFA board of directors, was the co-founder and general manager of Parallel Products, California’s first ethanol production company, which made ethanol from beverage waste. He also founded Kinergy Marketing, an ethanol marketing company before forming Pacific Ethanol in 2003. Pacific Ethanol’s initial focus was on destination ethanol plants, building facilities on the U.S. West Coast, not in the traditional Midwest where the corn is grown. The company now owns eight biorefineries — in Oregon, Idaho, California, Nebraska and Illinois — with a combined production capacity of 515 million gallons per year.

“Neil has been a longtime fixture in the U.S. ethanol industry and consistently been an early adopter of new technologies,” said RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Pacific Ethanol has helped to lead the industry in the transition to low carbon renewable fuels, and Neil has been one of our industry’s best and most vocal advocates. On behalf of the RFA, we congratulate Neil on his achievements. This award is well deserved.”

Listen to the award presentation here: Bob Dinneen, RFA and Neil Koehler, Pacific Ethanol

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#Ethanol Shaping The Future of Exports

Lizzy Schultz

Ethanol was a popular topic for discussion during the 2017 U.S. Grains Council (USGC) Winter Meeting, held last week in Panama City, Panama, with many USGC representatives believing that improving global ethanol demand will be key in sustaining a successful export market for U.S. corn and corn products.

“Our ethanol program that we’ve put a lot of effort in recently has shown some great promise, a lot of countries are anxious to work with us, they just don’t know what to do to get started,” said Mike Dwyer, USGC Chief Economist, in an interview during the event. “So the whole focal point of our market development program is to work with them on the technical and policy side to get the policy right, make sure they understand the benefits of ethanol blending with respect to issues like greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation.”

Dwyer also explained that the market development efforts are focused mainly on trying to develop demand for ethanol that doesn’t exist right now.

“If a country cannot produce enough ethanol to hit their blend levels, they need to pick up their phone and call the U.S. and order whatever they can’t fill domestically. In other words, exports are a supplement to domestic production,” he said.

USGC has committed to reaching 2.63 billion gallons of exports by 2026. Last year’s ethanol exports reached 860 million gallons, but this year’s exports are projected to hit 1.1 billion gallons, which is above where we need to be to hit that benchmark.

“I think we’re just getting started on our growth curve. We have the full support of the U.S. corn community, and we have a strategic alliance with Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuel Association. The three of us are working together for the greater good of developing ethanol demand worldwide with a role for trade,” said Dwyer. “A lot of these countries do not want to import, and we make the case that they’re going to import oil anyway, these are import deficit countries, so wouldn’t you rather import a product that solves an environmental problem rather than one that contributes to it? And so far that message has been resonating.”

Listen to Lizzy’s full interview with Mike here:
Interview with Mike Dwyer, USGC

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Bon Voyage Biodiesel – Ship Sets Sail on B20

Cindy Zimmerman

Biodiesel is taking to the high seas in a special ship traveling from Rhode Island to an ultimate goal of Cuba on 6,000 gallons of B20.

The 200-foot Sailing School Vessel Oliver Hazard Perry fueled up with 20 percent biodiesel this week at Newport Shipyard in Newport, Rhode Island as it begins a voyage from New England to Florida, then on to Cuba in March. The brand new SSV Oliver Hazard Perry is the first ocean-going, full-rigged ship built in the U.S. in more than 100 years.

Newport Biodiesel Chairman Robert Morton (photo courtesy OHPRI)

Newport Biodiesel, a biodiesel producer based in Rhode Island, provided the B20 blend to Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island (OHPRI) at a discount.

“Supplying this ship with B20 biodiesel gives us a chance to support a worthwhile seafaring mission, while educating the public and marine industry about the environmental benefits of B20,” said Robert Morton, chairman of the board for Newport Biodiesel. “This is the largest deployment of B20 we have ever done for a marine vessel, so it represents a significant step.”

Morton, a former oceanographer, volunteers on the board of OHPRI and also serves as vice chair of the marketing committee on the National Biodiesel Board. He sees big potential for American biodiesel for marine use. Biodiesel not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to petroleum, but biodegrades in water as fast as sugar and is healthier for people to breathe.


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RFA Chair Urges #Ethanol Industry to be Bold

Cindy Zimmerman

NEC scholarship winners David Orreg and Daehwan Kim pose with RFA chairman Mick Henderson

Mick Henderson is general manager of Commonwealth Agri-Energy, an ethanol plant in western Kentucky. He is also the chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and says this year’s National Ethanol Conference (NEC) theme “Growing Markets, Building Partnerships” is a theme for the industry this year.

“The bigger the coalition, the more you can get done,” said Henderson. “We have an opportunity to be bold. If we don’t grab opportunities when they’re in front of us, what are we waiting on?”

Opportunities come in the form of working with industries like the refiners and the auto makers. It also comes from new research, like that being done by two Purdue University Ph.D. students, David Orreg and Daehwan Kim, who received the NEC scholarships this year from RFA and the Renewable Fuels Foundation, on which Henderson served for over four years. “Every year I got to meet with the students and talk with them about about what comes next,” he said. “Innovation and entrepreneurship are a big part of this industry.”

Listen to this interview with Mick from NEC: Interview with RFA Chairman Mick Henderson, Commonwealth Agri-Energy

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Gasoline Markets and #Ethanol

Cindy Zimmerman

Retail fuel outlets have many considerations when it comes to offering higher ethanol blends for consumers – from regulatory hurdles, equipment replacement timelines, financial incentives and long term strategies. But higher blends are vital when it comes to increasing the domestic market for ethanol at this point.

Renewable Fuels Association vice president of industry relations Robert White led a discussion on the topic during the National Ethanol Conference with Ryan McNutt, CEO, SIGMA; Jimm Cross, PMAA Western Region Chairman and President, Cross Petroleum; John Eichberger, Executive Director, Fuels Institute; Rick Long, General Manager & Associate General Counsel, PEI.

Listen to that panel here: Understanding Gasoline Markets Panel at #RFANEC

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High Octane, Low Carbon Future Panel at #RFANEC

Cindy Zimmerman

L-R: David McShane, Ricardo; Jim Anderson, Ford Motor Company; Jim Szybist, Oak Ridge National Lab; Geoff Cooper, RFA

Automakers, DOE scientists, and other experts agree that octane is the key to enabling greater efficiency and reduced emissions in the internal combustion engines of the future. The question is making that happen and that is the discussion had at the National Ethanol Conference this week.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior VP Geoff Cooper moderated the conversation with Ricardo Executive Vice President David McShane, Ford Motor Company Technical Expert Jim Anderson, and researcher Jim Szybist with Oak Ridge National Lab.

Listen to the panel here: High Octane, Low Carbon Panel at #RFANEC

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Military Vets Urge Trump to Add Biofuels to Energy Plan

Cindy Zimmerman

Military veterans involved in the biofuels industry, like East Kansas Agri-Energy (EKAE) President and CEO Jeff Oestmann, are requesting that the Commander-in-Chief deploy the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels in the fight to make America First in energy.

“Missing from the president’s (America First Energy) plan is any mention of ethanol or biofuels in general – we are seeking to change that,” said Oestmann, who served in the Marines, during the opening general session of the National Ethanol Conference yesterday. He and other U.S. military veterans working in the ethanol industry drafted a letter to President Trump to remind him that “ethanol is a crucial domestic energy source that plays an important role in reducing oil imports.”

Oestmann says nine of the 52 employees at EKAE are veterans, as are a good percentage of the attendees at the conference who were asked to stand – including Geoff Cooper and Robert White with the Renewable Fuels Association. “Working and investing in the ethanol industry allows us to continue honoring our commitment to making America stronger and more independent,” said Oestmann, encouraging all veterans present to sign the letter to President Trump during the conference at the RFA booth.

Listen to Oestmann (Oohrah!) here: EKAE CEO Jeff Oestmann at #RFANEC

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