Page 1

APRIL 2019



Badger State Employs Advanced Cleaning Approach Page 16


GM’s High-Octane Pitch Page 22

A Message for Mechanics Page 30



2019 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

President & Editor in Chief Tom Bryan Editor Lisa Gibson Associate Editor Matt Thompson Copy Editor Jan Tellmann


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CEO Joe Bryan Sales & Marketing Director John Nelson Business Development Director Howard Brockhouse Senior Account Manager/Bioenergy Team Leader Chip Shereck Circulation Manager Jessica Tiller Marketing & Advertising Manager Marla DeFoe


Ringneck Energy Walter Wendland Little Sioux Corn Processors Steve Roe Commonwealth Agri-Energy Mick Henderson Pinal Energy Keith Kor Aemetis Advanced Fuels Eric McAfee Western Plains Energy Derek Peine Front Range Energy Dan Sanders Jr.

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Cutting Caustic

Ecolab, Badger State Ethanol partner on new cleaning strategy By Matt Thompson





Come Together

An NEC speaker shares some unexpected suggestions By Matt Thompson




Teachers of the Trade












Deploying Plan B By Lisa Gibson

Armed with the Facts By Geoff Cooper

A New Year for UNICA By Leticia Phillips


UAI’s Studies Tell the Truth By Dave VanderGriend





American Ethanol, UTI partner to educate mechanics about ethanol By Lisa Gibson




36 MAINTENANCE Optimal Efficiency

Often-overlooked areas require attention By Troy Moore Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) April 2019, Vol. 25, Issue 4. Ethanol Producer Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Ethanol Producer Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.


Badger State Ethanol Operations Manager Doug Friedrich (left) and CEO Erik Huschitt stand in front of the plant in Monroe, Wisconsin.




Deploying Plan B When the deadline came around for this April issue, two of our planned features clearly weren’t going to pan out. The “news” wasn’t newsy,

Lisa Gibson


the details didn’t align, the sources didn’t have the information we were looking for. Two ideas, trashed. Thankfully, EPM’s editorial staff was busy traveling in the weeks before that dreaded deadline, and we plugged in two new ideas born of those trips, just under the wire. Associate Editor Matt Thompson caught the National Ethanol Conference in February, and was shocked—like many other attendees—to hear a General Motors executive tell the ethanol industry it’s not active enough in pushing for a RON standard. Dan Nicholson pitched a 95 RON, down from the 100 and 98 RON standards GM has advocated for in the recent past. He also told his audience that “waiting and hoping” for the best in regulatory reform isn’t good enough, and the ethanol lobby needs to “step up.” He did bring up some valid points about unrealistic efforts, expressed thanks for the opportunity to speak, encouraged teamwork and a collaborative path forward, illustrated the urgency of a high-octane standard, and even said he stands with the ethanol industry in our fight to remove blend barriers. But he also said the ethanol industry needs to “shift from not engaging” in the RON discussion. Thompson captured some reactions, including from Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, who rebuked Nicholson’s assertion—on stage, immediately after the presentation—that ethanol is simply sitting back and waiting for a RON standard to fall. Doug Sombke, of South Dakota Farmers Union, wrote GM a letter that makes clear his response to Nicholson’s claims. Other attendees challenged Nicholson in the Q&A that followed his speech. The story starts on page 22. Our other replacement feature idea came from Growth Energy’s Executive Leadership Conference, also in February. One panel discussion on the last day detailed an initiative by American Ethanol to help educate mechanics about the benefits of ethanol, and clear up the myths. Specifically, the panel explored the idea of taking our message to technical schools training the next generation of mechanics, and filling the fuel hole in the curriculum. American Ethanol is doing that, with the help of its partners, and is looking to expand its reach. Find out more, starting on page 30. Our cover story this month worked out exactly as planned. It’s a peek inside Badger State Ethanol and its work with Ecolab to revolutionize plant cleaning. With less caustic soda and hydroblasing, Badger State still shines. It’s on page 16. Story ideas fall through. It happens sometimes. This month, adjusting was simple and I think we’ve delivered better content than we originally planned. Fallbacks for the win.




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2019 ACE Conference August 14-16, 2019 Omaha Marriott Downtown Omaha, Nebraska The ACE Conference is a must-attend event for industry leadership. Relaying timely updates on public policy, market development, board of director training, and much more, this event combines the detail of high-level training courses with all the fun of a family reunion. (605) 334-3381

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Armed with the Facts By Geoff Cooper

Since our founding in 1981, one of the hallmarks of the Renewable Fuels Association has always been the development of sound science, analysis and data to support our industry’s advocacy efforts.

Reports, studies and analyses prepared by RFA’s technical staff and a diverse array of third-party experts have always served as the factual foundation supporting our mission to grow the market for U.S.produced renewable fuels. This strength was on full display at this year’s National Ethanol Conference in February, where three important new industry resources were released. First, RFA released a new analysis conducted by ABF Economics that found that the U.S. ethanol industry makes “a significant contribution” to the U.S. economy. Just how significant? According to the analysis, which is conducted annually and used by ethanol advocates across the country, the production and use of 16.1 billion gallons of ethanol in 2018: • Supported more than 71,000 direct jobs and almost 295,000 indirect and induced jobs across all sectors of the economy. • Added nearly $25 billion in income for American households. • Generated an estimated $4.8 billion in tax revenue to the Federal Treasury and $4 billion in revenue to state and local governments. • Displaced an amount of gasoline refined from roughly 550 million barrels of imported crude oil, keeping $36 billion in the U.S. economy. Second, every NEC attendee received RFA’s 2019 annual Industry Outlook publication, which is chock-full of facts and figures about the industry and summarizes current events and developments. Critics continue to churn out the same outrageous falsehoods about ethanol’s environmental performance, impacts on food and feed costs, and other myths. But the annual outlook, now in its 19th year, provides supporters, lawmakers, the media and the general public updated factual information on a host of issues.


For example, biofuel critics frequently cite the “food vs. fuel” canard, but that continues to be debunked. Last year, U.S. farmers harvested the second-largest corn crop ever, and retail food price inflation rates continued to be subdued. Annual average food price inflation has averaged just 2.2 percent since 2005 when the Renewable Fuel Standard was enacted, a significant deceleration from previous decades. Due to the remarkable productivity of farmers in the U.S. and globally, increased use of grain for ethanol has had no detectable impact on retail food prices, while at the same time helping to curtail gas prices. Finally, the NEC saw the release of a new study by Life Cycle Associates that highlighted the tremendous contributions of the RFS toward reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In fact, the study found that, to date, the RFS has outperformed the U.S. EPA’s original expectations regarding GHG reduction, even though cellulosic biofuel production has fallen short of Congress’ original goals. The study found that the RFS2 has reduced GHG emissions by nearly 600 million metric tons since 2008, far surpassing EPA’s original expectations of 422 million metric tons through 2022. The greater-than-expected reductions are a result of the rapid adoption of new technologies that quickly reduced the carbon intensity of grain-based ethanol and other biofuels. As surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, we know renewable fuel opponents will continue to attach myths, misinformation and outright lies to our industry. However, armed with facts provided by RFA, we can effectively counter misinformation and truly educate policymakers and consumers about the significant benefits of clean, low-cost, high-quality ethanol. Author: Geoff Cooper President and CEO Renewable Fuels Association 202.289.3835


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A New Year for UNICA By Leticia Phillips

I want to kick off my first column of 2019 by sharing some exciting news from UNICA. As of

Feb. 12, we have a new president and CEO: Evandro Gussi. Gussi comes to UNICA after serving a four-year term in the Brazilian Congress. After a remarkable career as a lawyer and a professor, Gussi was a representative for the State of Sao Paulo in Brasilia where, among many other accomplishments, he successfully introduced the Renovabio legislation into Congress. Renovabio will completely transform the biofuels scene in Brazil. This transformation will occur because this policy provides the stability that is so needed for investments to flourish. When the rules of the game are clear and predictable, the country and its citizens win. Since the beginning of Renovabio, UNICA has taken the lead in pushing for this legislation to become a reality. We have provided support and advice to all parties involved in this program. One can only imagine our excitement now to have Gussi leading UNICA. His commitment to this cause is essential for the sugarcane sector to navigate these challenging, yet exciting, times. As the world struggles to find solutions to decarbonize the transport sector, Brazil is positioning itself to lead this charge. By committing to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 43 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, Renovabio comes to solidify the predictable policy pillar of achieving this commitment. The other


two pillars, sustainable production and technological innovation, have been the focus of our industry for a long time. Throughout this process of introduction, approval and now regulation of this program, Gussi has devoted himself to learning about our sector and renewing his commitment to fight for a better, cleaner future for all. Aware of the many challenges that ethanol (and sugar) faces around the world, Gussi will reach out to stakeholders abroad to share Brazil’s successful experience with sugarcane ethanol, its environmental benefits and how Brazil can collaborate with other countries that also want to curb their carbon emissions in transport. The sugarcane ethanol sector could not rely on a better champion to lead us into this new chapter of growth. We are excited to have Gussi leading UNICA. Please join us in Sao Paulo for our Ethanol Summit June 17 to 18. We’ll arrange meet and greets with our new president. Author: Leticia Phillips North American Representative Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, UNICA 202.506.5299


UAI’s Studies Tell the Truth By Dave VanderGriend

Every time we fill our gas tanks, we are exposed to chemicals known to cause cancer. Think about

how often that happens, and how a cleaner fuel is rarely an option. These toxic chemicals, known as aromatics, are allowed in our fuel supply even though it’s been documented for decades that they are harmful. It does not have to be this way. Cleaner fuel options are readily available today. Toxic aromatics make up 20 to 30 percent of a gallon of gasoline. These aromatics, added to boost octane, are the most dangerous components of gasoline and the largest contributor to tailpipe emissions. From our perspective, biofuels such as ethanol are an obvious replacement because they provide an octane boost while reducing emissions. In fact, ethanol is already making a difference. Since the adoption of E10, ethanol has replaced 8 billion gallons of aromatics annually. That number will only increase with the adoption of E15 and higher blends. While higher ethanol blends seem like the obvious answer to us, the U.S. EPA has not adopted them, largely because of the science it relies on to create regulations. It uses studies for vehicle emissions that do not fully credit ethanol for its emission-reducing abilities. It’s not clear whether this is intentional, or if EPA is simply following testing procedures that date back to a time when ethanol was not part of the fuel mix. Either way, the science behind test fuels and vehicle emission testing is a passion of the Urban Air Initiative. For years, our assessments found that studies do not accurately reflect ethanol’s emission-reducing benefits, nor do they reflect the fuels consumers actually buy. Last year, this prompted UAI to commission several independent studies. They ranged from a critical review of the


vehicle emission studies EPA uses to create regulations to the impact midlevel ethanol blends have on evaporative and tailpipe emissions. In these independent studies, researchers found that when they used fuels that resembled what consumers can purchase at the corner gas station, ethanol reduced emissions across the board. In fact, two of the studies found that ethanol blends can reduce toxic tailpipe emissions by up to 50 percent, improving air quality and protecting public health. These studies were conducted by reputable universities and research outlets, studies that have been peer reviewed and presented at conferences with fuel and emission experts. These are the studies that can propel our case to EPA that it’s time to re-examine the science. Armed with this independent information, we welcome the opportunity to work with EPA and others to create an accurate fuel testing process. From our perspective, an updated process would help erase unnecessary regulation, provide access to lower-carbon and less-toxic fuels, improve our country’s air quality and, most important, improve public health. Because we shouldn’t have to be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals at the gas pump. We deserve the ability to choose a cleaner fuel.

Author: Dave VanderGriend President, Urban Air Initiative CEO, ICM Inc. 316.796.0900

The Building Blocks for Better Ethanol Production Realizing peak synergy between the best yeast and enzymes is critical to optimizing ethanol production. BASF and LBDS, the industry-leading innovators of these key ethanol building blocks, have partnered together to leverage their collective strengths to help producers maximize performance and deliver more value to the bottom line. Look to the experts at BASF and LBDS for process insights, collective know-how and innovation to get the most out ethanol production. Š 2019


People, Partnerships & Projects

Solenis, BASF Complete Merger BASF and Solenis have completed the merger of BASF’s wet-end Paper and Water Chemicals business with Solenis. With pro forma sales of approximately $3 billion, the combined company will operate under the Solenis brand and is positioned to provide expanded chemical offerings and cost-effective solutions for customers in pulp, paper, oil and gas, chemical processing, mining, biorefining, power, municipal and other industrial markets. BASF will own 49 percent of the combined company and 51 percent is collectively owned by Solenis management and funds managed by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. The new Solenis has approximately 5,200 employees, with increased sales, service and


production capabilities across the globe. The merger includes the Paper and Water assets of BASF’s Performance Chemicals unit with production sites in Bradford and Grimsby, U.K.; Suffolk, Virginia; Altamira, Mexico; Ankleshwar, India; and Kwinana, Australia. The merger also related assets including intellectual property. BASF’s paper coating chemical business is not part of the transaction. “Combining our strong heritages creates the leading customer-focused, global solutions provider for the paper and water industries,” said John Panichella, president and CEO, Solenis. “Customers from these industries will benefit from our joint strengths, resulting in an unparalleled and

complementary range of products and services, state-of-the-art innovations and know-how.” “Joining forces with Solenis is the right step for BASF’s Paper and Water Chemicals business to maintain sustainable growth,” said Anup Kothari, president of BASF’s Performance Chemicals division. “Together, we will provide the broadest scope of products and services to meet the specialty chemical needs of the global paper and water industry.”


Erickson to Leave BIO After 19 years leading the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s Industrial and Environmental Section, Executive Vice President Brent Erickson has stepped down to begin new business ventures. “As our first and only leader in BIO’s Industrial and Environmental Section, Brent Erickson helped establish the fledging industrial biotech sector as a key part of the biotech business community,� said BIO President and CEO James C. Greenwood. “He has been a tireless advocate for BIO’s industrial biotech section, and we owe Brent a huge debt of gratitude for his long and successful career at BIO.� Arriving in March 2000 to lead the newly created Industrial and Environmental Section, Erickson has compiled a series

of impressive advocacy wins under his belt. Four years after taking the helm, Erickson started the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology—an event that is now the world’s largest conference on industrial biotechnology. Additionally, Erickson helped found the Journal of Industrial Biotechnology in 2005 and has served as a consulting editor with the publication throughout his BIO career. Erickson also helped create the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology and Agriculture and the George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology to recognize and honor outstanding men and women in the field. His passion and accomplishments have helped establish the indus-

trial biotech sector and have advanced the creation of a global biobased economy Before joinErickson ing BIO, Erickson held several highly regarded staff positions in the U.S. Senate and at the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C. Following his departure from BIO, Erickson expects to start BioInsights Consulting LLC, a boutique consulting company to serve companies innovating in biotechnology.

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*22'1(:6,6217+(+25,=21 And itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sure to be a game-changer in reducing operating costs for your plant. Stay tuned. You wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to miss it. // contact 888-283-9337 // 605-368-9007


Cutting Caustic In collaboration with Ecolab, Badger State Ethanol has removed caustic soda from its front-end cleaning process. By Matt Thompson

When Stephanie Schmidt, process analyst and plant chemist at Badger State Ethanol in Monroe, Wisconsin, first heard of plans to try a new cleaning process at the plant, she was more than a little skeptical. “I thought they were insane,” she says. “I thought they were going to infect my fermenters. I thought that we were going to lose yield. I thought they were crazy. I was probably one of the biggest sceptics about doing this because I just didn’t think it was possible.” But the year-long collaboration with Ecolab for cleaning fermenters, coolers, 16 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | APRIL 2019

condensers and syrup lines is complete, and Schmidt is fully onboard with the process. “They proved me wrong,” she says. The major feature of Ecolab’s approach is removing caustic from the cleaning process. Schmidt explains that the plant still uses caustic to clean the evaporators but cleaning the fermenters, exchangers and coolers is done without it. “Everything about caustic is a pain,” Schmidt explains. “I mean it foams. If you don’t flush it out enough, you can get high sodium levels that will cause issues with your fermenters. Caustic has been an industry headache that we all just dealt with because none of us had a better way to clean.” Zach Babcock, associate district manager at Ecolab, says the company has a

more collaborative approach to ethanol plant cleaning that relies on a partnership. It worked well with Badger State. “Kudos to their general manager and CEO, Erik Huschitt,” Babcock says. “He really bought in and believed, ‘Ok, we spend X a year cleaning. Our core competency’s not cleaning tanks, pipes, lines, etc. How much better can we run the operation if we partner with a vendor whose core competency is CIP (clean-in-place)?’” Schmidt agrees. “We thought, ‘Well, they’re kind of the experts. Why don’t we let them take a crack at helping the ethanol industry clean a little better?’” she says. “So that’s what we did, and it’s been really, really neat so far. Their support has been really

LAB LAUGHS: Stephanie Schmidt, process analyst and plant chemist, and Joe Lepore, operator, work in the lab at Badger State Ethanol in Monroe, Wisconsin. PHOTO: PATRICK BODELL, SYNQRONUS COMMUNICATIONS

good. And they’ve really guided us from a chemistry and training, and that complete package that you would want from a partner.” That collaborative approach to cleaning and plant operation is important because the needs of each plant are different, Babcock says. “We actually ended up being pretty nimble and kind of looking at every plant going, ‘You tell me what you’re trying to accomplish out of this,’ and we’re looking from a partnership standpoint: How can we best support the plant’s goals? And on our end, that’s through developing and implementing the most effective cleaning program.”

Downsizing Downtime

Schmidt says the collaboration with Ecolab began when Badger State contacted Ecolab to help clean evaporators. Badger State was pleased with the service provided, and Babcock expressed interest in partnering to try a new approach. After the evaporators, Ecolab helped Badger State tackle the fermenters and the mash exchanger, using a final rinse cleaner in place of caustic. Schmidt says the chemical used isn’t technically classified as a sanitizer, but it performs similarly without requiring flushing. “We leave the chemical residual in the fermenters and we don’t have to flush it out like caustic, so that helps with water balance,” she says. “And when we first start put-

ting that mash into the fermenters, that initial mash is sort of sterilized, or the bacteria is killed, and when we put our yeast in, it gives them a head start.” The cleaning method, Schmidt says, has also lowered the plant’s level of organics to below quantification. Ecolab also helped clean the tricanters, reboiler, plate-and-frame heat exchangers and syrup lines. “Our tricanters, our clarifiers, our stack coil—we can run all of these things longer without fouling,” Schmidt says. The reduction of caustic has had other benefits as well. “We’ve seen less glycerol in the fermenters, probably on the order of maybe 10 percent or so,” Schmidt says. “Sodium is way down. So, between the organic acid and the very low sodium that goes ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 17

PLANT CLEANING ECO-EQUIPMENT: (Right) Badger State Ethanol in Monroe, Wisconsin, partnered with Ecolab on a new cleaning strategy that removes caustic soda from the front-end process. The pictured equipment holds a cocktail used for cleaning. PHOTO: PATRICK BODELL, SYNQRONUS COMMUNICATIONS

IMMACULATE VIEW: (Middle) From left: Stephanie Schmidt, process analyst and plant chemist, Cassie Evonovich, operator, and Joe Lepore, operator, look out over the plant interior at Badger State Ethanol. PHOTO: PATRICK BODELL, SYNQRONUS COMMUNICATIONS

TOUCH OF A BUTTON: (Far right) Safety is one of the advantages of using automated hydroblasting systems. The system allows cleaning of confined spaces, without having an operator enter those tight spots. PHOTO: SENECA COS. INC.

through the plant, we credit those two reductions in lowering our glycerol.â&#x20AC;? The cleaning regimen also keeps the plant cleaner longer, Schmidt says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The efficiencies come in when we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to take equipment down to clean it and we can run it longer. We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to take an evaporator down for 12 hours to clean it anymore.â&#x20AC;? The Ecolab process takes only four to five hours, she adds. Schmidt says the new cleaning process has eliminated the need for hydroblasting the evaporators, syrup lines and reboiler. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a significant cost savings for the facility when you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to pay for hydroblasting.â&#x20AC;?

Not One Size Fits All

But Badger Stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new cleaning process might not be suitable for all plants. The final rinse cleaner thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s used in place of caustic isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t compatible with carbon steel, Babcock says. Because some plants either canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t or donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to remove caustic from their cleaning program, their current cleaning practices will still be preferred methods of cleaning for many of them, Babcock says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not just one size fits all. Every plantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not going to have the same goals that Badger State had. Every plant looks at this stuff differently.â&#x20AC;? Loyd Phillips, vice president of Seneca Cos. Inc.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s waste solutions division, says au-

tomated hydroblasting is ideal for certain areas. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It is the wave of the future because the industry is very safety-minded, very safetyconscious,â&#x20AC;? he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;All youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re really doing is eliminating the human error from things, so you get a better product. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a safer way to work because youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re not in the blasting zone.â&#x20AC;? In automated hydroblasting, the operator doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need to enter confined places and isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t in danger of being sprayed with water and hazardous chemicals. Phillips compares automated hydroblasting to playing a video game. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We set up the equipment, we get out of the confined space, then itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s run off a control panel, and you have a screen in front of you. So, youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re operating almost like a joy stick.



Š 2019 Buckman Laboratories International, Inc. All rights reserved.

“Our clients love it also,” Phillips adds. “Just the safety factor. Nobody wants anybody to ever get hurt. Never. Never, under any circumstances.” He adds that automated hydroblasting is also more efficient because it’s more controlled.

Expert Advice

While Schmidt was skeptical of Ecolab’s approach at first, she’s a strong supporter now. And she’s not the only one. Babcock says the company has started working with several ethanol plants, with plans to work with more soon. He says none of the plants have seen a degradation of cleaning performance since the removal of caustic cleaners.

While eliminating caustic may not be right for every plant, Babcock says Ecolab’s mission is to help plants meet their goals. “Every one of these I’ve tried to help with their customer setup, it’s not just, ‘Here’s a tote, try it,’” he says. “We’re here to help you meet your goals. So, hey, if there’s something you don’t like, let’s switch back, reevaluate the data and figure out how to move forward together, because cleaning’s a very dynamic process.” In addition to realizing efficiency gains and improving performance, Schmidt says Badger State appreciates the expertise that comes with hiring a cleaning expert. “We’re experts at making ethanol,” she says. “Why

not hire an expert that can help you with cleaning? And it’s nice to have somebody watching out for that side of the plant.” And that’s true of hydroblasting as well, Phillips says. “It’s really invaluable to have experienced people who do this, which we do,” he says. “Not only does having experienced people benefit the company, it benefits our clients as well, because they get better products.” Author: Matt Thompson Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4922

ADDITIONAL SERVICES: Wet or dry vacuum truck services Shutdown turnaround cleaning Dry ice and water blasting 24-hour emergency spill response Safe, efficient, flexible, consistent, cost-effective


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COME TOGETHER At NEC, a GM executive outlined some controversial advice for the ethanol industry. By Matt Thompson

At the Renewable Fuels Association’s National Ethanol Conference in February, a General Motors representative addressed attendees with a proposition: Collaborate with the automotive industry, the petroleum industry, fuel retailers and other stakeholders in the liquid fuels market to push for a national high-octane standard. “We’re advocating for

a reasonable and manageable proposal—a new, national high-octane based fuel for all new vehicles,” said Dan Nicholson, vice president of global electrification, controls, software and electronic hardware at GM’s Global Technical Center. But Nicholson pitched the standard with 95 Research Octane Number (RON) as the base, rather than the 98 RON, or higher, many in the ethanol industry would like to see. “Ninety-five RON is something both retailers and the oil industry can get behind right now,” he said. Nicholson explained that while he previously advocated for a 98 RON standard, he’s since come to believe that the fuel would be priced too high for consumers to be an effective starting point. “Ninety-eight appears too high of a cost hurdle for starters, and given our timing, and yours, the reality is the 98 RON as a base fuel is a bridge too far,” Nicholson said. “We should focus on what can be done now and continue to plan for the future.” Doug Sombke, president of the South Dakota Farmers Union, said after the address that Nicholson’s proposal came as a surprise to him. “I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” he said. “Because he mentioned in his speech a couple years prior that 100 RON was the only way to go, and now, all of a sudden, he’s down to 95. It just doesn’t make sense.”


A HIGH-OCTANE OFFER: Dan Nicholson, GMâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vice president of global electrification, controls, software and electronic hardware, makes his pitch for a high-octane standard with 95 RON as its base at the National Ethanol Conference in February. PHOTO: ZIMMCOMM


POLICY Following the conference, Sombke penned a letter to GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra. While he recognized GM for its willingness to discuss a high-octane standard, he also said he disagreed that 95 RON is the best option. “Ninety-five RON gasoline is the wrong call for our nation’s transportation fuels regulatory policy,” Sombke wrote in his letter. “It should be a floor at best and a springboard to 100 RON. Now is not the time to play ‘small ball.’” RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper said a national high-octane standard is a common goal, but the standard needs to include provisions for using low-carbon fuels to meet the required octane level. “The refiners have acknowledged, and other studies that have been conducted show, that they could meet a 95 RON octane standard pretty easily with minor investments without using a drop more ethanol,” Cooper said during a meeting with the press at NEC. “Honestly, we’d be talking about 95 RON E10 without some form of environmental anti-backsliding provisions.”

Nicholson disagreed. “One might think that the refiners don’t need to change anything from their current oxyfuels production plans,” he said during his speech. “A national 95 RON standard will require an additional 7 percent, or 10 billion gallons, of high-octane fuel each and every year. The refining community does not have the capacity to supply high-octane fuel for the entire U.S. gasoline demand.” Cooper countered that MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) was favored over ethanol during the Oxyfuel Programs, and just because ethanol is the cheapest octane solution, doesn’t mean the petroleum industry will use it. “I think that’s symptomatic of the fear that this industry has about how this could play out,” Cooper told the audience after Nicholson’s presentation. “And we’ve seen a lot of analysis out there, including some from EIA [Energy Information Administration], that just leads us to believe that a 95 RON standard really doesn’t do much for our industry in terms of growth opportunities.”

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A Legislative Approach

Nicholson outlined the urgency of getting a standard in place and working with Congress to do it. “We encourage you to work with the legislators to improve and advance the 21st Century Transportation Fuels Act draft, developed by the previous congress.” He added that the industries should work together to fix the parts of the draft bill that don’t work. That draft, introduced by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), creates a national high-octane standard, but also phases out the Renewable Fuel Standard. And Cooper said the RFA doesn’t endorse that approach. “That was our concern with the Shimkus-Flores package all along is that it didn’t really do anything to grow the market for ethanol,” he said during the press meeting. “The other key concern we’ve had with their proposal is it kills the RFS. It trades the RFS for an octane standard that really isn’t high enough octane to do much for our industry.” Nicholson said getting a standard in place is an urgent issue because of the time it takes for new technologies to be implemented in the automotive industry, and the time it takes to get legislation passed in congress. “We need to act now, not later, and we need to know if you are willing to work with all stakeholders today,” he said. “We can’t wait for years of additional discussion and debate. We need to know that your industry will work with all the stakeholders involved on a path forward to take advantage of the timing and the opportunity that exists.” Sombke agreed that an urgent solution is necessary for both the farming and ethanol industries. “In rural America today, we can’t wait,” he said. “We’re losing farmers too fast right now.” Nicholson also signaled that the petroleum industry was willing to work together with all parties. “Many believe that the oil industry is working against the biofuel industry. What’s evident to many of us now is that the oil industry is integrally involved in biofuels and they understand the market value of biobased products. They are willing to engage.” However, he acknowledged that the oil industry likely will not act with ethanol’s best interests in mind. And Cooper said working together is something RFA is willing to do. “It would be great if we could get to a point where we can sit down with the autos and oils and come to

some agreement that works for everybody,” he said. “We’re not there yet and the ShimkusFlores bill certainly was not representative of something that works for all of us.”


Nicholson said at NEC that without the support of the ethanol industry, the automotive industry may look to other areas for future vehicle design. “As mentioned earlier, automotive OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] need to see your support and participation, so we can make investments in our engine systems that can utilize higher octane,” he said. “Without this signal, we will work on compliance alternatives where we have such assurances. Once those investments are made, we won’t be revisiting other pathways.” One of those investment areas is electric vehicles (EVs). While Nicholson said EVs are gaining their share of the market, their growth so far has been limited, and that means liquid fuels will be required for the foreseeable future. But there is a transition happening in the industry. In the past five years, GM has shifted its focus from 100 percent internal combustion engines to 70 percent electrification and 30 percent internal combustion, he said, predicting other manufactures will follow this trend. “You’ve heard many times that GM leads an electric future, and we do,” he told his audience. “No one knows how soon it’ll happen. However, I can guarantee that if you do not actively work with all stakeholders now, or cling to idealism, you’ll only make it happen quicker with even greater disruption to the liquid fuels market.”

KEEP GROWING: RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper addresses attendees at the National Ethanol Conference. Cooper said the RFA could potentially support GM’s proposal of a 95 RON high-octane standard, as long as the Renewable Fuel Standard remains intact and provides growth opportunities for the ethanol industry. PHOTO: ZIMMCOMM

Getting Engaged

While both GM and the RFA are proponents of a high-octane standard, the two are at odds about how the process has worked, and the correct path to take in getting a high-octane standard adopted. Nicholson went so far as to say the ethanol industry hasn’t been engaged in the discussions thus far. “We need ethanol to shift from not engaging, to being the leaders in the discussion,” he said. In response, Cooper noted the industry’s involvement in previous talks about an octane standard. “I really do need to challenge the notion that ethanol has not been engaged in the 95 RON bill that Congressmen Shimkus and Flores introduced,” he told the audience after Nicholson’s presentation. “We were absolutely ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 25


FIELDING QUESTIONS: RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper speaks with the media during the 2019 National Ethanol Conference in February. PHOTO: ZIMMCOMM

engaged in representing the industry’s interest in that discussion.” Cooper also said the RFA could potentially support a high-octane standard with 95 RON as the base, if the RFS remains intact. “We do think a high-octane standard—whether it’s 98 RON, 100 RON, maybe even if it is

95 or 96 RON—if it’s on top of an RFS, it could provide future growth for the industry, above and beyond what we see specified in the RFS,” he told the press at NEC. Sombke said a 95 RON isn’t high enough. “It’s just not far enough, fast enough,” he said. He advocated for a 100 RON, E30 fuel.

In his address, Nicholson said he understands the desire for growth and believes there is opportunity to grow the ethanol industry with a 95 RON octane standard. But, he said, the industry should also plan for any potential declines. “I think there’s a path for growth, but there’s certainly not any guarantees. But I think you also have to think about scenarios which have not just growth, but actually declines. And on the current path, there are very likely scenarios for actual declines.” While Cooper advocated for a solution that will provide benefits for the ethanol industry, Nicholson said GM is also looking to benefit. He said the key is working with all stakeholders. “We’re not going to just do things to facilitate higher levels of ethanol with no payback for us, and no benefit for customers,” he said. “It has to be a coordinated solution. And it has to be time-coordinated with lawmakers.” Author: Matt Thompson Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4922

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TRADE An American Ethanol partnership facilitated an ethanol-focused presentation to future and current mechanics at one Universal Technical Institute campus. By Lisa Gibson

ENGAGED AUDIENCE: Andy Randolph, technical director for ECR Engines, delivers a presentation about the impacts of ethanol on engines to mechanic students at the Universal Technical Instituteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Nascar Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina, in November. Randolph spoke in partnership with American Ethanol, and hopes to expand his talks to all UTI campuses. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL TECHNICAL INSTITUTE







RESOURCE ROOM: American Ethanol revamped the resource center at UTIâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Mooresville, North Carolina, campus. Its new name is the American Ethanol Learning Resource Center. PHOTO: GROWTH ENERGY

Mechanic certification focuses intensely on engines themselves, and the mechanical aspects of engine parts. It makes sense,



then, that mechanics are just as susceptible to believing myths surrounding ethanol as consumers are. Andy Randolph, technical director for ECR Engines, says the Automotive Service Excellence outline for curriculum at tech schools doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t include fuels and their impacts on engines. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not a question on the exam. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not really a part of the curriculum. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s kind of surprising, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an area that burgeoning mechanics arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t exposed to.â&#x20AC;? Randolph speculates that fuel impacts arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t included in the curriculum because E10 is â&#x20AC;&#x153;the fuel.â&#x20AC;? There arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t options, he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;So the fuel is kind of a given and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not something they talk to mechanics about.â&#x20AC;? But fuel options will change with a wider adoption of E15. â&#x20AC;&#x153;So, now, getting into the realm of E15 and, hopefully, as time goes on, getting more choices that are higher ethanol blends than that, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s really incumbent on mechanics to help educate consumers on what the differences of these various ethanol concentrations are.â&#x20AC;? And Randolph is already getting started on educating mechanics. In November, Randolph, who has a Ph.D. in chemical en-

gineering, spoke to a group of 300 students and instructors at the Universal Technical Instituteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, North Carolina. His preRandolph sentation was part of an initiative by American Ethanol, Growth Energyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s racing arm, to clear up ethanol myths among automotive professionals. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When it comes to fuel, which is a critical component of the engine, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a big knowledge drop-off,â&#x20AC;? says Austin Dabney, senior manager of communications for Growth Energy. â&#x20AC;&#x153;When thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an information gap, that can get filled with negative misinformation and weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve seen that to be true.â&#x20AC;? Randolph adds, â&#x20AC;&#x153;If you have conflicting statements from two people, you need to choose which one to believe. The professionalism of our approach, and the information that we have is not only factually accurate, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also very convincing.â&#x20AC;?

Natural Partners

The idea came together through UTIâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and American Ethanolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mutual partner, NASCAR. American Ethanol saw the oppor-

tunity to get in front of hundreds of students training to become mechanics. Randolph has worked closely with Richard Childress Racing, which is a partner of American Ethanol, putting him in a perfect position to speak to students. That way, it comes right from “the horse’s mouth,” not from an ethanol trade group, Dabney says. “UTI wants to make sure the message is from relevant people; from people these students are aspiring to be,” he says. One year into the partnership between American Ethanol and UTI, American Ethanol has completely revamped the Mooresville campus’ resource center—now named the American Ethanol Learning Resource Center—and has the school’s instructors and students thinking more deeply about ethanol in engines. The students were engaged, and asked Randolph highly intelligent, well-informed questions, Dabney says. “It was a really impressive group of young people.” The campus visit with Randolph was an all-around positive experience, Dabney says. “We left extraordinarily impressed by the type of graduates that are leaving that organization.” The students chosen for the presentation were in NASCAR-specific programs, or fuel and ignitions courses, all well into their programs, says Tony Frassetto, senior account manager in business alliances for UTI. “We were thoughtful and strategic in how we pulled these classes for Dr. Andy,” he says.

Specifically of interest to students is Randolph’s demonstration comparing alcohol-blended fuel to gasoline. “Alcohol-gas blends are very different from a combustion standpoint,” Randolph says. Gasoline contains no oxygen, so it must come from the air. The fuel and air then burn on different sides of the flame. Ethanol, however, contains oxygen, creating a much different burn. “When you see the two of them burn, all of a sudden, it becomes so obvious how the properties of ethanol are beneficial for emissions,” Randolph says. “It becomes so vivid when you can see it with your own eyes. “When you’ve got facts on your side, it makes it a lot more fun,” Randolph laughs. The partnership with American Ethanol also helps UTI stay on the cutting edge of its training. “The landscape is consistently changing, with alternative fuels, and it’s important for our students to go into the workplace, go into the field, and know the facts about what’s out there,” Frassetto says.

Educating Educators

While the information Randolph shared at UTI quickly won over the students, a candid lunch meeting with instructors was more contentious, Randolph says. “We had some really good discussions that cleared up some things and also got them thinking in the right direction,” he says. “I think talking to both the students and the educators was very valuable.” Frassetto says the lunch with instructors allowed Randolph to clear up several deeply held beliefs about ethanol’s impact on engines. “It was really interesting to watch that interaction between all of our instructors and Dr. Andy,” Frassetto says. “All of our instructors, they’ve been there, done that. They come from the field, so they come with their preconceived thoughts about ethanol. And it was great to hear them willing to take in new information.” While a system-wide curriculum change is an enormous undertaking, instructors asked Randolph for more information and are actively reviewing it with much interest, Frassetto says. “We’re training tomorrow’s technicians, so we need these students to be knowledgeable,” Frassetto says. “But the instructors are just as important because they’re talking to students on a daily basis. “He impacted them,” Frassetto says of the instructors who met with Randolph.

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EDUCATION “He changed some of their perspectives and they’re truly the influencers, I think, of tomorrow’s technicians.”

Pilot Program

HEAD OF THE CLASS: Andy Randolph, technical director for ECR Engines, presents ethanol information to students at UTI’s Mooresville, North Carolina, campus. The students were engaged and received his message well, he says. PHOTO: GROWTH ENERGY

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Dabney says the partnership with UTI in Mooresville is a pilot project that hopefully will grow. Randolph, Dabney and Frassetto say they’d like to see the ethanol talks expand to all campuses. “UTI has campuses all over the country,” Randolph says. “It’s certainly my hope that this is something we can take onto the road, virtually annually, and visit all these campuses. … Just through UTI alone, we could reach more than 1,000 graduating mechanics. You can imagine, over not very long a time, that’s going to have a huge influence on the pool of people that’s out there.” Dabney says he hopes all of American Ethanol’s partners will be plugged into the UTI training partnership. “The idea is we want to position our various people that we work with under the American Ethanol umbrella as educators and validators for the performance benefits of biofuels,” he says. American Ethanol is seeking out other automotive thought leaders to engage them in partnerships. “It’s a sweeping effort and we’re trying to find as many touch points as we can that make sense.” Randolph also is working with ASE to deliver a webinar to even more auto mechanics in the field. “We know there are technicians all over the country,” Dabney says. “We know the oil industry has done a great job of putting doubt in people’s minds, and mechanics and technicians are who consumers go to and trust. The average person relies on those people to give them information. We can’t have misinformation being given out on ethanol.” “Across the country, we have the ability to train over 15,000 technicians each day” Frassetto says. “This is just the start of something.” Author: Lisa Gibson Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4920

LIMITED ACCESS: Often, few access points are available for inspection and cleaning of process lines. But full attention to cleaning and maintenance of all areas of a plant is crucial to overall operation, and even morale. PHOTO: ICM INC.

OPTIMAL EFFICIENCY While fermenters and evaporators get priority, pipes, pumps and ductwork shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be overlooked. By Troy Moore

Certain areas of ethanol but other areas should not be facilities get a lot of attention neglected. Some cleaning tasks are ongoing. At from the management team the top of the list of measures to avoid when monitoring plant opera- yield-robbing bacterial infections is the tionsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;fermenters and evapo- proper cleaning of fermenters after each rators quickly come to mind, batch is dropped. Maintaining optimal clean-in-place (CIP) operations is impor-

tant to flush away any residual mash where bacteria could get a foothold. While ethanol plants are far from sterile environments, it is critical that bacteria levels be kept as low as possible. Evaporators are typically on a regular cleaning schedule as well. The thin stillage separated by the centrifuges is high in sus-

CONTRIBUTION: The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ethanol Producer Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).



FIERCE FOULING: The intense fouling in the pictured process line is not commonly seen, but can happen if a line is neglected.

PLANT PRIDE: Operation teams often take pride in a clean plant, especially after years of 24/7 operations.



pended and dissolved solids that easily build up in the evaporators used to condense the liquids into syrup. Plants are designed with extra evaporators so one can be taken offline for cleaning while the plant continues running the process stream through the other evaporators. But even when cleaning one or two evaporators a week, over time, the caustic solution used for CIP can’t keep up. When that happens, the evaporators begin pressuring up and distillation slows down, causing a reduction in plant throughput capacity. Most plants schedule shutdowns in the spring and fall for maintenance, inspections and thorough hydroblasting of the evaporators to bring operations back in line. Heat exchangers are also critical components of the system that can become fouled or plugged, increasing pressure that wears on pumps, reducing process stream flow and ultimately decreasing exchanger efficiency, and likely leading to an increase in energy costs. While evaporators and heat exchangers get a lot of attention during shutdowns, plants should take advantage of the opportunity to inspect and clean areas inaccessible while the plant is running. Cleaning ductwork in the area where distillers grains are dried and emissions are controlled in the oxidizer is particularly important. Removing any buildup of material in ducts that could

contribute to a fire or explosion hazard is an important safety measure, reducing risk of property damage and even personal injury.

Overlooked Pipes

In supporting ethanol facilities on general maintenance, the team in After Market Services at ICM Inc. often sees other areas overlooked at plants. As corn is ground and mixed with water, pumps and piping direct the process stream throughout the plant. Buildup of material anywhere in the plant— and not just in the evaporators or around the dryers—can cause issues. The piping that moves process streams throughout the plant needs attention as well. The same solids build-up that plague evaporators can become an issue in piping. The lines near the evaporators do get cleaned in the CIP cycle, but 50 to 75 yards often separate the evaporators and the syrup tank. Another 25 yards of piping directs the syrup from the tank to the feed conveyer, where the syrup is spread onto the wet cake heading to the dryer. That’s a lot of piping where syrup solids can create issues. The centrate system is often overlooked as well. Centrate fans pull vapor from multiple process tanks in the heart of the plant. The vapor is passed along through piping to the energy center, generally located at one end of the plant, where volatile organic

compounds are destroyed in an oxidizer to maintain emission compliance. While it may seem like simple vapor, one can be surprised by the amount of particulate solids that settle out in different spots in the many yards of pipe strung throughout the plant. While there are access points at tank originations and line endings, plants are beginning to add access in other areas to aid in cleaning. Plant operators realized the dryer burner chambers lacked good access to allow proper cleaning, and ICM After Market Services has provided better access to the dryer burner chambers and ducting. Besides mitigating a safety hazard, proper cleaning ultimately improved operations in the dryer area of the plants. Keeping plants running smoothly with minimal downtime is the goal for any maintenance and repair program. But that’s not the only benefit. Keeping everything from the floors cleaned to the outer appearance of equipment in top shape provides an environment that encourages the entire team to take pride in the workplace, and ultimately leads to improved productivity, health and safety. Author: Troy Moore Sales Manager, ICM After Market Services 316.977.6272 ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 37


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2019 April Ethanol Producer Magazine  

The Annual Plant cleaning and Emergency Response issue. Plus Maintenance: Technology, Software and Apps

2019 April Ethanol Producer Magazine  

The Annual Plant cleaning and Emergency Response issue. Plus Maintenance: Technology, Software and Apps