2021 April - Ethanol Producer Magazine

Page 1

APRIL 2021


STRATEGY Water Management Is All-Encompassing PAGE 12


45Q Wish List PAGE 20












EDITOR'S NOTE Forward March



Plant-Wide Approach

Treating Water, Customers Right

Evolving water-treatment strategies are holistic, sustainable

By Lisa Gibson






VIEW FROM THE HILL Ethanol: The Original Solar Energy


GLOBAL SCENE Biofuels Can Help Biden Administration Meet Ambitious Climate Goals By Leticia Phillips





Relationships take priority over sales

By Lisa Gibson

By Geoff Cooper




A Veolia Water Technologies technician monitors performance at an ethanol plant. PHOTO: VEOLIA WATER TECHNOLOGIES


Sequestration: A Blueprint for Success

Recommendations, bills and proposals surround 45Q By Lisa Gibson

By Tom Bryan


BETATECH INNOVATION CENTRE Natural Hop Extract Boosts Performance Study evaluates antimicrobial alternative By Michail Karavolos

Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) April 2021, Vol. 27, 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. ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 3

Editor's Note

Forward March In 2021, progress in the ethanol industry has picked back up, after dropping temporarily in 2020. As I did research for the articles in this issue, I found evolution in products and services and a reinvigorated drive toward sustainability, diversification and continuously lowered carbon emissions. Ethanol, you’re back.

Lisa Gibson EDITOR lgibson@bbiinternational.com

In this month’s cover story, “Plant-Wide Approach,” starting on page 12, we share the new and renewed commitment to holistic methods in water treatment. Specifically, our sources tell us ethanol plants are increasingly interested in water conservation, reuse and recycling. Service providers in that sector discuss added processing for recycling water back into the system, emphasizing how each plant’s water management plan differs based on a multitude of factors. We’re heading into an era of widespread water reuse, the experts say. This trend is exciting and familiar to me, having grown up in a household that emphasized water conservation through the use of neat tricks like inserting a half-gallon jug into the toilet tank to occupy space, thereby reducing the amount of water the toilet uses. (It works. Try it.) In keeping with the theme of new tricks and trends, the second feature in this issue focuses on carbon capture and storage, specifically the amendments needed to make the 45Q tax credit simpler for use in the ethanol industry. In February, the Carbon Capture Coalition released its second Policy Blueprint, a document it intends to produce every two years. It emphasizes that while some ethanol plants have been able to monetize the credit, it’s been difficult to implement industry-wide. Creating barriers for ethanol seems counterproductive, as carbon dioxide from fermentation is relatively clean. Ethanol is a prime sector for use of this tax credit. Why make it difficult and inconvenient for us? I’ll temper my frustration and just point to page 20, where the feature begins. Ethanol producers have continuously used innovative methods to lower carbon intensity scores, and that trend won’t slow. The future is low-carbon fuels and then even lower-carbon fuels. The march toward those goals is strong and loud. We continue to move forward. Stay safe and be well.




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July 13-15, 2021 Iowa Event Center Des Moines, IA

From its inception, the mission of this event has remained constant: The FEW delivers timely presentations with a strong focus on commercialscale ethanol production—from quality control and yield maximization to regulatory compliance and fiscal management. The FEW is the ethanol industry’s premier forum for unveiling new technologies and research findings. The program is primarily focused on optimizing grain ethanol operations while also covering cellulosic and advanced ethanol technologies.

JULY 13-15, 2021 Iowa Event Center Des Moines, IA

The Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Summit is a forum designed for biodiesel and renewable diesel producers to learn about cutting-edge process technologies, new techniques and equipment to optimize existing production, and efficiencies to save money while increasing throughput and fuel quality. Produced by Biodiesel Magazine, this world-class event features premium content from technology providers, equipment vendors, consultants, engineers and producers to advance discussion and foster an environment of collaboration and networking through engaging presentations, fruitful discussion and compelling exhibitions with one purpose, to further the biomass-based diesel sector beyond its current limitations. (866) 746-8385 | BiodieselSummit.com

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JULY 13-15, 2021

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Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, this sister event to the renowned International Biomass Conference & Expo will bring U.S. producers of bioenergy and biobased fuels together with waste generators and biomass aggregators, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. Supported by the attendance of nearly 2,000 industry professionals at Bioenergy Week, the Summit is a can't-miss summer networking junction for all biomass professionals. (866) 746-8385 | NationalBiomassSummit.com


View From the Hill

Ethanol: The Original Solar Energy

Geoff Cooper

President and CEO Renewable Fuels Association 202.289.3835


As policymakers, auto manufacturers, environmental groups and everyday Americans continue to look for ways to reduce the carbon impacts of our cars and trucks, it is often suggested that battery electric vehicles running on solar electricity are the “perfect solution.” It’s true that an electric vehicle operating on solar power is a very low-carbon transportation option, offering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions of 90% or more compared to gasoline. But it’s also true that the 1 million battery electric vehicles on the road today represent just 0.4% of the total U.S. vehicle fleet. Further, photovoltaic solar panels generated just 1.7% of our nation’s electricity last year. So, it seems highly unlikely that solar-powered battery electric vehicles will be a dominant form of personal transportation on American roadways anytime soon. But there’s another type of low-carbon solar energy that is available today in large quantities: ethanol. And it comes in liquid form, so it works extremely well in internal combustion engines and it can make use of the existing fuel distribution infrastructure. Mother Nature has already given us an extraordinary solar panel that covers several hundred million acres of cropland in America’s breadbasket. According to scientists from NASA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and nearly a dozen leading universities, “the Midwest region of the United States boasts more photosynthetic activity than any other spot on Earth.” The scientists noted that, in particular, “Corn plants are very productive in terms of assimilating carbon dioxide from the atmosphere” and converting it into carbohydrate energy. That energy absorbed from the sun is stored in nature’s perfect battery: an ear of corn. Each “battery” is made up of about 800 to 1,000 tiny individual battery cells (you might know them as “kernels”) chock full of renewable energy. Indeed, America’s corn farmers are the original solar energy producers! At the ethanol biorefinery, some of that solar energy is converted into renewable liquid fuel that powers our vehicles, some of it is turned into energy and protein that ultimately nourishes our bodies, and some of it is recaptured as biogenic carbon dioxide that is used in dozens of consumer and industrial applications. And even after accounting for every bit of energy and all of the emissions associated with every step of the ethanol production process, today’s corn starch ethanol is shown to reduce GHG emissions by nearly 50% compared to gasoline, according to a recent study by scientists from Environmental Health & Engineering, some of whom are affiliated with Harvard University and Tufts University. While a 50% reduction is impressive enough, corn ethanol is on its way to a 100% reduction, or “net zero” emissions. There are already meaningful volumes of cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber being used in the California market today, and the Air Resources Board says that fuel offers a 70% to 80% GHG reduction compared to gasoline. As for corn starch ethanol, proper accounting of soil carbon accumulation in corn fields will shrink its carbon footprint even further. And using biogas for thermal energy needs at the plant, or adopting carbon capture and sequestration technologies, could make corn ethanol carbon neutral—or even carbon negative. And when you put E85 made from zero-carbon corn ethanol into a flex-fuel vehicle, you’ve got a transportation option that results in a smaller carbon footprint than most electric vehicles. So, in the immortal words of George Harrison, “Here Comes the Sun” … and here comes low-carbon liquid solar energy.


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Global Scene

Biofuels Can Help Biden Administration Meet Ambitious Climate Goals Leticia Phillips

North American Representative Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, UNICA 202.506.5299


President Joe Biden is dealing with challenges that few incoming presidents faced. He must steer a Covid relief package through a closely divided Congress, speed up vaccinations and help rebuild the economy. He needs to tackle these jobs while implementing the most aggressive climate agenda ever proposed by an American president. Amid impeachment, riots and Covid, it is easy to forget the boldness of Biden’s climate vision. In the final 2020 presidential debate, when then-candidate Biden suggested the nation must phase out fossil fuels, half the nation cheered while the other half wondered if this idea is plausible or even good. The president, therefore, faces a policy and messaging challenge today. Critics on the left have rightly said the nation is moving too slowly on climate, while many on the right believe a transition to renewables is wishful thinking. Biden envisions net-zero emissions by 2050 and real enforcement targets by 2025. He wants to invest $1.7 trillion into greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and an additional $400 billion into research and development to help the U.S. lead the world on clean technology. The transportation sector is an area where the new administration can get those all-important quick wins and show America—red and blue—that a transition to renewables need not be a decades-long slog or all that disruptive. A key ingredient in a rapid and realistic transition can be found, of course, in biofuels. Biofuels like sugarcane ethanol are proven tools that dramatically reduce GHGs. They are plentiful, available immediately and are scalable to meet increased demand. Carbon emissions from sugarcane ethanol are already among the lowest in transportation fuels. While considerable attention has been focused on Biden’s call for widespread use of electric vehicles to meet his goals, it will take time to ramp up the infrastructure, change hardened opinions and replace millions of cars and trucks. In fact, biofuels can be combined with EVs now. Hybrid-flex vehicles are already a reality and a success in Brazil, and the soon-to-hit-the-market fuel cell cars will take hydrogen from liquid biofuels, allowing EVs to use the existing liquid fuels infrastructure. My message to the new administration is to embrace biofuels and use these renewables to wean the nation’s motorists away from gasoline. As many in the environmental community have concluded, we need not pit EVs against renewables. The smart approach is to leverage both. They can be combined to allow drivers to go farther without harmful emissions. As Vice President Kamala Harris can attest, California demonstrates how EVs and biofuels have a place at the same table. The Golden State has been championing sugarcane ethanol and other biofuels to meet its GHG-reduction commitments, while at the same time aggressively promoting future deployment of EVs. Nations blessed with strong biofuel resources like the U.S. and Brazil will be well-positioned to reap economic benefits from their renewable resources. As Reuters reported before the November U.S. elections, there is potential for a large increase in global use of biofuel as an “outright way to cut carbon emissions while the world transitions” to electric cars, and biofuel blending in combustion engine cars is the quickest way to improve air quality. Consequently, several countries and regions around the world are discussing or setting targets to increase use of biofuels. They include China, Canada, India and Mexico, among others. The Brazilian sugarcane community stands ready to support these nations as they undertake this vital transition to help in the fight against climate change.



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IFF merges with DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences IFF will merge with DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences. The combined company will continue to operate under the name IFF. “We are thrilled to officially unite IFF and N&B, forging a leader in the global consumer goods and commercial products value chain that will redefine our industry and create a leading ingredients and solutions provider for our customers across a broad range of end-markets,” said Andreas Fibig, IFF chairman and CEO. “I’m extremely proud of what our teams have accomplished to complete the transaction on time, despite a year of unprecedented challenges,” said Ed Breen, DuPont executive chairman and CEO. “Andreas and the combined management team have

planned and prepared for this integration and are committed to delivering for all stakeholders. As a global industry leader of highly valued consumer ingredients, the new IFF is wellpositioned to deliver growth and to unlock long-term value for shareholders, customers and employees. I also want to salute our N&B colleagues for their contributions to DuPont and wish them success in the years ahead.” Upon completion of the transaction, DuPont received a onetime $7.3 billion cash payment, subject to adjustment. Effective at transaction close, DuPont shareholders own 55.4% of the combined company and IFF’s shareholders own 44.6%. IFF continues its commitment to maintaining an investment grade rating.

ACE elects 2021 officers and executive committee During its first quarter meeting, the American Coalition for Ethanol board of directors elected its officers and executive committee for 2021. Re-elected to serve as officers on the 2021 Executive Committee are: • Dave Sovereign, chairman of the board for Golden Grain Energy, a 120 MMgy ethanol plant in Mason City, Iowa. Sovereign also serves on the Absolute Energy board, a 125 MMgy ethanol producer in St. Ansgar, Iowa. Sovereign accepted the nomination of president of the ACE board. “I’m looking forward to lending my perspective as an Iowa farmer who’s served on the boards of two Iowa ethanol plants in this leadership position on the ACE board,” Sovereign said. “After serving on the executive committee for a number of years, I’m eager to further the tremendous work this organization and its staff have done to promote and provide ethanol demand opportunities as its president.” • Troy Knecht, South Dakota farmer, representing Redfield Energy, a 50 MMgy ethanol producer in Redfield, South Dakota. Knecht accepted the nomination of vice president of the ACE board. • Ron Alverson, serving as treasurer of the ACE board of directors, represents Dakota Ethanol, a 50 MMgy plant in Wentworth, South Dakota. • Chris Wilson, general manager of Mid-Missouri Energy, a 50 MMgy plant in Malta Bend, Missouri, serving as the secretary of the ACE board.


Newly elected to serve on the 2021 executive committee are: • Chris Studer, chief member and public relations officer for East River Electric Power Cooperative. “East River is proud of our history as a founding member of ACE and a partner in biofuels production as the wholesale electric supplier to over a dozen ethanol plants in the region,” Studer said. “I am looking forward to working alongside my colleagues on the executive committee to ensure biofuels and the electric cooperative system have a seat at the table as we work to strengthen rural America.” • John Christianson, director of Christianson PLLP, an accounting and business consulting firm for Ag and Renewable Energy, who also served on the Minnesota Biofuels Council’s executive committee. “I’m excited to join the ACE executive committee to support ACE’s role to develop new clean fuel policies in the Midwest and at the federal level, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase ethanol demand, and reward ag producers for being stewards of our environment,” Christianson said. For a full list of the ACE Board, visit ACE’s website at https:// ethanol.org/meet-ace/board.

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PLANT-WIDE APPROACH Water treatment strategies are evolving quickly, marrying digital offerings with chemistries, promoting environmentally sound practices and optimizing plant performance. By Lisa Gibson

Understanding how a water treatment strategy will affect an ethanol plant’s operations is an art, says Ted Lawson, strategic marketing director with Veolia Water Technologies. A true, detailed knowledge of the routes treated water takes through a plant and the impacts it can have is key to developing a water management program, he adds. Veolia isn’t the only company dealing in water that emphasizes a holistic approach. Suez Water Technologies & Solutions and Kurita America focus on impacts, as well, and all agree that each plant’s ideal water treatment strategy differs greatly from the next. A strategy could depend on water availability, local water quality, regulatory requirements, environmental goals and more. TRUE COOLING: A Suez Water Technologies & Solutions technician works with the company’s TrueSense cooling technology. Suez is among several water treatment service providers emphasizing sustainability and technology in its offerings. PHOTO: SUEZ WATER TECHNOLOGIES & SOLUTIONS




It’s not just the service side, it’s also the process chemistry side. We don’t look at just the operations, just boiler, just cooling. They rely on each other. The plant relies on that for making ethanol or animal feed, or sanitizer or whatever they’re making. We really take pride in being part of everything that goes into an ethanol plant. Mitch Manstedt Kurita America’s Biofuels Group


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“Ultimately, yes, they’re an ethanol plant, they make ethanol, they make animal feed, but they’re different,” says Mitch Manstedt, strategic business leader of Kurita America’s Biofuels Group. “Every plant is different in how they operate, water source, equipment. It really is a customized approach for each facility. “It’s about knowing the plant, the systems; it’s about knowing what the water quality is; it’s about knowing the permits, the regulations in each state,” he adds. Beyond holistic views, Veolia, Suez and Kurita America seem to agree on the importance of a plant’s profitability, efficiency, consumption and carbon scores in a quickly advancing industry. This evolution of water treatment arises from changing customer needs. “We’re constantly listening to our customers to evolve our strategy, looking around a corner to see what challenges they may be faced with and trying to solve those tough problems,” says Pete Macios, executive product manager with Suez.

Expertise and Integration

“We had a good basis, prior to Kurita, with US Water and Fremont,” Manstedt says, of Kurita’s recent acquisition of the two U.S. service providers. “It’s not just the service side, it’s also the process chemistry side. We don’t look at just the operations, just boiler, just cooling. They rely on each other. The plant relies on

that for making ethanol or animal feed, or sanitizer or whatever they’re making. We really take pride in being part of everything that goes into an ethanol plant.” Todd Emslander, Kurita America’s executive vice president, also emphasizes the all-encompassing expertise Kurita America now offers. “We’re fortunate to have people on our team that understand the process and have been working with these plants for 15 to 20 years. Also, we’ve got a very strong understanding of the implications of these changes. They might have an impact down the line. We can mitigate those changes.” Emslander says the process of water treatment at an ethanol plant starts upfront, with understanding the water source. “Make sure that that treatment program meets all the specifications and requirements of the process, chemical program to help treat that water, equipment, controls and monitoring systems. All of that has to be tied in with the facility. “In the plant itself, we have to understand the equipment that we’re treating and, again, have those types of treatment programs inside the facility that can help them maintain efficiencies in cooling and heating that allow them to run efficiently.” He adds that Kurita America’s approach includes a well-rounded team—engineering, installation, field teams. “And we all work together to come up with that customized solution.”

EFFICIENT OSMOSIS: Reverse osmosis is a common way to remove impurities from water in an ethanol plant, to avoid issues downstream. PHOTO: VEOLIA WATER TECHNOLOGIES

Veolia, too, combines its expertise to tailor solutions. “We offer an integrated approach to water treatment,” Lawson says. “We aren’t solely biased by our chemicals, nor our equipment, nor some of the services that we offer. Our approach is to integrate all of those into the most costeffective and/or sustainable solutions to whatever challenges any given plant might have.”

Conservation Conscious

Conservation and water recycling boost the sustainability factor significantly, and many ethanol plants are evaluating their options along those lines. “Sooner or later, everyone will have to be a little more conscious about how we manage this commodity called water,” Lawson says. “As we continue to develop newer technologies that treat water more economically, the cost picture and ROI for reclaimed, reused and/or recycled continues to change as well, positively. “Reclaim and reuse is an area where we see the industry heading, out of necessity,” Lawson adds. “We need to help create and utilize more cost-effective sources of water. If we can find economical ways to reduce

MONITOR MODE: Many water treatment service providers are marrying their chemistry strategies with digital enhancements, offering automated monitoring. PHOTO: VEOLIA WATER TECHNOLOGIES

consumption, improve conservation and/ or reclaim and reuse water, we can help that bottom line.” Reclaiming and recycling water at a plant could be as simple as diverting the water back to the process, ensuring the water quality doesn’t impact the ethanol or animal feed, Manstedt says. It could be a large capital investment with equipment and installa-

tion, or as simple as pipe. Kurita America even uses modeling programs to determine the chemistry of the water returned to the system, to ensure it doesn’t impact yeast or enzyme function, Manstedt adds. “A lot of plants early on got into some issues where they started recycling water without doing the proper engineering and investigation,” he says. Sodium levels could |continued on page 18| ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 15

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Operation |continued from page 15|

Manstedt points out that Kurita Amer- are all emphasizing digital tie-ins and addica is a cofounder of the Water Resilience ons with their products. Suez’s Insight platform is used for boilCoalition, a partnership between its customers and water treatment suppliers to reduce er operation and cooling water assets, but water usage, improve water quality and eval- also to track performance of evaporators uate scarcity issues. “We’re really focusing on and centrifuges, Macios says. “We’re collecting that data and integrating it with the water for the future and the environment. “Ethanol plants, renewable fuels plants, DCS, arming our teams with the best digital they are on the forefront of environmental tools and analytics.” Suez’s iVap is a series of analytics that solutions, because of the nature of the product they make, to reduce greenhouse gas, allows producers to know when to cycle reduce CO2,” Manstedt says. “Water’s right their evaporators, when to take them out of along with that. It’s another driver for them service and do clean-in-place. “It’s sensors, to be environmental stewards and to improve hardware, controllers, asset performance the water quality or the water scarcities that monitoring,” Macios says. “We bring all of are in their specific pockets.” this data from that evaporator into the tool, With an eye toward more output with do the computation in the cloud. And that less input, Suez focuses on water conserva- controls how we apply our chemistry. tion, Macios says. “There’s always a goal to “Our customers are savvy. They know PH PERFORMANCE: A Veolia technician monitors pH in an ethanol plant. increase production using less assets. … We that having this view into the operation of PHOTO: VEOLIA WATER TECHNOLOGIES always talk to our customers to see what their plants gives them a little bit of an asthey’re looking for. Our customers want surance and certainty around that asset, and be too high, or minerals end up cycling up in more output from their plants, but there’s a it allows them to optimize that asset.” trend toward sustainability. And leveraging Paired with iVap, Suez’s cleaning prodevaporators and causing more issues. “You’ve got to take the time to look at of the internet of things in the digital world.” ucts bring sustainability and analytics to evaporator cleaning. Macios says it makes everything before you do these recycle projDigitize and Modernize the evaporators more available for producects to ensure the plant can handle the loadSuez, Veolia, Kurita America, Nalco ers and allows decreased chemicals use. “We ing of the water and can handle the chemisand other water treatment service providers know exactly when to clean,” Macios says. tries that are in that water.” Macios agrees. As water is reused, it becomes more corrosive and more depositforming, he cautions. “You need a chemistry that can handle the reuse portion, but the little bit that is discharged has to be compliant.” Recycled or reclaimed water could go into cook, the fermentation scrubber, or even into the utility side. Again, it depends on the plant, Manstedt says. Plants might recycle water for a variety of reasons, Emslander says, citing sustainable water management, environmental compliance and water scarcity issues. “There are so many issues around water these days that not only affect the ethanol industry but everywhere in the manufacturing sector,” Emslander says. “We’re really trying to be on the forefront of those types of sustainable water reuse and reduction soRECIRC SETUP: Water treatment technologies and strategies are advancing quickly across the lutions for our customers.” industry. Service providers emphasize a holistic approach, with the potential to recycle water. PHOTO: VEOLIA WATER TECHNOLOGIES


As the world heads toward digital services and technological advancements, water treatment providers have not been left behind. Instead, they’re forging their way and leading the pack. “We’re really trying to marry these digital solutions along with chemistry to allow the customer to get more output.” Along with its cleaners, Suez’s lines of coagulants and flocculants help extract more corn oil, and its E.C.O.Film treats cooling towers without the use of phosphorous. At Veolia, a comprehensive auditing process called Screen evaluates every operation that touches the water, Lawson says. It looks for better opportunities to conserve or reuse water in the plant so it doesn’t end up in the wastewater plant or discharged. “We look at different technical opportunities to reduce the plant’s water footprint by reducing make-up water demand,” he says. Veolia also provides on-site operational services under its Aquaservice umbrella and a suite of digital tools called HubGrade that includes online engineering assistance. “We run the gamut from more simple, traditional services to more intensive automation and service offerings, depending on the plant needs,” Lawson says. Kurita America also is working on technological and digital advancements in water treatment, with its long history of automation, Manstedt says. “We have lots of technologies we can now bring to the ethanol industry that were never brought before.” Those include treatment systems to reduce water and chemical use, even going to a one-chemical system in some applications. These technologies help with recycling and the process side, too, Manstedt adds. Kurita America also has developed software for digital water management and sensors to see real-time direct water

use, detecting leaks, overuse and underuse. Kurita’s new offerings also include chemistry technologies, membrane technologies, light filtration systems and seamless integration of controls. “Kurita has a history of development,” Manstedt says. “We’re working on developing new process chemistries to integrate into these ethanol facilities. “We’re not quite ready to roll everything out yet, but there are things coming down the pipeline that will greatly impact the operations of not only the water side in these ethanol facilities, but also the process side.” Emslander says, “Under Kurita, we’re able to go in and essentially bring all of the specific unit operations from the water treatment side together into one control package that fits right in with the plant DCS systems, and they’re able to control that just like they would control any other part of their process. “We’ve had some pretty good recent successes with that. It’s exciting.” As the world heads toward digital services and technological advancements, water treatment providers have not been left behind. Instead, they’re forging their way and leading the pack. “That’s where we can really make a huge impact on reducing manpower on the water treatment side, and also gives us the ability to see what’s going on in those facilities so we can react properly to make sure that the systems are treated well,” Manstedt says.

A new report from Environmental Heath & Engineering, Inc. found that greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol are 46% lower than gasoline, emphasizing ethanol ’s key role in our nation’s climate goals on decarbonizing the transportation sector and reducing GHG emissions. Learn more at GrowthEnergy.org/datahub

Author: Lisa Gibson Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4920 lgibson@bbiinternational.com


Carbon Capture and Storage




While a few ethanol producers have taken advantage of the 45Q tax credit, the policy precludes full industry participation. A blueprint lays out recommendations from lessons learned. By Lisa Gibson

With a stratigraphic well already completed, and ongoing modeling to determine volumes of carbon dioxide to be injected, Blue Flint in Underwood, North Dakota, is on its way to producing a zero-carbon fuel.

The goal is prompted in large part by the 45Q tax credit, says Jeff Zueger, CEO of Midwest AgEnergy, Blue Flint’s parent company. “45Q is a big driver,” Zueger says. “It unlocked the potential for these types of projects. The changes in 45Q have been a significant enabler to advancing these projects to make sure there’s enough economic opportunity there to support the risk that goes along with it.” 45Q provides a tax credit incentive for qualifying carbon emitters to capture and store carbon dioxide. Changes in 2018 extended the credit for two years and lowered the qualifying threshold for emitters from 500,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide to 100,000, opening the opportunity to more of the ethanol industry.

CARBON COUNTS: Midwest AgEnergy’s Blue Flint in Underwood, North Dakota, is leading the company’s progress toward zero emissions in ethanol production. With a stratigraphic test well already drilled, the project is on its way to storing 185,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from Blue Flint. PHOTO: MIDWEST AGENERGY


SPEAKERS CELEBRATE: Midwest AgEnergy’s Vision Carbon Zero project has received praise from state and local officials. From the well commencement event, left to right: North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford; Sen. John Hoeven (R, N.D.); Jeff Zueger, Midwest AgEnergy CEO; Jason Bohrer, Lignite Energy Council president; North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring; and Adam Dunlop, Midwest AgEnergy director of regulatory and strategic planning. PHOTO: MIDWEST AGENERGY


“45Q is absolutely part of our business model,” Zueger

The tax credit is part of many carbon-capturing business models across the country where applicable, beyond ethanol. It’s the focus of the Carbon Capture Coalition’s newest policy blueprint and has prompted companion legislation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Those bills introduce a series of necessary updates to 45Q in its current form, several emphasized in Carbon Capture Coalition’s blueprint. “Congress has opted to prioritize carbon capture because of its many benefits,” says Brad Crabtree, director of the Carbon Capture Coalition. “It’s worth spending tax dollars to incentivize these technologies.”

Vision Carbon Zero

CarbonZero, the storage project at Blue Flint, is the tip of the spear as far as Midwest AgEnergy’s zero-carbon goals, Zueger says. Blue Flint will explore even more carbon-reducing strategies, in addition to potential measures at Midwest AgEnergy’s Dakota Spirit in Spiritwood, North Dakota. Blue Flint’s project began with coordination with the North Dakota Industrial Commission and the Dakota Resource Council, Zueger says. The team conducted 2D and 3D seismic modeling of the area to determine geologic locations capable of longterm, safe carbon storage. With the drilling of the stratigraphic


test well came core samples, well logs and other data, now turned over to the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, for further modeling and demonstration of the chosen reservoir’s capacity. “We found, in fact, multiple reservoirs, so the data was positive,” Zueger says. “Everything points to the fact that we will be able to effectively inject and store CO2.” Seismic testing was done in a 9-square-mile radius, Zueger says. “We let the data inform us as to where to put that test well. And it said to go a little farther west than we had planned. So that’s where we put the stratigraphic test well. “We followed the data.” Blue Flint plans to inject about 185,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, Zueger says. EERC’s modeling will determine the parameters, including whether the well can hold increased volumes from Dakota Spirit, by providing a better understanding of how the reservoir will respond under different injection profiles. “In any case, we plan to move forward with the Blue Flint plant, getting the reservoir completed and requirements for a Class VI permit,” Zueger says. He says the state has indicated it can process a Class VI permit in about seven months. “We’d continue to develop all additional components of the design and final engineering around compression, pipeline and so on and, upon getting the permit, advance the project with a goal of injecting CO2 late in 2022.”

Carbon Capture and Storage

The test well is the largest investment in the project thus far, and is designed to serve as the injection well also, Zueger says. The main investment in the entire project is around the compression, dehydration and other equipment that prepares the carbon dioxide for injection in a supercritical manner, he adds. Blue Flint has been evaluating carbon capture for about 12 years, Zueger says. It thoroughly analyzed options for enhanced fracking, enhanced oil recovery, industrial use of carbon dioxide and more. “We determined that our best path forward is capture and storage of CO2 with a Class VI well.” Blue Flint is uniquely positioned to become a zerocarbon fuel producer, as it is a combined heat-and-power plant that gets its thermal energy from the nearby Coal Creek Station. “That CHP design has afforded us a lowcarbon pathway into low-carbon markets,” Zueger says, hesitating to report the plant’s current carbon intensity score, as factors in that measurement vary widely among states. It can be misleading, he cautions. “Most energy coming in from Coal Creek is waste energy, so we’ve started off with a pretty good low-carbon score with a pretty minimal impact to the environment and when we further add the carbon sequestration project, we’re starting to approach those zero carbonintensity levels because we don’t have a boiler onsite.” Coal Creek is scheduled to shut down in summer of 2022, but Zueger says if the station isn’t purchased and able to continue operating, Blue Flint is prepared to repower using technologies that deliver a low-carbon fuel. In the meantime, Blue Flint’s project is moving forward and able to take advantage of 45Q, with some innovative partnerships. Privately owned by 22 individual investors, Blue Flint’s ownership structure precludes it from qualifying for 45Q, so a partnership is in development that would allow monetization of the credit, Zueger says. “That partner will work through the execution and ongoing operations and will be able to take advantage of the tax credit,” he says, declining to identify the partner. Still, Zueger emphasizes the importance of simpler parameters for taking advantage of 45Q. “I think it’s important to continue to provide a cleaner path toward being able to monetize the 45Q benefit. We’re contemplating a partner because of the tax structure we have. It’s a significant part of the project economics.”

Blueprint Priorities

Simpler parameters and cleaner pathways in 45Q

are priorities for the Carbon Capture Coalition, as well. Its first policy blueprint was released in 2019, a collaborative effort among its 80-some member organizations. The plan is to continue releasing a blueprint every two years, Crabtree says. It’s a large undertaking, yes, but the issues are evolving quickly, he says. “It’s necessary every two years.” Crabtree emphasizes the importance of an agreedupon policy want list from a large number of organizations and industries. The most difficult part, he says, isn’t technical details; it’s reaching consensus on the overall policy priorities among the entire coalition. 1O`P]\ 1O^bc`S “Given the size of the group, 1]OZWbW]\ >]ZWQg 0 Z c S^ ` it’s remarkable we’re able to come W\b "#? >`W]`WbWS a up with something like this,” he says. 2W`SQb ^Og[S\ The first iteration was the ba 3fbS\aW ]\ most difficult, building it from ! BV`SaV the ground up, and subsequent ]ZR SZW[ W\ObW]\ blueprints will build on that " 7\T`O ab`cQbc` S RSdSZ] foundation, with new and fun^[S\b damental changes to policy. The following are the main 45Q priorities in this year’s blueprint, released in February. First: A direct payment option. “At the top of our list is providing a direct payment option for 45Q,” Crabtree says. Direct payments, as recommended by the Carbon Capture Coalition, would reduce tax investment risk for 45Q projects, but also streamline overall how technology incentives are deployed, Crabtree says. “Long-term, it’s what we really need to do to for these tax incentives to have their maximum impact in the marketplace, but it does also provide a very near-term jobs and economic development benefit as we try to recover from this Covid pandemic.” The blueprint proposes a structure wherein the developer—the owner of the carbon capture equipment—would claim the 45Q tax credit in the form of an estimated payment on their tax return. That way, if they have tax liabilities, the 45Q direct payment reduces the taxes they have to pay. If they don’t have tax liability, or not enough of it, they get cash back after they file their returns. Either way, a developer can put revenue into their pro forma to finance their project. “That means they’re not limited to tax equity investment,” Crabtree says. “They can go to a whole other


Carbon Capture and Storage

FOLLOW THE DATA: Midwest AgEnergy used extensive data and modeling to locate its injection well site at Blue Flint, ending up farther west than developers expected would be optimal. PHOTO: MIDWEST AGENERGY


range of potential investors, so it both broadens the pool of capital available, and also reduces the cost of the capital investment that they do receive.” It addresses one of the largest hiccups to 45Q monetization in the ethanol industry. Carbon capture and storage is relatively new and not all technologies have been widely used on a commercial scale. They’re proven, but not largely implemented. Wind and solar power, on the other hand, have gigawatts of installations in place, so investment companies are more comfortable with those technologies. “We’re in much more of a learning curve with these technologies and so the problem is that tax equity investors are requiring really large haircuts for investing in projects,” Crabtree says. As much as 50% of the value of the tax credit is lost to tax and equity transactions, and not used on development of the project, he cites. “So, dollar for dollar, we’re losing a lot of value to third parties.” Zueger emphatically agrees, saying a direct payment would be important for Midwest AgEnergy’s second capture and storage project. “It’s much more than a Covid response,” Crabtree says of

the direct payment proposal. “It’s actually a transformative way to improve and streamline how we incentivize technology deployment to reduce emissions and support economic development and job creation.” Second: Further 45Q extension. The two-year extension in the FY 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bill at the end of last year was a victory, Crabtree says. The extension pushes the start of construction date to Dec. 31, 2025. “We’ve lost essentially three years to the development of guidance and the final rule for 45Q,” Crabtree says. “When it was passed, it was authorized for 6 years. “This gets us back to five years for projects to develop and begin construction. That’s critical.” For perspective, wind tax credits were enacted in Congress in 1992, solar in 2005. “I think by anyone’s definition, the deployment and commercialization of wind and solar in the marketplace has been a very significant success story,” Crabtree says. “The longevity of these tax credits has been a major component of that. “We need that same long-term investment horizon for 45Q, and then the carbon utilization and direct air capture.” John Fuher, vice president of government affairs at Growth Energy, agrees. “I think the biggest thing when you look at 45Q, you have to have a longer runway. You have to extend it. You have to find a way to allow more time for people to take advantage of it. In the ethanol sector, there’s a lot of interest.” Two bills have been introduced that include extensions: In the House, the Accelerating Carbon Capture and Extending Secure Storage through 45Q (ACCESS 45Q) Act would extend 45Q for 10 years; and the 45Q Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS) Tax Credit Amendments Act of 2020 in the Senate would extend it for five.

Crabtree and Fuher agree that any 45Q extensions would likely be rolled into a larger package surrounding climate, economic relief, etc. “We do increasingly feel like the provisions we’re recommending are an essential component of a broader policy,” Crabtree says. Third: Elimination of thresholds. In a normal year, most ethanol plants would qualify for the current 100,000-met-

ric ton-threshold, but could risk not qualifying in a year like 2020, when plants reduced production and even went offline. “We think these thresholds do not serve any public policy purpose,” Crabtree says. “They simply deter innovation. If we’re interested in fostering innovation and reducing carbon emissions as much as we can, then why do we have these thresholds?”

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' It’s pretty easy to capture carbon off a fermentation stack. It’s all carbon. If you can capture that and find a way to use it or sequester it, that lowers your CI and gives your fuel more value in this long-term march toward low-carbon liquid fuels.' John Fuher Growth Energy

Fourth: Infrastructure development. Some ethanol-producing states, including Iowa, don’t have geologic saline formations to hold carbon dioxide, or pipelines to transport it. “If these incentives are going to work in a significant way, there needs to be support in a pipeline infrastructure that will connect ethanol plants together and transport CO2 to where it can be geologically stored,” Crabtree says. Green Plains Inc. announced in February that a partnership with Summit Carbon Solutions will allow construction of a pipeline to bring carbon from three of its Iowa plants to geologic storage sites in North Dakota. The setup will sequester more than 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, making it the world's largest carbon capture and sequestration project, according to Green Plains. Shortly after Green Plains’ announcement, Glacial Lakes Energy said it, too, would join the Summit Carbon Solutions project, contributing more than 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide from its four ethanol plants in South Dakota. The Storing CO2 And Lowering Emissions (SCALE) Act, introduced in the House, would offer low-interest federal loans to finance similar projects. “The goal is to create interconnected CO2 pipelines to make it easier and more economical to transport CO2 to where it’s needed,” Fuher says. SCALE also would create large-scale saline geologic storage hubs and provide the U.S. EPA with increased funding to permit Class VI wells. “Given where the bulk of the ethanol production is in the U.S., the infrastructure

part of this is really key to the future of carbon management in the ethanol industry,” Crabtree says.

The Future

“That’s the future—lower-carbon fuels,” Fuher says. “You’re seeing it already. You see a lot of plants making decisions strictly around the carbon intensity.” But the challenges to 45Q are “unacceptable,” Crabtree says. The blueprint’s goal is to resolve those challenges, and Crabtree says it’s the most widely used and read policy document he’s ever helped produce. “We’re really speaking to Congress more and more with one voice, which is always helpful,” Crabtree says. Zueger says even more changes could be made to carbon capture incentives, including removing sales tax from captured and sold carbon. A bill in the North Dakota legislature seeks to accomplish that. Clearly, ethanol plants represent a prime opportunity to capture carbon and reduce emissions in the U.S., and an evolving 45Q could make a significant difference in the number of plants equipped to take advantage of it. “It’s pretty easy to capture carbon off a fermentation stack,” Fuher says. “It’s all carbon. If you can capture that and find a way to use it or sequester it, that lowers your CI and gives your fuel more value in this long-term march toward low-carbon liquid fuels.” Author: Lisa Gibson Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4920 lgibson@bbiinternational.com

Spotlight BY TOM BRYAN

Treating Water, Customers Right

In the heart of ethanol country, Water Engineering Inc. is putting producer relationships, service and process knowledge ahead of chemical sales. While Omaha-based Water Engineering Inc. is known in the ethanol industry as a trusted provider of water treatment chemicals, Katie Wagenfuhr prefers not to push the company’s products on customers as the only solution to their needs. “Our customers rely on us for more than just chemicals,” says Wagenfuhr, vice president and co-owner of the company with her husband David Wagenfuhr. “We consult, we advise, we provide analysis, and, ultimately, we help our customers get where they need to be with water treatment.” This holistic approach, Wagenfuhr explains, starts with an understanding of each client’s goals. “Every plant is different,” she says. “Some are part of larger, multi-plant companies, and their water treatment goals may be set by corporate, but it’s still the same Katie Wagenfuhr Vice President process of sitting down with plant managWater Engineering Inc. ers and maintenance managers and discussPHOTO: WATER ENGINEERING INC. ing their broad objectives. Industry standards set by organizations like NACE—the National Association of Corrosion Engineers—and the Boiler Manufacturers Association, also guide our conversations.”

Wagenfuhr says her team can help producers assess investments in new chemistries before they are introduced. “We help them see the possibilities, understand the ROI, and any implications certain water treatments might have on production,” she explains. When chemicals are needed, ethanol producers turn to Water Engineering for a variety of products ranging from pretreatment chemicals to chemistries for cooling and boiler water treatment. The company provides specialty wastewater polymers and coagulants, and has access to chemicals used on the process side of ethanol production—evaporator scale inhibitors, oil recovery agents and more. Water Engineering also specifies and installs equipment for pretreatment, reverse osmosis, chemical feed and control automation. Recently, the company even assisted a few ethanol plants with the implementation of activated carbon filtration for sanitizergrade alcohol production. About two-thirds of Water Engineering’s clients work with the company on a fixed-rate basis. These customers receive a tailored water treatment program that includes service technician visits, on- and off-site testing and analyses, efficiency evaluations, operator training and more. “It’s a popular setup for ethanol producers because every penny matters in their business, and they don’t need surprises,” Wagenfuhr says. “With this approach, they receive our full suite of products and services at a competitive monthly rate.”



Spotlight: BetaTec Innovation Centre

Natural Hop Extract Boosts Performance Compared to virginiamycin-based antibiotic in a recent study, the industry’s top natural antimicrobial alternative showed a clear overall benefit. By Michail Karavolos The search for clean and sustainable energy sources has led to numerous industrial biotechnology developments, with ethanol production utilizing various feedstocks as the science has progressed. Three key factors are considered to determine the efficiency of ethanol production: enzymatic lysis into simple sugar molecules, alcohol fermentation rate, and ethanol tolerance of yeast cells.1 Regardless of the method or technology selected, a common problem is microbial contamination. The degree of contamination is a burden that can significantly affect ethanol production. Therefore, it is crucial to develop cost-effective processes with higher antimicrobial efficiency that meet both alcohol and coproduct standards. For years, it has been common practice to use antibiotics to combat infections in biofuel production. Continued and repetitive use has also increased concerns about antibiotic-resistant strains. Alternative solu-

tions, such as natural hop extracts, constitute a viable option to antibiotics enabling the industry to sell certified antibiotic-free DDGS to local and international markets where antibiotics are either banned or discouraged.

Screening for Variation

This study compared a natural hop extract to an industrial virginiamycin-based antibiotic from a different perspective: the role in yeast health and fitness, measured by the ability of yeast to grow faster (growth rate). During industrial fermentation, the yeast continuously interacts with its environment and senses and responds to various external stimuli. During ethanol fermentation, yeast fitness is affected by several factors that are crucial for its overall performance. Could industrial antimicrobials used during ethanol fermentation cause stress for the yeast? To investigate this, we examined the effect of a natural antimicro-

bial hop extract (150 ppm) in comparison to a leading brand of virginiamycin-based industrial antibiotic (2 ppm) on a large number of yeast strains (6,000 S. cerevisiae gene-disruption variants), covering a large landscape of potential variation in nature. Each individual gene variant’s growth rate was scored in rich media containing specific antimicrobial compounds in a high-density array (ROTOR HDA Robot and the PhenoBooth, Singer Instruments Ltd.), using colony size as a proxy for fitness (Figure 1). The study and data analysis was conducted in collaboration with Professor Daniela Delneri at the Manchester Institute for Biotechnology, University of Manchester, UK. The data presented herein focuses on the effects of a virginiamycinbased industrial antibiotic compared to the natural hop extract on several gene categories contributing to yeast fitness.

FIGURE 1: 384-well plates combined with robotic colony printing and detection to assess the fitness of S. cerevisiae variants in the presence of either natural hop extracts or virginiamycin-based industrial antibiotic. SOURCE: BETATEC INNOVATION CENTRE


Clear Benefits Observed

Our screening focused on the effect of either a natural hop extract or a virginiamycin-based industrial antibiotic on yeast gene variants involved in ethanol production and resistance (ETH), cell replication (REP), and metabolism (MET) pathways. Typically, an increase of more than 30% in colony size between the experiment and the untreated control is considered promising. The overall beneficial impact of hop extract over the antibiotics on yeast growth is evident, including the impact on specific ETH, REP, and MET categories (Figure 2). Upon screening the fitness of 6,000 S. cerevisiae gene-disruption variants, we observed a clear overall benefit of 21% when using an antimicrobial based on

FIGURE 2: A total growth enhancement benefit of 21% is further examined per category as shown in green boxes. ETH (gene variants involved in ethanol production and resistance), REP (gene variants involved in yeast replication), MET (gene variants involved in general yeast metabolism). SOURCE: BETATEC INNOVATION CENTRE

natural hop extracts versus a virginiamycin based industrial antibiotic (Figure 2). The majority of the benefit is evident in the ETH (8%) and REP (11%) categories (Figure 2). Our data indicated that natural hop extracts used in industrial yeast fermentation increases the opportunity for a favorable yeast growth environment and may result in faster-replicating yeast cells and improved ethanol yields.

Author: Michail Karavolos Laboratory and R&D Manager BetaTec Innovation Centre michail.karavolos@betatec.com About: Karavolos manages the BetaTec Innovation Centre’s laboratory, overseeing research and development. He holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Leeds and has extensive academic and commercial experience in antimicrobial applications. 1.

Vamvakas SS, Kapolos J. 2020. doi:10.1007/s11274-020-02881-8

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