Page 1

AUGUST 2021

LOW CARBON GETS RED HOT PAGE 22

ALSO

Landmark Multi-Plant CCS Project Advances PAGE 14

www.ethanolproducer.com


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Where Producers Meet

SAVE THE DATE

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Contents

14

GLACIAL LAKES ENERGY

28

STOCK

34

AEMETIS

AUGUST 2021 VOLUME 27 ISSUE 8

DEPARTMENTS 6

EDITOR'S NOTE Our Low Carbon Calling

FEATURES 14 SEQUESTRATION Carbon Connector

Thirty ethanol plants join CO2 pipeline project

By Tom Bryan

7

AD INDEX/EVENTS CALENDAR

8

VIEW FROM THE HILL Despite Supreme Court Ruling, Reasons for Hope on RFS

By Lisa Gibson

22

GLOBAL SCENE The Biofuels Revolution Coming to the Friendly Skies By Leticia Phillips

12

BUSINESS BRIEFS

42

MARKETPLACE

Enhanced Crop Forecasting for Ethanol Producers New tool helps producers better anticipate local grain availability By Aline Glick

Revisiting CHP

Ethanol plants eye improved cogeneration payback

By Geoff Cooper

10

ENERGY

CONTRIBUTION 40 GRAIN

By Susanne Retka Schill

28

POWER

Ethanol to Electrons

Giving electricity generation opportunities a real look

AUGUST 2021

By Susanne Retka Schill

34

LOW CARBON

LOW CARBON GETS RED HOT PAGE 34

Branching Out

Aemetis targets negative carbon sugar feedstock By Matt Thompson

ALSO

Landmark Multi-Plant Sequestration PAGE 14

www.ethanolproducer.com

ON THE COVER

Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) August 2021, Vol. 27, Issue 8. 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.

Ryan Wood, an engineer with Poet Design and Construction, checks a steam turbine that generates electricity at one of Poet’s 33 U.S. ethanol plants. PHOTO: POET

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 5


Editor's Note

Our Low Carbon Calling Not only is carbon reduction the ethanol industry’s principal and defining accomplishment to date, but its near- and long-term central mission. In fact, lowering the carbon intensity (CI) of corn ethanol production— through greater efficiencies, new tech, greener inputs and sequestration—rises above simply being our industry’s chief focus to, just maybe, its very purpose for existence. That may sound exaggerated, but despite all the good reasons to produce ethanol—you know the list—reducing atmospheric CO2 is, right now, the reason we make the fuel. In fact, if ethanol were not the low-carbon transportation fuel it is, our industry would have little or no political cover and, within time, cease to exist in its current form. Our plants would make something, yes—protein, corn oil, specialty alcohols—but probably not fuel. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about an alternative reality where corn ethanol isn’t a vital, here-andnow solution to the world’s climate crisis. Ethanol is low carbon today and on a path to becoming ultra-low carbon tomorrow. In our page-14 cover story, “Carbon Connector,” we report on a multi-billion-dollar plan to aggregate and transport CO2 from 30 Midwest ethanol plants via pipeline for permanent geological storage in North Dakota oil wells. The Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline, when completed three years from now, will be the largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project of its kind in the world. The incentive for producers to tie into the pipeline is a resultant CI score that might be 50% lower than their current mark. With several other CCS projects moving forward at the same time, and favorable agricultural carbon accounting on the horizon, some believe ethanol could soon be the “lowest carbon fuel in existence.” The quest for lower CI is pushing ethanol producers to seek new efficiencies in every aspect of their operations. Some solutions are new, and others are old ideas revisited. Combined heat and power (CHP) has been used in ethanol production for years, but never widely. Now, with the payback on CHP looking better due to California paying a premium for low-carbon ethanol, producers are taking a fresh look at this tried-and-true apparatus of industrial energy efficiency. In “Revisiting CHP,” on page 22, we look at how America’s largest ethanol producer, Poet, and others, are turning to cogeneration to cut costs and seriously lower CI. Notably, carbon sequestration may lead to more CHP in the ethanol industry. Read the story to find out why. Tangential to our energy efficiency theme, we explore the not-so-improbable idea of ethanol being used as a fuel for electric power. In “Ethanol to Electrons,” on page 28, we reveal why ethanol could be—and already is—a suitable feedstock for electricity generation in niche circumstances. Large-scale power generation is conceivable, but smaller applications such as off-the-grid turbines or fuel cells capable of converting ethanol to electricity on demand when electric vehicles need charging are even more intriguing. Be sure to check out our page-34 story on Aemetis, which is cracking the challenge (pun intended) of collecting and processing almond orchard waste for renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel, a process that will, in turn, yield a cellulosic sugar feedstock for its ethanol plant in Keyes, California. And, finally, check out our page-40 contribution about a crop forecasting tool that could help producers get an early handle on their local draw.

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Upcoming Events

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Ethanol Producer Magazine

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Fagen Inc.

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EDITORIAL President & Editor Tom Bryan | tbryan@bbiinternational.com Online News Editor Erin Voegele | evoegele@bbiinternational.com

DESIGN Vice President of Production & Design Jaci Satterlund | jsatterlund@bbiinternational.com Graphic Designer Raquel Boushee | rboushee@bbiinternational.com

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

2022 Int'l Biomass Conference & Expo

March 14-16, 2022

The Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center Jacksonville, Florida (866) 746-8385 | BiomassConference.com Entering its 15th year, the International Biomass Conference & Expo is expected to bring together more than 900 attendees, 125 exhibitors and 100 speakers from more than 40 countries. It is the largest gathering of biomass professionals and academics in the world. The conference provides relevant content and unparalleled networking opportunities in a dynamic business-to-business environment. In addition to abundant networking opportunities, the largest biomass conference in the world is renowned for its outstanding programming— powered by Biomass Magazine—that maintains a strong focus on commercial-scale biomass production, new technology, and nearterm research and development. Join us at the International Biomass Conference & Expo as we enter this new and exciting era in biomass energy.

2022 Int'l Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

June 13-15, 2022

Minneapolis Convention Center Minneapolis, MN (866) 746-8385 | FuelEthanolWorkshop.com From its inception, the mission of this event has remained constant: The FEW delivers timely presentations with a strong focus on commercial-scale 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.

2022 Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Summit

June 13-15, 2022

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Customer Service Please call 1-866-746-8385 or email us at service@bbiinternational.com. Subscriptions Subscriptions to Ethanol Producer Magazine are free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge for anyone outside the United States. To subscribe, visit www.EthanolProducer.com or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to: Ethanol Producer Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to 701-746-5367. Back Issues, Reprints and Permissions Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at 866-746-8385 or service@bbiinternational.com. Advertising Ethanol Producer Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Ethanol Producer Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at 866-746-8385 or service@bbiinternational.com. Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Ethanol Producer Magazine Letters to the Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or email to lgibson@bbiinternational.com. Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.

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View From the Hill

Despite Supreme Court Ruling, Reasons for Hope on RFS

Geoff Cooper

President and CEO Renewable Fuels Association 202.289.3835

gcooper@ethanolrfa.org

At the end of its recent session, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key component of the pivotal 2020 Tenth Circuit Court decision regarding small refinery exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard. In its 6-3 decision, the high court ruled that a small refinery that previously received an exemption may petition to obtain a so-called extension of that exemption, even if that exemption coverage had lapsed in a previous year. This obviously was a disappointing outcome for us. We continue to believe that Congress intended the allowance for exemptions to be temporary in nature, and that those temporary exemptions were meant to provide small refiners a “bridge to compliance” over time. Let’s face it, refiners have had 15 years now to get their house in order and begin complying with the Renewable Fuel Standard. We also continue to believe it is impossible to “extend” something that no longer exists. As Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote in her excellent dissenting opinion, “EPA cannot ‘extend’ an exemption that a refinery no longer has.” She also noted that “the court’s contrary conclusion caters to an outlier meaning of extend and clashes with statutory structure.” We were pleased to see she was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in the dissent. As disappointed as we may have been in the Supreme Court outcome, there is a bright silver lining. In short, the Supreme Court decision really only dealt with one fairly narrow and discrete component of the Tenth Circuit decision, which is the meaning of the word “extension.” The extension issue was just one of three main pillars from the Tenth Circuit decision. The other two pillars remain intact and in force. The first is that EPA may only grant an exemption if the disproportionate economic hardship that is being claimed by the refiner is caused by the Renewable Fuel Standard itself and not some other outside factors—like COVID-19, for example, or weak demand for refined products. The second key pillar that remains intact from the Tenth Circuit decision is that EPA must reconcile any decisions to grant exemptions with the agency's longstanding position that refineries of all shapes and sizes—whether they're small refineries, large refineries, integrated refineries, merchant refineries—all pass through their renewable fuel compliance costs. Simply put, it is going to be difficult or impossible for refiners to establish that the RFS alone is causing harm to them to a point of needing to be exempted. It is important to emphasize that these two pillars remain firmly in place and that EPA must reconcile these pillars as they consider the 70 pending SRE petitions that are currently at EPA, and any future petitions that they may receive. Lastly, the current administration’s words and actions on the RFS so far have given us confidence that we will not see a reopening of the floodgates on small refinery exemptions, as we saw under the Trump administration. To date, the Biden administration and current EPA have not just been saying the right things on RFS integrity, but they have also backed it up with action. In February, the new leadership at EPA reversed the agency’s previous position and announced support for the Tenth Circuit decision in its entirety. In April, the agency revoked three last-minute refinery exemptions granted the day before President Biden’s inauguration. And in May, EPA announced it would cooperate with a Government Accountability Office investigation into the past administration’s adjudication of small refinery exemptions. All these developments are a welcome change in direction from the previous administration. So, despite the recent Supreme Court decision, we have real reason for hope that the days of wholesale small refinery exemptions are behind us. This administration sees value in promoting, not hindering, the expansion of low-carbon renewable fuels like ethanol. And we are committed to doing all we can to make sure they do so.

8 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2021


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Global Scene

The Biofuels Revolution Coming to the Friendly Skies

Leticia Phillips

North American Representative Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, UNICA 202.506.5299

leticia@unica.com.br

In the United States, cars and trucks account for the lion’s share of transportation greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), but aviation clocks in with a dangerously high 10 percent. With air travel expected to skyrocket in the coming decades, the industry knows it has a problem and that inaction will degrade both the climate and its reputation. The aviation industry has pledged a 50 percent reduction in CO2 by 2050 (compared to 2005 levels), but there is no way around the fact that flying today remains the most carbon-intensive act an individual or organization can engage in. The Congressional Research Service reports that CO2 emissions from aviation are currently experiencing a faster rate of growth than other modes of transportation. Thankfully, the aviation community is adapting, perhaps faster than most of the flying public knows. To their credit, the major airlines, manufacturers and shippers like FedEx and UPS are advocating policies and testing new sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) that will pay big climate dividends in the not-too-distant future. According to McKinsey, widespread use of SAF could be transformative and result in a “reduction in carbon emissions of 70 percent to almost 100 percent.” McKinsey acknowledges the short-term drawbacks of SAF like cost and scalability but argues that airline “CEOs should view it [SAF] as a promising tool in their decarbonization tool kits.” SAF is being used today, but it accounts for only a tiny fraction of fuel used. The industry knows if it resists change, appears indifferent or moves too slowly, a solution may be imposed on them via heavy-handed regulations, reduced financing or evolving passenger attitudes that might threaten their business model. Change is in the air. Congress is considering legislation that would offer a tax incentive of “up to $2 for every gallon of sustainable aviation fuel.” Regardless of any incentives, the airlines have already committed to using two billion gallons of biofuel by 2030. The commitment came from members of Airlines for America, the trade association representing the big U.S. carriers. Reaching this goal will require an 84% annual average increase in SAF production through 2030. Boeing announced that by the end of this decade, every aircraft it builds will be able to fly using 100 percent sustainable fuels. CEO Stan Deal said in January the company is “committed to working with regulators, engine companies and other key stakeholders to ensure our airplanes and eventually our industry can fly entirely on sustainable jet fuels.” The aviation sector is preparing for this coming revolution, but how is my industry, the Brazilian sugarcane community, able to contribute to the production of SAF? Sugarcane is the most energy efficient plant in the world and will play a vital role in the jet fuel revolution. The industry aligned itself with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as it introduced its market-based Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). CORSIA has deemed eligible the sustainable fuel farnesane, derived from sugarcane ethanol. Farnesane is obtained biologically through sugar fermentation using biochemical conversion technology, namely the synthesized iso-paraffins pathway. The decarbonization value of this crop-based biofuel for aviation is evident and we hope that countries around the globe adopt policies that will incentivize the use and the production of SAF. We also look forward to opportunities for collaboration in this area between Brazil and the United States. Thanks to a successful national ethanol policy and a robust flex fuel fleet, there are no longer any light-duty vehicles in Brazil powered by pure gasoline. One day in the not-so-distant future, I hope we’ll be able to say the same about jet airplanes.

10 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2021


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BUSINESS BRIEFS PEOPLE, PARTNERSHIPS & PROJECTS

Seligman to head NREL government relations

Seligman

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has named Meyer Seligman as director for government relations. In this new position, Seligman will be responsible for ensuring NREL’s stakeholders are informed on the lab’s research to help advance its mission. For the past seven years, Seligman has been a professional staff member for the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Energy and Water Development Subcommittee. Her work for the committee included oversight and funding for a variety of DOE programs including the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Science.

“We are in the midst of a transformation of how we generate, distribute, and consume energy in the United States and around the world,” Seligman said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to help position NREL as impactful leaders in the research, development, and deployment of the technologies that are critical for our energy future.” The new office Seligman will lead will also include NREL’s Katie Richardson. Since 2018, Richardson has helped NREL support state, local, and tribal governments as a program manager for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.

USGC promotes Qian to global ethanol market manager

Qian

The U.S. Grains Council’s Stella Qian has been promoted to manager of global ethanol market development. Qian previously served the USGC’s manager of global ethanol programs and was responsible for coordinating planning and travel logistics for teams visiting the United States on trade missions. In her new position, she will develop strategy in markets for expanded ethanol use by fostering strong relationships with domestic and international partners and activating resources that support market development. “Since joining our ethanol team in 2019, Stella has

been a key driver of our global program,” said Brian Healy, USGC director of global ethanol market development. “She has quickly learned the industry landscape and translated that to strategy formulation and implementation for our global program. Stella’s impressive talents make her well suited to help the industry work with partners around the globe to develop and expand the worldwide ethanol market.” Qian is a graduate of George Washington University and holds a master’s degree in tourism administration with a concentration in event and meeting planning.

ePURE elects Corre president

Corre

The European renewable ethanol association, ePURE, has elected Valérie Corre of French agri-cooperative Tereos as its new president for a two-year term. Corre, who is director of regulatory affairs for ethanol in Europe for Tereos, had previously served as ePURE’s vice president. In her new role, Corre replaces Alarik Sandrup, director of public and regulatory affairs at Lantmännen, who had served as ePURE’s president since 2019. “Now more than ever, Europe needs a strong renewable ethanol industry,” said Corre. “The last year has confirmed the strategic importance of domestic EU ethanol

12 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2021

production—not just to achieving transport decarbonization ambitions, but also ensuring a dependable supply of GMO-free animal feed and ethanol for use in beverage applications and hand sanitizer, as well as an important market for European farmers. As ePURE president, I look forward to engaging with EU policymakers, stakeholders and the media about how renewable ethanol can help make the Green Deal real.” ePURE members also elected Stephan Meeder, CEO of German ethanol producer CropEnergies, as the association’s new vice-president.


McPherson joins Green Plains’ leadership team

McPherson Jr.

Green Plains Inc. has announced that Negil McPherson Jr. has joined the company’s senior leadership team as chief people officer. McPherson will be responsible for leading human resources strategy, including talent management, as well as compensation and benefits. He will also be focused on the company’s ongoing cultural transformation toward Green Plains 2.0. McPherson brings more than 28 years of experience in talent management, human resources practices and performance development strategies. Through his organizational development expertise, McPherson has consulted

with numerous company boards of directors, executive leadership groups and all levels of organizations to drive ongoing development and strategy. “Negil is extremely talented, brings a wealth of experience and has a deep passion for transforming organizational structures, people and culture,” said Todd Becker, president and chief executive officer of Green Plains. “Attracting, developing and retaining strategic talent across the organization is imperative, and Negil will be crucial to our future success as we continue our transformation into a sustainable leader in ag tech.”

Mullendore named RFA government affairs director

Mullendore

The Renewable Fuels Association has hired Jared Mullendore as its new government affairs director. Mullendore’s experience includes serving as district director for former Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), and on the staff of former Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa). “We are pleased to welcome Jared to our government affairs team in Washington, D.C.,” said RFA Senior Vice President for Government and Public Affairs Troy Bredenkamp. “He brings a wealth of experience, as well as deep knowledge on a range of policy issues. Jared’s experience as a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ district director means he has an intimate understanding of how policy and regu-

latory decisions made inside the beltway affect American workers and families in communities across the Heartland. There is no doubt that Jared will be able to hit the ground running and we know he will have an immediate impact on RFA’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill.” Mullendore holds a law degree from the University of Iowa and served as a deputy finance director for Rep. Loebsack. Later, he joined Rep. Finkenauer’s staff as district director, where he opened and oversaw three district offices and a staff of six.

USGC welcomes two new producer members The U.S. Grains Council has announced that ity is unit train capable and has a distilled spirits perRingneck Energy, an 80 MMgy ethanol plant in mit. Ringneck is capable of meeting nearly all export central South Dakota, and Gevo, a Colorado-based specifications and can easily deliver to the Gulf or producer of drop-in renewable fuels, have joined Pacific Northwest. the organization. Gevo owns an isobutanol production facility in Ringneck Energy is a farmer-owned ethanol Luverne, Minnesota, and is focused on producing plant located in Onida, South Dakota, that started production in renewable hydrocarbons that can be used for drop-in transportation April 2019. The plant was built by Fagen Inc. of Granite Falls, Min- fuels that potentially yield net-zero lifecycle greenhouse gas emisnesota, and engineered by ICM Inc. of Colwich, Kansas. The facil- sions.

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 13


Sequestration

Carbon C O N N E C T O R

14 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2021


The Summit Carbon Solutions’ pipeline represents billions of dollars, millions of tons of CO2 and about 15% of the entire U.S. ethanol industry. And additional CCS projects are in the works. By Lisa Gibson

Stretching across five states and collecting carbon dioxide from 30 ethanol plants for long-term underground sequestration, the $4.5 billion Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project is the largest capture and storage project in the world. With a target completion date three years out, engineering and design work is underway, says Justin Kirchhoff, president of Summit Ag Investors with Summit Agricultural Group, Summit Carbon Solutions’ parent company. “Nothing we’re doing here is new,” Kirchhoff says. “We’re just doing it on a much larger scale. The technology and safety record around these technologies are really well-known.” Brad Crabtree, director of the Carbon Capture Coalition, agrees. “The technology isn’t new,” he says. “The CO2 has

PROVEN TECH: Ethanol plants have been capturing carbon dioxide for decades, and CO2 sequestration has already been proven to work in the fossil fuel industry. The pipeline shown here was built five years ago to take CO2 from a coal plant near Houston to nearby oil fields. PHOTO: NRG

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 15


Sequestration

been captured from ethanol plants for many, many years. Not just from a climate standpoint, but even just from a business standpoint to produce CO2 for a whole range of purposes. “I think the project is groundbreaking because of the actual size of the project in terms of carbon captured, sequestration and [how much CO2 will be] stored geologically—10 million tons,” Crabtree says.

'I think the ethanol industry may become the first industry in the world to capture and manage a majority of its CO2 emissions'

& Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota to determine injection well siting and feasibility. “EERC has been fantastic to work with,” Kirchhoff says. “And the oil industry in North Dakota and the advancements and understanding of geology there really made us comfortable moving forward. The broad understanding of North Dakota geology has definitely been helpful.” Brad Crabtree Carbon Capture Coalition Summit Carbon Solutions will own the The Business Model pipeline and capture equipment at all the Summit Carbon Solutions has signed plants, fully footing the capital costs. Trimerlong-term offtake agreements with 30 ethanol plants in five ic Corp. is engineering the carbon capture at the plants. Partner states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Ne- plants can opt into the initial investment, and Kirchhoff says braska, Kirchhoff says. “We’ve been fortunate to have strong he’s optimistic a number of them will. The essential benefit for support from all of our partner plants and it’s clear lower car- participating ethanol plants initially is a halved carbon intensity bon and sustainability is here to say.” (CI) score, he says. The pipeline will end in North Dakota, where the carbon “We would expect that our CI scores would go down will be geologically stored long-term. “We evaluated a number somewhere between 40% to 50%,” says Jim Seurer, CEO of of areas and North Dakota was the obvious choice,” Kirchhoff Glacial Lakes Energy, whose four South Dakota plants are parsays. “We’ve really been welcomed by the state. (Gov. Doug) ticipating in the project. “Right now, we’re not capturing CO2, Burgum is very supportive of carbon capture and sequestra- so that’s part of the score.” Seurer adds, “We’re confident in Summit’s ability to get us tion. And only two states have primacy over Class 6 wells— North Dakota and Wyoming are the only two that have regula- there. They have a good plan, a good strategy and they’re adding very, very professional folks on their team. We feel good tory jurisdiction over carbon sequestration wells.” Summit Carbon Solutions also partnered with the Energy about the whole project.”

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'With the combination of capture and due credit for corn’s carbon reduction, ethanol could be the lowest carbon fuel in existence, even surpassing electric vehicles' Jim Seurer Glacial Lakes Energy

GLE has been in contact with Trimeric to begin the project. “It’s just a matter of time before they’re on site,” Seurer says. GLE is considering a $60 million investment in the project, he adds. “We are about 10% of the 3.6 billion gallons that are going to be represented. We’re excited. For us to participate in this, with the professionalism and the expertise that Summit brings is just tremendous. It’s great we can partner up with a team like Summit and move this forward.”

Tax Credit Boost

The enhancement of the 2018 45Q tax credit was a critical project catalyst for Summit Carbon Solutions, Kirchhoff says. “We spent eight to 12 months meeting with ethanol plants and describing the opportunity. From our perspective, the most powerful part of this is we really do view it as a partnership between Summit and ethanol plants.”


F U E L the ideal project for early carbon capture because the stream coming off fermentation is essentially a pure stream of CO2. “When the FUTURE Act passed in 2018, with 45Q, I speculated that I think the ethanol industry may become the first industry in the world to capture and manage a majority of its CO2 emissions,” Crabtree adds. “That, in itself, is significant.” He might be right, as several other sequestration projects in the industry— including a Valero partnership pipeline intending to span 1,200 miles through Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois, would touch even more U.S. ethanol production. “If those projects move forward, we’d be capturing the bulk of the ethanol carbon and that’s really extraordinary,” Crabtree says. Beyond Valero and Summit Carbon Solutions’ large pipeline projects, producers with carbon capture and storage sys-

C H A N G E

Crabtree says the project is exactly what 45Q was designed to support. “The tax credit accrues to the owner of the carbon capture equipment,” Crabtree says. “The reason behind that is you want the flexibility for the owner to be an entity that can take advantage of the tax credit. That’s exactly why we designed that flexibility in the 45Q credit.” Many industries don’t have background or interest in transporting and storing gases like carbon dioxide, Crabtree explains. “They’d much rather take advantage of a system in which another company comes in and takes care of that. “One of the reasons the original 45Q did not work is the owner of the facility had to be the owner and handler of the equipment. But they don’t have expertise. That was simply an oversight. It wasn’t intentionally done that way.” And ethanol is the perfect industry for the project, Crabtree says. “Ethanol is

Lower Emissions

Learn More at

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 19

B E Y O N D

PHOTO: GLACIAL LAKES ENERGY

Renewable Fuel

F U E L

READY TO TIE IN: Glacial Lakes Energy’s 130 MMgy Watertown, S.D., ethanol plant, along with its three other South Dakota facilities, will make up roughly 10% of the 3.6 billion gallons of production represented in the Summit Carbon Solutions’ CO2 pipeline project.

Plant-based


Sequestration

tems operating or under development include ADM in Illinois, Red Trail Energy in North Dakota, Blue Flint in North Dakota, White Energy in Texas, Alto Ingredients in Illinois, and One Earth Energy in Illinois. In addition, Battelle and Catahoula Resources announced in early June that they will partner to offer carbon capture and storage for ethanol plants across the U.S.

Summit Carbon Solutions

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Transformation

The Summit Carbon Solutions project is beneficial for other reasons, too. “A project of this size will be transformative in how people perceive the industry and how people perceive measures to address climate change,” Crabtree says. “A project like this will start to shift people’s perception of the climate challenge into one of a carbon management opportunity—thinking of it as more of an economic development potential.” Seurer emphasizes the outlook and sustainability focus of the future. “Certainly, there’s the growing low carbon market out there. We’re looking ahead and we feel this is not just a passing idea. It’s going to be something that we all need to get onboard with. In order to compete in this new world order, we’re going to have to and want to go this direction.” Seurer emphasizes the lack of credit to corn as a carbon sequestration tool itself. “I think ethanol itself, if given proper credit for what the corn plant does, we’re going to be very, very low on the carbon intensity scale.”

• Corn LP • Dakota Ethanol • Glacial Lakes Energy • Golden Grain Energy • Granite Falls Energy • Green Plains Inc. • Heron Lake Bioenergy • Highwater Ethanol • Homeland Energy Solutions • Husker Ag • Lincolnway Energy • Little Sioux Corn Processors • Louis Dreyfus • Pine Lake Corn Processors • Plymouth Energy • Quad County Corn Processors • Redfield Energy • Ringneck Energy • Siouxland Energy Cooperative • Theraldson Ethanol

With the combination of capture and due credit for corn’s carbon reduction, ethanol could be the lowest carbon fuel in existence, even surpassing electric vehicles, Seurer says. “And the continued global direction of a lower carbon footprint across the globe would suggest that there’s a value there and folks are willing to recognize that value,” he adds. “Large and small businesses are willing to recognize that value. “We could be considered zero carbon.” Author: Lisa Gibson Questions: editor@bbiinternational.com

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ENERGY

Revisiting

CHP

Carbon reduction incentives are improving the cogeneration payback equation for ethanol plants, but only a fraction of producers are doing it. By Susanne Retka Schill

Today, the quest for carbon intensity reduction has plants revisiting combined heat and power (CHP) systems. Siouxland Ethanol in Jackson, Nebraska, recently began generating its own electricity with a CHP system. Much of the payback

will come in a lowered carbon intensity score in the California market. When The Andersons doubled capacity at its Albion, Michigan, facility a few years ago, it installed CHP partly to ensure it could maintain the greenhouse gas reduction target required in the U.S. EPA’s efficient producer program. CHP has been an option for ethanol producers since the early days. But while all plants could utilize the energy efficient systems, cogeneration has been installed in only a fraction. A U.S. DOE database shows 37 ethanol producers with CHP— combustion turbines, boiler/steam tur-

22 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2021

POWER PLAY: Poet, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, has installed natural gas-fired turbines like this one at several of its facilities. Along with steam let-down turbines, the cogeneration systems are generating a combined 100 MW-plus of electricity throughout Poet's fleet. PHOTO: POET


ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 23


ENERGY bines and back pressure steam turbines. With a combined capacity of 184.6 megawatts (MW). Adkins Energy is one of a handful of plants that installed CHP when first built in 2002. Plant Manager Jason Townsend says electrical rates in the region at the time made generating the plant’s own electricity an economic decision. The rationale for CHP has changed over the years. “For a time, we were watching the electric market and turning the turbine off and on based on electrical pricing,” he says. “For the past several years, we’ve been running it 100% of the time. Part of that is electrical reliability. We would have had quite a few power outages if we had relied upon the grid.” Adding the steam from the natural gas turbine to the supply coming from the boilers also enabled running the plant at full capacity. As the facility expanded to 60 MMgy and added another dryer, the increased electrical load led Adkins to install a second

CHP PIONEER: Adkins Energy LLC, in Lena, Illinois, installed CHP when the plant was built in 2002. When the facility later expanded, Adkins installed a second turbine that generates power from high pressure steam coming off the plant’s evaporators. PHOTO: ADKINS ENERGY

turbine that generates power from the high pressure steam coming off the evaporators that needs to be reduced for use elsewhere in the process. Rather than wasting the energy as the steam passes over a pressure reducing valve, it now generates electricity in a let-down or back-pressure steam turbine. “We’re able to generate a little over a megawatt of electricity now for very low cost,” Townsend says.

Evolving Strategies

Whether investing in a let-down steam turbine would pay was a straightforward equation when he started at ICM in 2007, says Jeff Scharping, ICM director of sales. Only if electrical rates were over 7 cents a kilowatt hour would the capital investment for a steam turbine make sense. Today, the value of the potential carbon intensity reduction is changing the equation. But even in the earlier years, there were

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GRIDLOCKED: CHP-derived electricity from ethanol plants could be used to support peak power loads when needed. But selling power to the grid is challenging because other sources of electricity are currently cheaper. PHOTO: STOCK

situations where plants were encouraged to install CHP, he says. “As an example, in Nebraska the ethanol plants are the largest electrical load in the state,” Scharping says. “Nebraska Public Power had to determine if they had the base load to generate that much electricity. They gave tax incentives to ethanol plants to put in combined heat and power to take load off their grid.” Scharping expects a new carbon reduction strategy—carbon capture and storage

(CCS)—similarly will lead to more CHP installations in power districts with load limitations and to add to the carbon reduction. Project developers have signed up more than 30 plants to consider capturing fermentation gases to be pipelined for injection underground (see page 14). “It takes about 6-8 MW to compress the CO2 to put it in the pipeline,” Scharping says, which would roughly double the electrical load at a typical ethanol plant.

CHP systems are designed around a specific situation, explains Marc Awtry, ICM technical support manager. “One plant might generate half their power, using the same steam they’d use anyway. Another might use more natural gas and offset 80 percent of their electrical. We’ve also seen some plants that physically can’t get more electricity off the grid because their local utility can’t make the substation larger. We talked to one plant that was told it would take three years and $3 million to get more electricity.” If plants sized their turbines to provide all their steam load after first generating electricity, they would all produce excess power. In that case, CHP could be a source of distributed power supply shaving peak power loads on the grid. But very few plants do sell power to the grid because it doesn’t pay. “Utilities don’t offer better rates for electricity being sold to the grid [from CHP producers] because they can buy it cheaper

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 25


ENERGY elsewhere,” explains Cliff Haefke, director of the Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois-Chicago. The center assists CHP developers in partnership with the DOE. “You still have very lowcost nuclear generation and low-cost coal, although that’s going up, and renewables are becoming more competitive,” he says, “but [utilities] can shop at wholesale at a much lower rate than what it costs an ethanol plant to generate electricity.” Ethanol

plants today in the 5-15 MW range don’t achieve the economies of scale that make selling power feasible, he explains, although bigger facilities generating 20-100 MW do attract interest from investor utilities. Incentives are available in some states that qualify natural gas-fired turbines as energy efficiency technologies. “CHP is being looked at as a bridge technology today operating on natural gas,” Haefke says, explaining that it could transition to operat-

DIALED IN: Ryan Wood, an engineer with Poet Design and Construction, checks a steam turbine that generates electricity as high-pressure steam is being reduced for use in other parts of the process. PHOTO: POET

ing on renewable natural gas or hydrogen in the future. But even operating on fossil natural gas, CHP is reducing emissions compared to marginal generation assets, he says, which are the lowest cost power plants responding to a change in power demand. Natural gas CHP plays very well, Haefke says, against peaking units operating on gas or coal that might be 30 to 35% efficient. Stand-alone thermal energy that is typically used in ethanol plants is around 80% efficient, he says. “We see CHP systems that are 70-85% efficient, even 90% or higher, depending on the technology and how well they use thermal energy.” 26 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2021


Looking for Opportunities

The enhanced efficiency translates into carbon intensities (CI) for the CHP electricity that score 50-80% lower than that from the grid, depending on the makeup of the grid power supply at a particular location and the type of CHP, says Rod Pierson, senior vice president and general manager of Poet Design and Construction. The importance of CI reduction continues to grow, he says, “and it goes beyond economics. The electricity off the grid has a lot of coal. Electrical consumption is going up, and not down. And CHP is a very efficient way to make electricity.” Poet has installed 16 systems, both natural gas fired turbines and let down steam turbines, generating over 100 MW of electricity. “We have a few additional potential projects identified,” he says. “We’re always looking for those opportunities to reduce CI and improve our production process to be more environmentally friendly.” As Poet looks for ways to partner with utilities, Pierson says the investor utilities have tended to be more interested than rural electric cooperatives. “We continue to have discussions to find opportunities. We want something that’s not going to hurt their local customer,” he says. One of the arguments in favor of ethanol CHP is that it could help a utility by reducing peak load demand, which is the most costly power to purchase. While the current shift in national attention towards carbon reduction is likely to affect how utilities view CHP, the quest for CI reduction is also changing attitudes among ethanol boards and management toward capital projects. “Low carbon technologies have been installed that don’t have quick payback, but do have a sustainability component,” Scharping says. “The customers know sustainability is the right move to make. Turbines and CHP are going to fit into that thinking.” “To be sustainable, ethanol needs to be low CI, zero carbon,” Scharping says. Currently electric vehicles benefit in the

public eye by being considered zero emissions, zero carbon, he says. “It’s really important as an industry to brand ourselves as zero carbon, because we have to put a flag down to say you don’t have to go to electrification to get zero carbon. We can do it with ethanol.” Reaching zero carbon will require far more than the plant process becoming less carbon intensive, he acknowledges, and will involve carbon capture and sequestration

and lowering corn’s CI at the farm. “We have to combine it all if we want to get to zero. But we can get there, and combined heat and power is part of it.” Author: Susanne Retka Schill Questions: editor@bbiinternational.com

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Power

CHANGING FORMS: When liquids like ethanol are used to generate power in gas turbines, they are mixed with compressed air to form thermal energy, or hot air, which drives the turbine at more than 3,000 rpms to create the mechanical power required to spin a generator and create electricity. PHOTO: STOCK

28 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2021


Not just for cars, ethanol could contribute to greener electricity. By Susanne Retka Schill

Electrification may just be part of ethanol’s future—and not necessarily in competition with electric vehicles. Backup generators now powered on diesel and natural gas fired turbines are both candidates for greening via ethanol.

Keegan O’Donnell, senior systems architect with GE Gas Power, knew little about the industry’s ethanol capacity when he first talked to Kelly Davis at the Renewable Fuels Association about the fuel’s availability in the Southeast. “He was thinking we’d never be able to satisfy his requirements,” she recalls. “I said how many unit trains do you want.” That initial contact led to a series of conversations about the prospects for using ethanol to generate electricity. “We’ve been spreading the word, but it’s really early in development,” says Davis, vice president of regulatory affairs at RFA. “We know it will work, it’s not a research project.” She points to two commercial-scale applications. A 41 MW peaking power plant began operations in 2019 on Reunion Island, a remote French territory in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar using surplus molasses-based ethanol from an island distillery. The operator, Albioma, is an independent French renewable energy producer with operations in French overseas territories, Mauritius and Brazil. The second example,

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 29


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a large Petrobras electric turbine, has been operating on cane ethanol for the past decade. Two GE LM6000PC aeroderivative gas turbines were converted from natural gas-only to a dual fuel 87 megawatt (MW) power plant, Keegan explains. He cites a report written after the initial demonstration phase that said the performance was equivalent to the same turbine running on natural gas and a teardown and inspection showed no additional wear. The study also found emissions from ethanol comparable to those from distillate fuels with the exception of lower nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions. The turbine used hydrous ethanol, containing 6-10% water, which cooled combustion temperature and resulted in the lower NOx emissions, the study explained. “Gas turbines used for power generation use the same fundamental principles as aviation jet engines,” Keegan writes in response to emailed questions. “Combustion creates thermal energy that is then converted to mechanical energy via a tur-

bine which drives a generator. Turbines are also used in a combined cycle application that converts the remaining combustion thermal energy via a heat recovery steam generator (HRSG) to drive a steam turbine for additional power generation, increasing overall efficiency.” With a 5-minute fast start, the aero turbines are often used as peaking power plants to meet increased power demand or to back up intermittent wind or solar power.

Biobased Backup

While the potential for using volumes of ethanol in utility-scale power generation is tantalizing, Davis says the more immediate application is likely to be using ethanol to replace diesel in backup generators. “First of all, [ethanol’s] cheaper than diesel, even though its energy density is a little lower. And it’s greener. Why wouldn’t you switch that diesel tank out to ethanol?” She sees one likely user as ethanol plants themselves. Earlier in her career when she was working in a plant, she says, “I can remember 5 p.m. on a hot summer


Proposed Study

Gathering performance and emissions data and getting the word out are the next steps, says Davis. Those needs prompted RFA’s letter to the USDA this spring in response to a request for information on a Rural Energy Pilot Program. The RFA’s letter points out that replacing diesel with ethanol as a backup fuel would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but improve air quality and reduce

water consumption. While the combustion of ethanol in liquid form has been shown to work, the RFA suggests the USDA consider a pilot program to test the ability to utilize ethanol in pre-mixed, vaporized form. “Once testing has been done, the next step would be to demonstrate the commercial use of ethanol at a power plant, or at a small number of facilities. This would most likely occur at a rural facility.” As the RFA crafted its letter, Troy

KEddh^͗ƐĂůĞƐΛǁŝŶďĐŽ͘ĐŽŵŽƌ>>h^͗ϭͲ;ϴϬϬͿͲϴϮϮͲϭϴϱϱ INNER POWER: Two GE aeroderivative LM6000 turbines, similar to the one shown in this cutaway illustration, have been running for a decade in Brazil, after being converted to dual fuel natural gas and ethanol. Based on jet airplane technology, the turbines are quick starting and can be throttled. PHOTO: GE GAS POWER

evening and [the power supplier] is curtailing the plant as people were getting home from work and turning up the air conditioning. I remember that because my lab was next to the generator room.” Backup generators are widely deployed in all industry and commercial buildings. Speaking at the National Ethanol Conference in 2020, O’Donnell told the assembly that GE alone has 32,000 MW of installed liquid fuel capacity on GE gas turbines in the U.S., which would use 15 billion gallons of ethanol in 20 days of operation. While ethanol is not currently deployed at any scale, O’Donnell says the understanding of conversion requirements is in place. “If ethanol is burned as a liquid in gas turbines it would be a very similar design approach to any liquid fuel combustion today. If ethanol is vaporized and burned as a gas it should not require a major change in the core turbine combustion technology, however the supporting balance of plant, auxiliary and controls design would be significantly different.”

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Power Bredenkamp’s interest was peaked. Relatively new as senior vice president for government and public affairs at RFA, he led the Nebraska association of rural electric cooperatives before working with renewable fuels in the state and then joining RFA. “My first turn was to public power in Nebraska. We could have a partner that potentially has a vested interest in making sure that ethanol in rural America has a strong future,” he says, adding that the ethanol industry in Nebraska is a pretty significant load factor for the utilities. Developing major new uses would not only ensure the long-term health of a major customer, but ethanol would be a natural fit for utilities as a decarbonization strategy, he suggests. Bredenkamp also sees the concept of ethanol to electrons as a means of ethanol participating in a future with electric vehicles (EVs) beyond use in hybrid EVs. “This concept leapfrogs the gas tank and goes straight to the electrical generation component to explore where ethanol could fit in,” he says.

“Think about this: For an EV future to work, one of the major issues is going to be infrastructure deployment for electric vehicles and the build out of charging stations and hardwired infrastructure that needs to be deployed. Imagine if you could have mobile or temporary fast-charging stations put up anywhere along the road. They’re on or off when someone needs to charge, and that electrical charger is being operated using ethanol as the energy source.” Ethanol to electrons could play a significant role in multiple carbon reduction schemes, Bredenkamp adds. “Everyone’s trying to figure out what the carbon trading system would look like. But just know that every time you ratchet down a carbon limit it means whatever energy source you’re using has to be less carbon intensive than the last one you were using. If ethanol can continue to gain efficiencies and become lower and lower carbon intensive, then the more valuable that product becomes not only in a gas tank but potentially for electric generation.”

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Brendenkamp points out that Iowa is a leader in wind power and has the most ethanol plants of any state. “Calling on my rural electric background, there is a coal plant or natural gas peaker plant running in the background or being turned on quickly to make up for a drop in generation if the wind’s not blowing or sun’s not shining. That is where the concept for ethanol could be significant because we could fill that need immediately.” Davis is enthused about the possible new market for ethanol. She recalls an early conversation with O’Donnell about ethanol’s potential to move from fueling internal combustion engines to generating power. “He asked, ‘Why are you hung up on cars?’” Davis says, “He sees a larger, more stable market in power.” Author: Susanne Retka Schill Questions: editor@bbiinternational.com

ONSITE ENERGY: As energy experts figure out how to supply low- or zero-carbon electricity to EV charging stations worldwide, some envision small, off-the-grid turbines or fuel cells capable of converting ethanol to electricity on demand PG when vehiclesTECHNICIANS_03-24-2021.pdf need charging. ETHANOL PRODUCER_HALF AD_CERTIFIED 1 3/25/2021 10:11:42 AM

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Low Carbon

Aemetis’ refinery will produce renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel from almond orchard and forest wood waste—which will also yield a negative carbon sugar source for ethanol production. By Matt Thompson

A NEW PATH: Aemetis’ renewable diesel and biojet fuel plant in California will rely heavily on carbon-negative wood and agricultural waste from almond orchards like this one in California. PHOTO: STOCK

34 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2021


Eric McAfee, CEO of Aemetis, says the markets for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and renewable diesel are strong. The diesel market—and

by association, the renewable diesel buildout—continued to gain momentum during the pandemic, with brisk trucking volume tied to the booming and irreversible phenomenon of consumer goods home delivery. “Renewable diesel is in high demand. Aviation fuels likewise,” he says. “It’s a 79 billion gallon market worldwide.” And that’s good news for the company, as progress on its Carbon Zero One plant, a renewable diesel and SAF (i.e., biojet fuel) refinery continues. “We already announced the engineering for the process phase, and the engineer for the construction phase is next,” McAfee says, explaining that engineering and permitting work will continue as project financing is finalized before construction. “We’re at the end of the development phase.” The plant will use almond orchard waste, as well as forest waste wood, from California, which McAfee says will help keep the plant’s carbon intensity (CI) score low. The unique feedstock also ends up being a benefit for Aemetis’ corn ethanol plant in Keyes, California, as sugar from the renewable diesel plant’s waste wood will be extracted for use in producing ethanol. “If you can take sugar from a carbon negative 100 waste wood, and you have positive 50 carbon intensity sugar that comes from corn, which one are you going to make more money on, the corn or the waste wood?” McAfee says. “Then factor on top of that the waste wood is very low cost. It’s one tenth the cost of the sugar.” He adds that with the cost savings on the feedstock, and the premiums received from California’s LCFS, every 10 percent of production that uses the waste orchard

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RNG KICK: A key feature of reducing the carbon intensity (CI) score of Aemetis' ethanol plant in Keyes, California, is the anaerobic digestion facilities used for producing renewable natural gas from the manure of nearby dairy farms. PHOTO: AEMETIS

wood as a feedstock generates $30 million. “That’s linear, so 20 percent is $60 million, 30 percent is $90 million, and 100 percent is $300 million. That doesn’t fade as you get more feedstock.” Those returns are possible because the feedstock is carbon negative.” And the benefits aren’t just financial, McAfee says. “By providing an alternative use for waste wood and, ultimately, eliminating field burning of the 3 billion pounds per year of waste orchard wood in California’s Central Valley, we plan to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution while displacing carbon intensive feedstock with negative carbon-intensity feedstock for the production of renewable jet and diesel fuel,” he says. “So that’s the innovation—that it’s a jet and diesel fuel business [that also produces an input for] cellulosic ethanol using our corn ethanol plant,” McAfee explains.

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In addition to the lower CI the ethanol plant will enjoy from its feedstock, the 65 MMgy plant in Keyes is undergoing improvements to make it more energy efficient and lower its CI score further. “We’re

basically changing the plant from being a petroleum natural gas to an electricity powered plant,” McAfee says, explaining that the electricity will be generated from onsite solar in conjunction with grid electricity from hydroelectric power. Switching a plant from natural gas to electric power requires new equipment used in ethanol production. For example, McAfee says, the plant is using an electric-powered Mitsubishi Zebrex unit for dehydration. “It’s a unit that uses ceramic membranes instead of a vacuum and pressure system powered by natural gas,” he says. “It’s basically electric pumps, pushing ethanol water through tubes of ceramics, and the bit of tube separates out the water molecules.” Another change the plant has seen is the use of mechanical vapor recompression, which McAfee describes as glorified fans. “They’re basically taking existing steam and compressing it again, making it hot and high pressure again,” he says. “This uses fans, rather than boiling water which uses natural gas.” Along with high efficiency heat exchangers, the last upgrade will be the addition of on-site solar energy production,


ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 37


ELECTRIC SWITCH: Aemetis' ethanol plant in Keyes, California, is undergoing upgrades to significantly reduce its CI score and switch from natural gas to electric power. PHOTO: AEMETIS

McAfee says. “Overall we’re just getting rid of 100 percent of our petroleum natural gas,” he says. “Eighty-five percent becomes electricity and 15 percent becomes biogas, which has a negative 426 CI score. All of our energy will be a zero CI, very low carbon intensity grid electricity from hydroelectric, or negative 426 CI biogas.” That biogas comes from nearby dairy

farms. “Dairy cows provide waste to the dairy digesters, thereby producing biogas that we cleanup and pressurize in an Aemetis processing unit at the dairy, then transport via the Aemetis Biogas pipeline back to our ethanol plant to use in the production of ethanol by displacing high carbon intensity petroleum natural gas,” McAfee says.

Zero Carbon Financing

The projects were funded, in part, by grants from the California Energy Commission’s Low Carbon Fuel Production program, which according to Hannon Rasool, the deputy director of the California Energy Commission’s Fuels and Transportation Division, “supports new and expanded renewable, ultra-low carbon transportation

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Low Carbon fuel production at advanced fuel production facilities, and helps the California fuel industry, vehicle manufacturers and operators work towards a low-carbon future. Funding for these projects came from the California Climate Investments program funded by the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.” Rasool says the projects at the Keyes plant were attractive because they aligned with objectives of various California agencies and programs. “This project complements the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Dairy Digester Research and Development Program, which focuses on reducing emissions at dairies throughout the state,” Razool says. “Biogas from surrounding dairies in the region is captured in anaerobic digesters and pipelined to a central biogas upgrading facility located at Aemetis’ Advanced Fuel Production Facility in Keyes.” While the CDFA’s funding focuses on digester installation at surrounding dairies for methane reduction, the CEC’s funding

focuses on upgrading the biogas so it can be used on-site or injected into the pipeline for use as a transportation fuel. In this case, Aemetis is doing both. A fueling station will be installed on-site to help fuel trucks that come and go from the facility, while some fuel will be injected into the pipeline. A separate amount of fuel is also being allocated specifically for use in a truck fleet used by one of the surrounding disadvantaged communities to help reduce emissions.” McAfee notes that plants shipping ethanol to California would be the main beneficiaries of such upgrades, thanks to the incentives available through the LCFS. But, he says, if regulatory changes happen, he expects more ethanol plants to take a serious look at their CI scores. “If you don’t ship your product into California, you’re not going to get any benefit from carbon intensity reduction,” he says. McAfee adds, “I think if the Low Carbon Fuel Standard regulatory policy is adopted nationwide, which is a trend that’s

definitely starting to develop, then we can see pretty much every ethanol plant in the United States adopt low-carbon production techniques.” While Rasool says electrification is California’s main goal for light-duty vehicles, biofuels play an important role in the state’s emissions targets. “There are use cases in which zero-emission vehicles may not, in the near-term, be the best fit. Support of in-state, commercially available, low-carbon fuels are a key part of the California Energy Commission strategy and will ensure that emission reduction goals can be met and accelerated in some vehicle sectors that are more difficult to convert to zero-emission vehicles,” he says. “Low-carbon fuels are a near-term and cost-effective approach for reducing emissions in sectors that may be several years out from zero-emission options.” Author: Matt Thompson Questions: editor@bbiinternational.com

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 39


Grain

Enhanced Crop Forecasting for Ethanol Producers YieldScreen reports are designed to help plant managers better anticipate grain availability from local draw areas, enabling optimally timed purchases. By Aline Glick In early June, there were already murmurs of the grain market tightening, due to factors such as overseas demand for animal feed and challenging growing conditions in other markets. Accurate, geographically targeted production forecasts have long been the holy grail of grain buying for ethanol plant managers—they would make it possible to optimize the timing of grain purchases, armed with advance knowledge of production for a local draw area. The combination of data-rich remote sensing and new machine learning approaches is creating a revolution in yield forecasting, with accurate and scalable solutions. Directing these technology innovations to the ethanol industry can help ethanol plants survive and thrive based on the spread they are able to achieve when selling ethanol, relative to the cost of acquiring grain. Aspiring Universe Corp. has launched YieldScreen, a product to help ethanol plant

managers better anticipate grain availability from their local draw areas, enabling better timing of grain purchases in order to optimize cost, and, ultimately, profit on their ethanol output. Until now, grain buyers have relied largely on a combination of word of mouth, gut feeling, and government reports—which are not always accurate predictors due to lag—to inform the timing of grain purchases. While wisdom and experience are valuable assets for these decision makers, the method is incomplete and inherently biased, and can result in significant reduction in profitability or worse in years with dramatic weather events. YieldScreen provides unbiased, accurate grain production forecasts long before government reports are available. The company’s CEO, Daphne Preuss, remarked, “Our methodology starts at the field level, enabling purchasers to better choose their suppliers. It is well-suited for

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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).

40 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | AUGUST 2021


ethanol plant managers who are frustrated by the untargeted, incomplete, and biased data that is otherwise available to them. YieldScreen reports are delivered throughout the growing season, with accurate forecasts available months before NASS reports. We expect that YieldScreen’s unprecedented accuracy in forecasting production from custom draw areas will be a game changer for ethanol plant managers, allowing them to avoid disaster in the bad years, and maximize profits in the good.” Aspiring Univere Corp., a 2019 spinout of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, has created a 20-year daily database at 100-foot resolution for every plot of farmland across the globe. The company integrates multiple remote sensing data layers, and uses biophysical-based process models, combined with artificial intelligence and supercomputing, to efficiently assess crop performance, water availability, management practices, nutrient use, and carbon retention. The result is a wide array of actionable insights from agronomy to sustainability, including seasonal production forecasts. The company has already attracted a Fortune 500 client list drawn by the innovative science of founder and lead inventor Dr. Kaiyu Guan, who is also a leading scientist at the nexus of environmental science, engineering, and AI. Many of the custom projects for these clients have focused on carbon sequestration and other sustainability metrics. The company is now in the process of focusing the technology for specific applications. Guan commented, “We are excited to make these tools available, which are the result of 10-plus years of my team’s research at the University of Illinois, Stanford University and Princeton University. There are really no other options that can provide the combined accuracy, scalability and costeffectiveness of this technology.” More information about YieldScreen can be found at www.aspiringuniverse.com. Author: Aline Glick Head of Product and Marketing Aspiring Universe Corp. aline.glick@aspiringuniverse.com

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