2019 December Ethanol Producer Magazine

Page 1



IN A BOTTLE Increasing Corn Oil Volume, Value to Offset Low Margins PAGE 22


Movement in Mexico’s Market PAGE 28

Ethanol on a Global Scale PAGE 32




EDITORIAL Editor Lisa Gibson lgibson@bbiinternational.com Associate Editor Matt Thompson mthompson@bbiinternational.com Copy Editor Jan Tellmann jtellmann@bbiinternational.com

ART Art Director Jaci Satterlund jsatterlund@bbiinternational.com Graphic Designer Raquel Boushee rboushee@bbiinternational.com

PUBLISHING & SALES CEO Joe Bryan jbryan@bbiinternational.com President Tom Bryan tbryan@bbiinternational.com Vice President, Marketing & Sales John Nelson jnelson@bbiinternational.com Business Development Director Howard Brockhouse hbrockhouse@bbiinternational.com Senior Account Manager/Bioenergy Team Leader Chip Shereck cshereck@bbiinternational.com Circulation Manager Jessica Tiller jtiller@bbiinternational.com Marketing & Advertising Manager Marla DeFoe mdefoe@bbiinternational.com Social Media & Marketing Coordinator Dayna Bastian dbastian@bbiinternational.com


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.

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Pushing past the standards to find better fermentation solutions is in our DNA. With a proven track record, we’ve helped produce more ethanol than any It’s what LBDS does. other fermentation company. But we aren’t satisfied with that. LBDS continues Whether your ethanol plant is taking small steps or giant leaps, LBDS is here to make your impossible, possible. to explore possibilities to optimize For over three decades, we’ve helped our partners produce more alcohol throughand ourbreak proven fermentation fermentation new production solutions. LBDS is continuing to explore every possibility to optimize your operation and break new barriers. (Something about being a production barriers. partner today and tomorrow) At LBDS, we’re always at the fermentation forefront. ©2019 Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits




















Pounds that Pay

Corn oil boosts earnings, so plants boost extraction By Susanne Retka Schill

Pounds, Petroleum and Promotion By Lisa Gibson

An Opportunity to Focus Forward By Geoff Cooper





‘Facilitating Connections’ in Mexico

Washington, DC, is No Longer an Option By Dave VanderGriend

U.S. ethanol is making its way south By Matt Thompson




Trade Talks

Coverage of the Global Ethanol Summit in Washington, D.C. By Matt Thompson

32 ON THE COVER A display of Marquis Energy's distillers corn oil (center), thin stillage (left) and clear stillage (right). PHOTO: MARQUIS ENERGY




Valuable and Viable

45Q tax credit monetizes carbon dioxide emissions By Andrew Duguid

Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) December 2019, Vol. 25, Issue 12. 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.



Pounds, Petroleum and Promotion At The Alcohol School earlier this year, I heard a presenter say some ethanol plants were extracting 1.2 pounds of distillers corn oil per bushel. That was news to me. I thought the leaders were tapped out at 0.9 Lisa Gibson

Editor lgibson@bbiinternational.com

pounds. That presenter asked her audience to raise their hands if they were getting 0.5 pounds, 0.7, 0.9 and up to 1.2. By 1.2, no hands were in the air. And we were all curious. Digging into that topic, freelance writer Susanne Retka Schill presents some details on how those extraction yields are being reached. Marquis Energy has implemented its own protein extraction technology and is achieving that elusive 1.2 pounds per bushel. Similarly, Trucent has strategies and equipment to maximize corn oil extraction at its customers’ plants. It’s the cover story and it starts on page 22. Next, we zero in on Mexico’s ethanol market. Since the country approved E10, that market has been a bit slow to develop. Three cities—Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterey—still aren’t cleared to use it, infrastructure development is taking time, and the country faces the same misinformation about ethanol that we grapple with here in the U.S. But it’s coming together. Pemex, Mexico’s government-owned petroleum supplier, has asked for funding in its 2020 budget to upgrade infrastructure to handle ethanol. Pemex has had a powerful monopoly over Mexican transportation fuel, so this move is significant. But it’s also predictable. Retailers in Mexico are learning more about ethanol from our trade groups, retailers, farmers and ethanol producers here in the U.S., and they’re asking Pemex for ethanol. It’s certainly an interesting development. Get the full story, starting on page 28. Finally, we bring you coverage of the Global Ethanol Summit. The event took place in Washington, D.C., in October, the first of its kind. The idea, organizers say, is to discuss ethanol worldwide, help promote its use in foreign markets, teach and learn, and connect industries. Find out about the event, its topics and featured speakers, starting on page 32. As we wrap up 2019, we’re heading into the 2020 conference season. Several events greet us in the first few months of the year, offering ample opportunity for coverage, travel and learning for our editorial staff here at EPM. We expect to continue covering our relevant wins and battles, such as the Reid vapor pressure waiver and small refinery waivers, respectively, but we’re always listening for the other stories, too—the 1.2-pound stories. We’ll be here for it. See you in 2020.



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An Opportunity to Focus Forward By Geoff Cooper

In October, the Renewable Fuels Association had the privilege of co-hosting the Global Ethanol Summit in Washington, D.C., an event that brought more than 300 foreign visitors to our country, representing over 60 countries. Together, we saw firsthand the opportunity that awaits ethanol not just in the U.S., but around the world.

In my remarks in the final panel session, I commented that, despite the challenges we face, I was fundamentally bullish on the future of ethanol. Perhaps ironically, only a few minutes after the summit ended the afternoon of Oct. 15, we got slapped with another challenge from the U.S. EPA, when it unveiled its supplemental proposal for 2020 renewable volume obligations (RVOs). It’s not an exaggeration to say that outrage ensued. It was not good news, and no one cheered. President Donald Trump wanted to find a deal that would please both sides, promising in late August a “giant package” that would make farmers happy. Instead, over a month later, his EPA rolled out a plan that accomplished the exact opposite. No one’s happy. Not farmers, not ethanol producers, not even the oil industry. Despite this, I do remain bullish, because I believe in ethanol. It’s the right fuel at the right time—and for the time to come. It’s the low-carbon, low-cost fuel America and the world need now. As long as we remain committed to the future of our industry, and approach it strategically, we will succeed regardless of EPA shenanigans. We can and will make a difference because we have the right product. For this reason, we must keep looking ahead to what we can accomplish. This coming February, RFA will hold our 25th annual National Ethanol Conference. Centered around the theme “Focus Forward,” the meeting will provide attendees the opportunity to look ahead to what the next quarter-century will bring for the U.S. ethanol industry—and we will be doing it from Houston, often touted as the “energy capital” of the world, home to the headquarters of more than 500 oil and gas exploration and production firms.


Houston is the best possible venue for our conference as we continue to focus on ethanol’s future in the energy marketplace, and we will take full advantage of this in our programming. Approaching the quarter-century mark, the NEC remains the nation’s most widely attended executive-level conference for the ethanol industry, and it’s a landmark event you won’t want to miss. At the 2019 event in Orlando, we welcomed nearly 1,000 industry leaders representing 38 states and the District of Columbia. A strong international presence was also felt, with attendees from over a dozen countries. Next year, RFA looks forward to offering attendees robust discussions around new uses and technologies, policy and politics, the market outlook, and the vision for high-octane, low-carbon fuels. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the National Ethanol Conference and look at the events of the day, the “Focus Forward” theme seems perfect. As much as we may feel ethanol and other renewable fuels are under siege by some, even in our federal government, they offer the world something special at a time so many are concerned about climate change: a high-octane, low-carbon liquid fuel solution that’s available right now. New this year at the NEC is a group discount. For every 10 people from your company who register to attend NEC, you are eligible for a complimentary registration. You also can save money by registering as soon as possible. The early bird rate expires Nov. 22, and another discount tier, the advance rate, ends Jan. 21. Details are on the website at www.nationalethanolconference.com. We can guarantee this event will be time well spent for you and your colleagues, and we hope that by focusing forward, we can advance the U.S. ethanol industry more easily through the challenges it faces today, no matter their source. Author: Geoff Cooper President and CEO Renewable Fuels Association 202.289.3835 gcooper@ethanolrfa.org



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Washington, DC, is No Longer an Option By Dave VanderGriend

As the ethanol industry continues using countless resources challenging attacks against the Renewable Fuel Standard, a dark cloud has formed receiving little attention but having a crippling impact on the ethanol industry’s ability to move to higher blends. An overlooked provision in the recent rule allowing year-round sales of E15 caps ethanol blends at 15 percent by making it illegal for blender pumps to dispense any higher blend other than E15 or E85. According to the U.S. EPA, anyone dispensing E20, 30 or higher would be exceeding the amount of a fuel additive allowed under the Clean Air Act. Mind you, this includes dispensing the fuel into a flex-fuel vehicle designed and marketed as being able to run on any combination of gasoline or ethanol up to 85 percent. If you believe that mid-level ethanol blends are the future of our industry, this news should cause great concern. EPA’s addition of this provision to the E15 rule does not appear accidental, but rather a carefully designed definition capping ethanol’s growth. Just another example of government control meant to determine— despite the facts—what’s best for the American consumer. Shouldn’t our government work for a free market rather than against? Not only is EPA working to discourage a free market for consumer fuels, but now politicians, our elected officials, have determined ethanol is better used as a political bargaining chip. Need evidence? Look no further than the recent chaos surrounding small refinery exemptions. Subject to the whims of politicians and regulators, I can’t imagine a more unstable foundation. Can ethanol survive much longer so heavily reliant on Washington, D.C.? From my perspective, a dependence on top-down solutions, or government enacted plans, rests on the troubling idea that a


politician or agency regulator knows what is in our industry’s best interest. Political tools are limited, and government agencies are often agenda-driven. The ethanol industry’s overemphasis on both is, in part, responsible for a polarizing environment making it nearly impossible to accomplish anything. Ethanol is asking way too much from government. Rather than relying on top-down solutions, growing our industry requires a bottom-up approach: growing demand locally and relying less on politicians and EPA. We have the most economic and climate-friendly source of octane that consumers will buy if given the chance. Why am I so confident? Because it’s happening here in Wichita, Kansas. Locally, a chain of convenience stores has installed blender pumps selling mid-level blends in addition to E10 and E85. Consumers are responding by purchasing nearly as much E30 as E10, resulting in 2.5 times more ethanol sales compared to E10only retailers. This is game-changing. And a bottom-up strategy, no less. Hopefully my colleagues recognize just how crucial it is that EPA fixes the ban on mid-level blends. And more important, I hope our industry starts spending more resources on bottom-up solutions instead of top-down government plans. Our highest value is providing clean, high octane in a low-carbon fuel. A move to mid-level blends to provide any meaningful octane boost and replace toxic aromatics is a must. It’s up to the industry to get us there, not the government. Author: Dave VanderGriend President, Urban Air Initiative CEO, ICM Inc. 316.796.0900 davev@icminc.com


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People, Partnerships & Projects

Heron Lake BioEnergy, Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy join ACE

Sustainable Technology acquires DuPont’s G2 ethanol technology

The American Coalition for Ethanol recently welcomed two new ethanol producer members: Heron Lake BioEnergy in Heron Lake, Minnesota, and Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy in Council Bluffs, Iowa. HLBE’s 65 MMgy plant provides jobs to 40 full-time employees and has approximately 1,200 investors. “Over the years, I have been able to see and experience the value ACE offers firsthand,� said Kenton Johnson, HLBE and ACE board member. “ACE provides the best value in the industry. The return on investment for ACE’s policy and market development work is, bar none, the best in the business. In a time where our industry is working with difficult margins, it is more important than ever to invest in trade organizations that keep up the fight for ethanol’s access to the market.� The 130 MMgy SIRE ethanol plant employs 62 people and has over 800 investors. SIRE hosted President Donald Trump to celebrate the lift on the summertime E15 ban this past June. SIRE CEO and 18-year veteran of the ethanol industry Mike Jerke said, “Joining ACE was an initiative we wanted to accomplish this year. “ACE’s grassroots approach to public policy and market development is top-notch, making the decision to join an easy one,� Jerke added. “They work with the folks who are in the trenches on environmental policy and international market development. Their proven experience and expertise in these areas only strengthened our cause for joining. We need industry champions who are willing to help place us in an offensive position. ACE is doing just that. We look forward to our continued work with this organization.�

Sustainable Technology Corp., a subsidiary of Petron Scientech Inc., has acquired the complete technology assets for the commercial cellulosic ethanol technology developed and demonstrated by DuPont. The acquired assets include all associated intellectual property and patents, including those for process design and the Zymomonas ethanologens. The acquisition of this technology by Sustainable Technology Corp. allows Petron Scientech to expand the family of renewable fuels and chemicals technologies that it licenses and provides, including those to produce biofuels. Sustainable Technology Corp. plans to license the technology globally including in biorefineries under development by BioChem USA LLC.


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Growth Energy announces new chairman of the board Dan Sanders is the new chairman of the Growth Energy board of directors. Sanders is the vice president of Front Range Energy, a 48 MMgy ethanol production facility in Windsor, Colorado, that joined Growth Energy in 2008, when the organization was founded. “I’m honored to serve our members and staff as the next chairman of the Growth Energy board of directors,” Sanders said. “I look forward to working with our dedicated board to lead our association’s strategies to deliver strong demand for our products and supportive policy.” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor welcomed Sanders as chairman, where his proven leadership will be critical in the battles ahead: “This year we have achieved some major victories for the ethanol industry, but there is still a long road ahead of us. As the vice president of a small plant in Colorado, Dan brings a unique perspective to our board. His years of experience on the Growth Energy board of directors, including as Growth PAC chairman and vice chair of the board, make him the right man to continue leading this organization toward success.”

As chairman, Sanders succeeds Jeff Broin, CEO of Poet LLC, who held the position since the association’s inception in 2008 and through the successful campaign to achieve year-round E15, the original goal on which the association was founded. Upon reaching this industry Sanders milestone, Broin announced in September he would step down as chairman, but plans to remain an active member of the Growth Energy board. Sanders previously served as vice chair of the board, which will now be filled by Mitch Miller. Miller currently serves as the CEO and managing director of Carbon Green BioEnergy LLC, a 55 MMgy biorefinery in Michigan; president of Iroquois Bio-Energy Company LLC, a 50 MMgy biorefinery in Indiana; and managing partner of NUVU Fuels, which owns and operates convenience stores in Michigan and Indiana. Carbon Green BioEnergy joined Growth Energy in January of 2009.

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Corn oil may be the smallest fraction of production by weight, but it’s also the most valuable. By Susanne Retka Schill


BOTTLED UP: The value of corn oil has been beneficial in industry downturns, including the current one. Plants and technology providers are working to increase the amount, and value, of oil extracted from ethanol plants. PHOTO: MARQUIS ENERGY


COPRODUCTS At $500 a ton, corn oil is the most valuable product an ethanol plant makes, even topping ethanol at its current low price and far outpacing DDGS at around $150 a ton. “Getting more corn oil is a worthy en-

deavor,” says Jason Marquis, chief operations officer of Marquis Energy. “Even though on a mass basis there’s less oil coming in, the value of that oil is a major contributor to the bottom line.” Christianson PLLP benchmarking data confirms corn oil sales are just as important in this extended downturn as they were during the last one in 2012. During that downturn, plants in the benchmarking program that were extracting oil were averaging corn oil sales of 6.9 cents per gallon of ethanol produced. That’s just slightly higher than the first half of 2019 when corn oil sales averaged 6.8 cents per gallon of ethanol. In both years, the average corn oil sales nearly matched the average EBITDA (earnings before income taxes, depreciation and amortization) per gallon of ethanol. Without corn oil, average earnings would have been zero. In 2012, corn oil extraction was a relatively new technology that was performing well for the early adopters. “Corn oil revenue was a real differentiator in 2012,” says Connie Lindstrom, Christianson biofuels analyst. Corn oil producers were realizing 8.5 cents average EBITDA per gallon of ethanol compared to an average negative 1 cent EBITDA per gal-

OIL ADVANTAGE: Christianson PLLP data shows the handful of plants not extracting oil in 2019 are no longer as disadvantaged as nonproducers were in 2012, when the early adopters were clearly benefiting from sales of the new coproduct. SOURCE: CHRISTIANSON PLLP

lon of ethanol for those not spinning oil out. Today, nearly all plants extract oil and the few that don’t have an average EBITDA per gallon nearly the same as those who extract. “The contribution of corn oil has remained steady over time for plants that extract it, and it’s practically essential to operating a profitable plant at this point,” Lindstrom says. “However, it’s no longer a differentiator, because everyone has run the numbers on adding this capability, and those for whom it makes

economic sense to do so have already added it. And, the few that don’t do it are seeing, on average, a similar EBITDA outlook to those that do produce it.”

Pushing Up Pounds

Today, the focus for most plants is extracting as much oil as they can, says Kevin Moore, vice president of Trucent’s advanced separations group. “We’re hearing from producers and experts that removing DCO (distillers

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BENCHMARKS: Since the industry began extracting oil around 2012, the drop in price shown in Chart 1 has been offset by the increase in yield shown in Chart 2. Christianson benchmarking data covers plants in a range of sizes and organizational structures, serving as a representative sample of the industry. SOURCE: CHRISTIANSON PLLP

corn oil) hasn’t destroyed the value of DDGS and producers have gone ahead and pulled more and more out.” Although the majority of Trucent customers pull as much oil out as they can, Moore says there are some who stick to a number to satisfy customer relationships, and those operators have gotten better at controlling the extraction rate. Demand for DCO is likely to keep pace with these yield increases, Moore suggests. “There’s been tremendous announcements of new capacity for renewable diesel in North America, to the tune of several billion gallons,” he says. “DCO is going to be a preferred feedstock, largely due to its favorable carbon intensity score in California. We see forecasts for a significant demand driver for DCO as these renewable diesel plants come online.” Moore reports some producers are now pushing their oil extraction rates over 1 pound per bushel of corn. In addition to using enzyme technologies and other process enhancements that free up more oil, producers implementing new technologies for high-protein feeds are also seeing much higher corn oil yields. The protein technology providers, he says, “are advertising 1.2, or even as high as 1.5 pounds per bushel.” By implementing several strategies, the Marquis plant in Hennepin, Illinois, increased its extraction rate from about 0.8 pounds of DCO per bushel of corn, just above the industry average, to about 1.2 pounds per bushel. The company has developed its own protein extraction technology, which it calls ProCap (short for protein capture). “One of the benefits of the system is up to a 50 percent increase in the amount of corn oil the plant is taking out,” Marquis says. The second benefit is that by removing the oil, the concentration of the protein increases, measuring over 50 percent crude protein. With DCO valued at $500 a ton and the high-protein feed around $300 ton, Marquis Energy is working to optimize these high-value coproducts. Marquis Energy has implemented other strategies to improve corn oil extraction, Marquis adds, with one focused on cleaning recycle streams. “By removing the oil and solids from


COALESCENCE: Trucent’s new Ascent chemistry aims to increase the size of oil droplets, seen here under a microscope. PHOTO: TRUCENT


COPRODUCTS the backset and evaporator feed, we’re not recycling that oil into fermentation,” Marquis explains. Recycled oil is particularly difficult to recover because it creates emulsions that bind it to the wet cake. The recycled oil goes out with the distillers grains, rather than into thin stillage where DCO extraction takes place. Marquis operators also adjust their centrifuges to have more oil and solids move with the thin stillage stream. “Because you’re clarifying that thin stillage, having a dirtier feed isn’t detrimental,” he says. “It’s actually beneficial because you’re preferentially moving more material into the thin stillage fraction and less

of that protein and fat is going out in the wet cake.”

Every Spot

Learning just what happens to corn oil throughout the ethanol process has been a goal at Trucent, Moore says. “We do tend to focus on the oil centrifuge, but in order to understand all the levers and opportunities for higher DCO yields, we have analytical methods for every spot in the ethanol plant, starting with the corn.” After doing a material balance throughout the plant, the Trucent team recommends changes to improve DCO yields.



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“The split at the decanter is very important,” Moore gives as an example of a key parameter. “We see a range of splits in the amount of oil that goes to the stillage versus the wet cake. Clearly, the plants with the highest oil recovery rates have more oil going to the thin stillage.” Several adjustments can be made once the oil in the thin stillage goes to the oil centrifuge. Stoke’s Law defines the relationship of key variables that can be modified to increase separation, such as increasing the droplet size of the oil, altering the density and viscosity of the liquid and optimizing the centrifuge itself by adjusting factors like residence time, surface area and G-force. Demulsifiers can also be added to liberate attached oil and increase the rate of oil droplet coalescence. This summer, Trucent introduced a new chemistry, trademarked Ascent. “It’s a custom chemistry, purposely built for corn oil recovery in dry mills,” Moore says. “Ascent is based on Trucent’s years of experience in separation and all the benchmarking, round robins and analytical development our technical team did.” In addition to developing analytical techniques to track DCO throughout the ethanol process, the team began evaluating the various chemistries being used by the industry and ultimately teamed up with Croda to develop the new, nonpolysorbate chemistry. “The industry has come really far with the incumbent chemistries,” Moore says. “But those have been off-the-shelf surfactants that people blended and trialed. Ascent is a brand-new chemistry where our objective was to create larger diameter oil droplets, a driver in Stoke’s Law.” Multiple plant trials are showing better oil recovery rates at lower doses than the older chemistries, with the best results experienced by plants leaving oil in the heavy phase—the de-oiled syrup—after oil centrifugation. Getting more oil adds up, Moore says. For a 110 MMgy plant using roughly 38 million bushels of corn annually, achieving the industry average DCO yield of 0.75 pounds per bushel produces about 28 million pounds of corn oil for a net value around $5 million. “The difference between 0.75 and 1 is a little greater than $1.5 million in improved revenue.” Author: Susanne Retka Schill Freelance journalist retkaschill@yahoo.com



CONNECTIONS’ IN MEXICO Mexico's E10 market has been slow to develop, but progress is being made. By Matt Thompson

As the U.S. ethanol industry state-owned petroleum company, requested million for ethanol infrastructure in its grapples with declining domestic $50 2020 budget. Finishing that infrastructure is a demand thanks to small refinery good sign for the country’s ethanol industry, waivers issued by the U.S. EPA, Lamberty says. there is hope in foreign markets, in the Landscape says Ryan LeGrand, president and A Change Mexico’s gasoline market was controlled CEO of the U.S. Grains Council. by Pemex until the country underwent energy “Exports of ethanol is something that everyone can get behind, I believe,” he says. “We have extremely high inventories of ethanol, and the need to move it out of the country is very important, and you don’t see too many detractors out there to ethanol exports.” Mexico is poised to become a major importer of U.S. ethanol. In fact, LeGrand says, the country has begun to import more ethanol from the U.S. recently, as it has lifted restrictions that barred E10. “It’s promising,” he says. “We know that E10 is going down into the country. From what we’ve heard, there are suppliers from the U.S. that are selling preblended E10 to hundreds of Mexico’s gasoline stations. So that’s kind of the start of it right now.” Ron Lamberty, senior vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, has spent time in Mexico answering retailers’ questions about ethanol. He says more ethanol is being sold in the country, but the most interesting recent development is that Pemex, Mexico’s


reform three years ago. Kristy Moore, a technical and regulatory consultant for international market development with both Growth Energy and the USGC, helped with that reform and guided Mexico as it made the switch to cleaner-burning fuels. “We’ve been working with the various departments of the Mexico government that control the fuel specifications and regulatory requirements for motor gasoline to ensure that we can provide them with a fungible fuel from the U.S.,” Moore says. However, while E10 is allowed in much of Mexico, the blend is still prohibited in the country’s three largest cities: Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterey. The use of E10 in those cities is delayed, following a study commissioned by the Mexican government from the Mexican Institute for Petroleum to test a fleet of cars and compare evaporative and tailpipe emissions from E10 to a fuel that includes MTBE. “The results were largely the same on those emissions,” LeGrand says. “[The study]


proved that the inclusion of 10 percent ethanol would not lead to an increase in emissions and an increase in ozone in Mexico’s three major cities.” Moore says that following the release of the study in 2018, there is momentum in adopting E10 in the three cities. But, she adds, election rules have prevented the full adoption. In December, Mexico elected a new president and “in the last six months of the administration, or the first six months of the new administration, they aren’t allowed to do anything,” Moore says. So the new administration did not have an opportunity to make the change to allow E10 in those three cities until June of this year. “Everyone under-

stands the benefits, and everyone understands there’s infrastructure and some other buildout that must happen. It’s not going to be overnight,” she says, but she’s confident the blend will eventually find its way into those cities. Lamberty is also optimistic about the introduction of E10 in Mexico’s larger cities. “I know the Grains Council, and the others that have helped the Grains Council, have done a lot of work to make sure that, scientifically, the country and the states have all of the information they need to make that decision,” he says. But, he adds, even without selling ethanol in those areas, the Mexican market is still a major one. “You’ve still got somewhere between 600 and 800 million gallons of ethanol demand

that could be met, especially if Pemex decides to switch from using MTBE as an oxygenate to using ethanol,” he says. Moore agrees. “That market is about the same size as the state of Texas. Just over 12 billion gallons of gasoline consumption. It’s a really big ethanol market.” Lamberty and Moore say the country imports a major portion of its gasoline, and those imports include MTBE. “In general, MTBE costs more than gas and ethanol costs less than gas,” Lamberty says. “MTBE is not something that they’re making in great quantities in Mexico. It’s part of what they import.” Moore says, “MTBE sells at a premium price to gasoline, so the Mexico fuel market

doesn’t get the full benefit of adding an oxygenate, or the octane from the oxygenate, because it’s not cost competitive. They blend at the very minimum amount, which does a very minimal job of reducing tailpipe emissions.” Moore adds that MTBE also isn’t a volume extender the way ethanol is. “Of course, you only get a fraction of the octane that we’ve come to know as a critical part of ethanol’s role.”

Looking Forward

But change can be hard, Lamberty says. “[MTBE] has been there a long time. And just like anything else, even if it’s bad, if it’s been there a long time, there’s going to be resistance to changing.” He adds that the approach he ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 29

RETAILER ROUNDTABLE (ABOVE): Nathaniel Doddridge, director of fuels for Casey’s General Store, gives a presentation during a July tour for Mexican fuel retailers of a Casey’s store in Iowa. PHOTO: AMERICAN COALITION FOR ETHANOL

PIQUING INTEREST (LEFT): Jorge Lerdo de Tejada, an ethanol consultant with the U.S. Grains Council (center), listens during a tour of an Iowa Kwik Star convenience store. De Tejada was a participant on the tour with Mexican delegates of the ethanol industry in Iowa. PHOTO: AMERICAN COALITION FOR ETHANOL

and others from the U.S. take in helping promote ethanol is just that: the role of a helper. “Our job is to point out the advantages, to provide information they need, and then if there’s anything we can do to help them get it through their system, then we do that,” he says. Moore agrees. “When you build markets internationally, you don’t want to go into these countries saying, ‘You must do what the U.S. does,’” she says. “That’s just not practical. Ethanol has a role to play in each fuel market, but each fuel market is unique. We want them to learn from our successes and mistakes, and what works in the U.S. may or may not work for them, but we’ve given them the right tools to adapt on their own.” Since Pemex doesn’t blend ethanol, the ethanol coming into Mexico has had to come from other suppliers, so education for Mexico’s fuel retailers is crucial to developing that market. “We feel our job is to facilitate connections, connecting people who we know will supply E10 to Mexico,” she says. Moore also says Pemex likely will have to blend ethanol in order to remain competitive, since it’s cheaper than MTBE. “That is a real plausible outcome of what happens here,” she says. “We would love it if Pemex decided to use ethanol instead of MTBE, and some of the people that came to our tour in Iowa in July were customers of Pemex,” Lamberty 30 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | DECEMBER 2019


says. “They’re big convenience store users, but they bought their gas from Pemex. What typically happens is somebody like that will see that it’s a good deal, and ask Pemex if they could get ethanol instead of gasoline. It’s far more effective to have a customer in Mexico ask Pemex or their state government or their federal government for change, than it would be for any of us Americans to go down there and try to tell them how to run their fuel business.” Those Iowa tours, which were hosted by the USGC, along with ACE and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, brought a delegation of Mexican retailers and offered tours of Iowa’s ethanol industry, including ethanol plants, fuel terminals and farms. The tours, Lamberty says, went well. “We did have several of those people who were on that tour follow up afterwards by having stations checked out to make sure they were going to be OK to start selling ethanol and I believe, by now, there’s probably a couple of them that have it in there,” he says. Along with retailer education, LeGrand says a major factor limiting the country’s imports is infrastructure. “Before we really see major shipments of just pure ethanol for fuel going down, we have to have some infrastructure buildout, and that’s happening right now,” he says. “Some of the private terminals that are being constructed right now, that were never allowed before the energy market liberalization in Mexico, are nearing completion, or some of them are just starting to operate.” Lamberty agrees that infrastructure is the next step. “The infrastructure issue with Mexico in general is transportation of the fuel from where it’s made to where it’s going to be used,” he says. The issues with fuel tanks and equipment have largely been addressed. “We’re talking about E10 here, so there really isn’t any kind of fuel equipment built and sold anywhere in the world that isn’t compatible with E10,” Lamberty says.

of potential,” she says. Ethanol in Mexico also enjoys support from the country’s department of agriculture, Moore says. “They are probably, besides the department of energy, our most supportive department in the entire Mexican government,” she says. Lamberty also says Mexico sees much of the same anti-ethanol rhetoric the U.S. has become accustomed to. “It’s sort of … a flash from the past, because it goes back to all the things we hear,” he says. “Vehicles have driven on E10 now for 40 years and there’s not additional issues, but the same stuff gets translated and trotted out in Mexico.” While Mexico holds promise as a burgeoning ethanol market, LeGrand says the USGC has six other areas it’s focusing on as well: Brazil, Canada, India, China, Japan and Indonesia. LeGrand says the USGC has a goal to export 4 billion gallons of ethanol by 2022. Last year, U.S. exports reached 1.6 billion gal-

lons. “A couple of those really big, billion-gallon or more markets are going to be great and really help to meet that goal, but also we need some of these smaller ones to come along, too,” LeGrand says, adding that agreements with smaller markets like Vietnam, Columbia, the Philippines and Korea will be instrumental in providing relief to the oversupplied U.S. market. He also says ethanol is the council’s biggest focus right now. “Ethanol’s really at the top of our radar right now and it’s the fastestgrowing export, and we want to make sure that continues,” he says. Author: Matt Thompson Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4922 mthompson@bbiinternational.com

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Domestic Production

While the focus has been on ethanol imports from the U.S., Moore says there is an appetite in Mexico for eventual domestic ethanol production. She says the country has a strong agricultural sector, and in addition to corn, its farmers also produce sugarcane. “There’s lots ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 31




The Global Ethanol Summit in Washington, D.C., focused on worldwide markets and opportunities. By Matt Thompson

Ryan LeGrand, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council, said ethanol is his organization’s top priority. To that end, the USGC,

along with the Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy, hosted the first Global Ethanol Summit Oct. 13-15 in Washington, D.C. Presentations from industry leaders, including Stephen Censky, U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy secretary, as well as ample time dedicated to networking, attracted over 400 participants from more than 60 countries. And trade was indeed the focus. During his keynote presentation on the first full day of the summit, LeGrand said, “We’re gathered here in the spirit of global collaboration and access to free trade, to see the increased use of ethanol worldwide, and the role it plays in improving human health around the world.” Following LeGrand’s remarks, Mike Dwyer, USGC chief economist, presented a global outlook of ethanol that outlined several countries’ recent efforts toward greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and ethanol blending. Dwyer spoke about Brazil, Canada, China and Japan, among others, and told attendees the USGC sees Asia as the most promising market in the coming years. “We found one of the best new markets is going to be over in Asia, largely because ethanol usage is low, fuel demand is growing at some of the fastest rates

in the world and the air quality is bad and getting worse in many of the major cities in Asia,” he said. “We’ve left out some other countries. That doesn’t mean Africa, the Middle East and Europe can’t benefit. They clearly can.” Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy, said, “This is the first time we’ve had a global conference of this scope, that’s all about ethanol, with this level of participants. I think we’ll have good U.S. government attendance as well. So I think that really speaks volumes for the appetite of this type of exchange, the importance of the in-person dialogue.” She added that global trade meetings like the summit are important for the U.S. ethanol market. “We had record-breaking export years in 2017 and 2018, but we’re not going to have that in 2019. We’re feeling that. That’s part of the pain we’re feeling right now. If we were trading with China, things would look and feel differently, so we very much want to get that back on track. We know that part of that is making sure that we have free market relationships,” she said. Building those relationships only happens in person at meetings like the summit, Skor added.

Global Advantages

While in-person meetings were part of the programming, so too were presentations ranging from the health benefits of ethanol, to the value of ethanol’s octane, to retailer per-


spectives on selling higher ethanol blends. All of those sessions were conducted with an eye toward expanding global ethanol use. “We need smart domestic energy and climate policies, but also smart global strategies and smart trade policy,” RFA president and CEO Geoff Cooper said. Renato Domith Godinho, with Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and presenter on a panel called “Policies Continue to Remain Critically Important for the Future of Renewables,” said environmental and renewables policies are crucial to the goal of increasing global ethanol use. Godinho agreed with Cooper on “the need to have smart policies and a global strategy to bring about the desired results that we want for

COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS: Ryan LeGrand, president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council, delivered a keynote presentation during the first full day of the Global Ethanol Summit, held Oct. 13-15 in Washington, D.C. The event attracted over 400 attendees from more than 60 countries. PHOTO: U.S. GRAINS COUNCIL

the climate, for energy security, for the world,” Godinho said. During the panel, Miguel Ivan Lacerda Oliveira, director of biofuels for Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, discussed ethanol’s role in the electrification of vehicles. “The future is electric,” Oliveira said. “There’s no denying electric cars are going to grow up. But I think biofuels could play a major role in electrification of the transportation sector.” One way that may happen is through the use of electric hybrid vehicles that run on ethanol. Toyota has recently released such a vehicle in Brazil, he said. “So you pour ethanol in the car, and it reforms and takes off the hydrogen and runs and it’s an electric car.”

The event also included a panel titled, “Air Quality and Human Health Consequences: The Cost of Inaction.” Sadaf Sobhani, a postdoctoral researcher with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, began the panel discussing her research in relation to the environmental impacts of ethanol and gasoline. “Where I really want to take us is to understand that the emissions that you see are directly linked to the composition of the fuel and to the combustion technology itself,” she said. She added that “one of the most important factors contributing to particulate matter is the aromatic content of the fuel.” However, she said using ethanol as a replacement for aromatics has the advantage of lowering par-

ticulate matter in emissions, which offers many health benefits. The health benefits are also realized when ethanol is used as a cooking fuel, said Brady Seals, cofounder of Garner Advisors LLC. She said that in some developing countries, the fuel sources for cooking are wood or coal, and burning those fuels has a serious negative health impact. “3.8 million people die every year from one of the most basic tasks, which is cooking,” she said. Ethanol, however, has been used in some areas to alleviate those issues. “Because we’ve been able to put ethanol stoves into the hands of consumers, we’ve been able to start to study the health impacts of cooking with ethanol,” ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 33

AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT: Leticia Phillips, North American representative for UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, asks a question during a panel at the Global Ethanol Summit. PHOTO: U.S. GRAINS COUNCIL

she said. In addition to reducing particulate matter, Seals said ethanol stoves can reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 82 percent in homes that had been using traditional fuel sources. Another panel focused on the industrial uses of ethanol. Rakesh Bhartia, CEO of India Glycols, which uses ethanol as a feedstock for the manufacture of industrial chemicals, said that while most of the focus globally is on ethanol’s role as a transportation fuel, there is room for growth in the industrial sector. “When I picture the use of ethanol globally, I think there’s a tsunami of the mandatory blending of ethanol; of fuel. None speak about ethanol being used for any other purpose and that’s where companies like ours, which are engaged in the use of industrial ethanol, are too tiny to be considered at a global scale.” However, despite the challenges, Bhartia said companies like Coca-Cola have made great strides in using ethanol-derived chemicals in their packaging. Also taking part in the panel was Olaoluwa Bamikole, chief agro-ethanol consultant for the Zenith Group, a Nigerian company. “This is an oil-rich country,” he said. “A lot of people don’t have access to affordable energy.” The country is also committed to mitigating climate change, and these factors make ethanol an attractive fuel for cooking, lighting and heating, he said.

Continued Momentum

The second day of the summit included a keynote address by Censky, as well as brief remarks from Daniel Whitley, associate administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Censky said advances in production and farming practices show promise for the environment in the U.S. “We think, with the technologies and efficiencies that are being achieved at ethanol plants today—as well as on the farm by U.S. farmers themselves by using no-till and cover crops and producing more with less—that we can actually have a 70 percent reduction [in GHGs] by 2022,” he said. During a brief meeting with members of the press, Censky said events like the summit are important to U.S. farmers, as well as ethanol producers. While 90 percent of the ethanol produced in the U.S. is used domestically, “that 10 percent that we’re exporting is very, very important to the health of the industry— and to corn farmers and sorghum farmers and others—and it’s something that we aim to grow as well and we see some real potential in working with our partners around the globe to expand the sale of ethanol around the globe.” Whitley briefed his audience on the FAS’s role in promoting the global use of ethanol. He spoke about collaboration between the ethanol industry in the U.S. and the USDA and FAS. “I can’t tell you how proud we are


of what our private sector has done with ethanol,” he said. “Two decades ago, ethanol production in this country, the trade and import of ethanol, was miniscule. But in a very short time they have become the world’s best producers of ethanol and a leader in our ethanol trade initiatives around the world.” He added that ethanol is the fastest-growing agricultural export in the U.S. Whitley also echoed the sentiments of other summit presenters, saying the reason for the meeting in Washington was not just to find a home for more U.S. ethanol exports. “The agency that I represent—the Foreign Agricultural Service—we spend a lot of time collaborating,” he said. “Many of you in this room today have collaborated with us.”

Retailer POV

Michael E. Lorenz, executive vice president of petroleum supply for Sheetz, spoke about E15 and his company’s experience selling higher blends of ethanol. With 44 percent of Sheetz’s convenience stores offering E15 and E85, Lorenz said his company is the largest E15 retailer in the U.S. “We know how to sell gasoline, and we know how to sell higher blends of ethanol,” he said. He highlighted the benefits of ethanol from a retailer’s perspective, saying that because gasoline is a commodity, it’s typically marketed based on its price. But ethanol allows a retailer the opportunity to differentiate. Because ethanol is cheaper, it


RETAIL PERSPECTIVE: Michael Lorenz, executive vice president of Sheetz Inc., speaks Oct. 14 at the Global Ethanol Summit about selling ethanol at his stations. PHOTO: U.S. GRAINS COUNCIL

does lower the price of gasoline, but it is also cleaner burning and offers higher octane. Lorenz also offered guidance for retailers who want to sell higher ethanol blends. The first step, he said, is determining if the con-

venience store’s tanks, pumps and piping couplings are compatible with ethanol. Ethanol supply and whether stores will splash blend or receive preblended fuel is the second consideration. He also told his audience to consider what the competition is doing with respect to ethanol. “You don’t want to be following the competition,” he said. “You want to be leading. We did it because it just actually simply made sense.” In addition to the panels and presentations, the summit schedule also included time for business-to-business meetings, designed to connect suppliers with those looking to purchase ethanol, or to answer questions about the supply chain. Following the meetings in Washington, D.C., delegates also had the op-

portunity to tour ethanol plants and farms in the Midwest. Skor, Whitley and others made clear that the intent of the summit was not just to find a home for more U.S. ethanol exports. One of its true goals was to promote the use of ethanol globally, and to collaborate with other governments, Whitley said. Skor said the summit’s sponsors want countries “to dial up [their] own capabilities internally,” adding that she hopes U.S. ethanol can help meet those countries’ goals. Author: Matt Thompson Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4922 mthompson@bbiinternational.com



MODEL MAKING: This 3D subsurface geologic model example from the Central Plains region shows surface topography data (top layer), existing well locations (colored, vertical lines), and a potential carbon dioxide injection horizon (bottom depth-contoured layer). Models like this are created to determine CO2 injection intervals and injection capacity within subsurface geologic formations. PHOTO: BATTELLE



Changes to the 45Q tax credit increase the monetary value of carbon dioxide for ethanol producers. By Andrew Duguid

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).


Changes to Section 45Q of the U.S. tax code have made it easier for ethanol producers to take advantage of tax credits for capturing and storing carbon dioxide emissions. However, producers must act

fast to meet the Jan. 1, 2024, deadline to start construction. Following are a few things ethanol producers need to know about the 45Q tax credits and the steps necessary to determine if carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) is a viable option.

For Ethanol Producers

45Q is a section of the tax code that provides incentives, in the form of tax credits, to encourage companies to invest in carbon capture and storage solutions that reduce carbon emissions. This means ethanol producers can monetize the CO2 emissions produced during fermentation. To qualify for tax credits, captured CO2 must be either stored underground in secure geologic formations, used for CO2enhanced oil recovery (CO2-EOR), or utilized in other projects that permanently sequester CO2. The 45Q program was initially implemented in 2008. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 made important amendments to the tax code that increased the value of the tax credit for ethanol producers. Among other changes, the amendments to Section 45Q: • Increase the value of the tax credit from $20 to $50 per metric ton for secure geologic storage projects and from $10 to $35 for CO2EOR projects. • Reduce the annual capture requirement from 500,000 metric tons to 100,000 metric tons for ethanol plants and industrial facilities other than electric generating units. • Allow the capturer of the CO2 to transfer the credit to other entities, enabling flexible business models. These changes make the economics of carbon capture and storage more attractive for ethanol producers, whether storing carbon, or selling it for EOR or other utilization projects.

How It's Done

In carbon capture, utilization and storage, CO2 is captured, compressed and dehydrated at the source. It is then transported to the injection facility and injected into a secure geologic reservoir for storage or into an oil reservoir for EOR. Injection in these secure formations safely keeps the captured carbon deep under-

ground where it cannot escape into the atmosphere. CCUS is an important tool for reducing overall industrial carbon emissions. Capturing CO2 is a straightforward process for ethanol producers. CO2 rises naturally during the fermentation process. The CO2 is captured using a fan system and compressed and dehydrated (typically using glycol dehydration) as preparation for transport and storage. Capturing CO2 from the fermenter unit is cost effective because the value of the 45Q tax credits can offset capital and operational expenditures. For geologic storage, CO2 is injected into a deep geologic formation where it can be safely and permanently stored. These formations are typically deeper than 2,650 feet to maintain the CO2 in a supercritical state. Supercritical CO2 is best because the CO2 has the viscosity of a gas for easy injection and a liquid-like density for more efficient storage. The deep formation must have sufficient ability to allow the CO2 to enter the formation (permeability) and sufficient space to store the CO2 (porosity). Above the storage formation, there must be an impermeable caprock layer that prevents the stored CO2 from leaking out. Deep saline reservoirs and depleted oil and gas reservoirs are good candidates for CCUS projects. These formations can be found in sedimentary basins throughout the U.S. In EOR projects, captured CO2 is injected into oil reservoirs to access oil that was trapped after initial oil production in the field ended. The injected CO2 is permanently stored in the reservoir.

Evaluating Economics

Ethanol producers interested in taking advantage of 45Q tax credits must determine whether it makes economic sense. Under the new tax code, the answer for many producers will be yes. Some questions to ask include: • Does my operation produce at least 100,000 metric tons of CO2 annually? • Are there suitable geologic formations for carbon sequestration in my vicinity? • Are there nearby oil and gas producers who may be interested in purchasing my CO2 for CO2-EOR? • What capital investment will be required to implement CO2 capture and compression at my facility? • Am I prepared to make this investment to meet the Jan. 1, 2024, deadline for beginning construction? The following steps are needed to inform the economic analysis, identify an appropriate

CARBON CHARACTERIZATION: A carbon dioxide storage characterization well is drilled outside of Indianola, Nebraska. PHOTO: BATTELLE

storage location and ultimately construct and operate the well: • Screening: Identification of a suitable storage site that meets the requirements for CCUS projects. • Modeling: The geological formation is modeled to determine whether it has sufficient storage capacity for the life of the project. • Characterization: A characterization well is drilled to collect new data to verify the characteristics of the storage reservoir and caprock formations. • Permitting: A permit must be obtained that ensures all safety and environmental regulations are met. • Drilling: An injection well is drilled to inject and store CO2 in the target geologic reservoir. • Surface construction: Infrastructure for CO2 capture, compression and transport is installed. • Operations: CO2 is injected for storage or CO2-EOR. • Monitoring and reporting: 45Q requires companies to have long-term monitoring and reporting in place to ensure CO2 is safely and permanently stored. These steps take time, so ethanol producers interested in pursuing the 45Q tax credits should get started as soon as possible. Jan. 1, 2024, is coming up fast. Author: Andrew Duguid Senior Engineer, Battelle 614.424.3576 duguid@battelle.org ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 37

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