2022 January Ethanol Producer Magazine

Page 1

JANUARY 2022

EYES ON THE

INSIDE Ethanol Plant Drone Use Takes Off PAGE 30

PLUS

Improved Yeasts Unlock Growth PAGE 14

Chasing High Corn Oil Yield PAGE 20

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Upcoming Events

Advertiser Index

2022 Int'l Biomass Conference & Expo

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March 14-16, 2022

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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.

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Capturing and storing carbon dioxide in underground wells has the potential to become the most consequential technological deployment in the history of the broader biofuels industry. Deploying effective carbon capture and storage at biofuels plants will cement ethanol and biodiesel as the lowest carbon liquid fuels commercially available in the marketplace. The Carbon Capture & Storage Summit will offer attendees a comprehensive look at the economics of carbon capture and storage, the infrastructure required to make it possible and the financial and marketplace impacts to participating producers.

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EDITORIAL BOARD

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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.

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

2022 Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Summit

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

4 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022

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Contents

14

PHOTO:NOVOZYMES

20

30

PHOTO: ICM INC.

PHOTO: POET

JANUARY 2022 VOLUME 28 ISSUE 1

DEPARTMENTS 4 6

8

9

AD INDEX/EVENTS CALENDAR EDITOR'S NOTE Going Beyond Old Limits By Tom Bryan

GRASSROOTS VOICE ACE’s Low Carbon Strategy Pays Dividends By Brian Jennings

DRIVE In 2022, the Low Carbon Future is Here By Emily Skor

10 GLOBAL SCENE

How Biofuels Can Supercharge the EU’s Drive to Carbon Neutrality

FEATURES 14 PROCESS

Pouring On Improvement

By Matt Thompson

More robust, flexible yeasts improve production

Wringing Out More Corn Oil

By Holly Jessen

Considerations for pursuers of ultra-high DCO yield

30 TECHNOLOGY

Flying Up Close and Within

By Susanne Retka Schill

20 COPRODUCTS

CONTRIBUTION 36 FERMENTATION

Novel Use of Oxidizing Biocides to Increase Ethanol Yield By Reed Semenza

SPOTLIGHT 40 IFF

Your Needs Change, Your Yeast Can't

By IFF

Drone utilization around and inside ethanol plants

By Emmanuel Desplechin

12 BUSINESS BRIEFS 43 MARKETPLACE

ON THE COVER

Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) January 2022, Vol. 28, Issue 1. 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.

Drones like this collision-resistant Flyability Elios 2 are increasingly being used for confined space industrial inspections, keeping plant personnel and contractors out of harm’s way. This drone's payload includes powerful lighting, a 4K camera with still and video capability, and thermal imaging. PHOTO: FLYABILITY

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 5


Editor's Note

Going Beyond Old Limits On the surface, the stories in this edition of Ethanol Producer Magazine are somewhat unrelated. Okay … they’re totally unrelated: drones, yeast and corn oil are about as different as it gets. But looking at these topics more obliquely, points of connection emerge. Each feature is tied to a producer-vendor collaboration requiring investment and trust. Ultimately, each topic is also about ethanol plants pushing past our industry’s old limits, going beyond former thresholds of yield and efficiency. Few topics more completely capture our industry’s culture of collaborative progress than yeast innovation. Ethanol’s biological process is, of course, reliant on the natural ability of yeasts and enzymes to convert sugars to ethanol at the highest possible yield. But the ecosystem of an ethanol plant is unpredictable; heat stress and bacterial infection can and do cause problems. So, over the years yeasts have been engineered to give ethanol producers more of the traits they need to combat process variability—high yield, flexibility, robustness and more—in packages tailormade for their facility. In “Pouring On Improvement,” on page 14, we learn that today’s yeasts are, well, just better—at everything—and achieving levels of effectiveness and tolerance that seemed almost impossible a few years ago. Speaking of things previously not possible, ethanol producers are literally redefining the theoretical maximum yield for distillers corn oil (DCO). Until recently, the speculative limit on DCO yield was 1.2 to 1.25 pounds per bushel. But now that producers are achieving that number, experts say the real ceiling may be as high as 1.9 pounds per bushel—a figure more clearly perched in the realm of theoretical. While it’s exciting to think about how high DCO yields could go, most producers are still comfortable with 0.7 to 0.9 pounds per bushel, and only a handful are chasing anything about 1.1. Covering DCO maximization is always challenging because, beyond explaining how higher yields are possible, it’s also important to clarify why, and to what effect, it is happening. “Wringing Out More Corn Oil,” on page 20, does a good job of each. Paired with these stories about ethanol production reaching new heights—and going into new places—our cover story is a perfect fit. In “Flying Up Close and Within,” on page 30, we explain how ethanol plants are using drones for more than just aerial photography. Trained plant personnel are now flying drones both outside facilities and inside them, even taking confined space, collisionresistant quadcopters into tanks, bins and vessels that were previously dangerous or impossible to physically access. These drones are not only taking photos and video with stunning clarity and livestreaming capability, but offering 3D and thermal imagery that is truly on the cutting-edge of industrial inspection, plant maintenance, compliance and safety. Happy New Year, and enjoy the read!

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6 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022

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Grassroots Voice

ACE’s Low Carbon Strategy Pays Dividends

Brian Jennings

CEO, American Coalition for Ethanol 605.334.3381 bjennings@ethanol.org

Given persistent challenges regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s mismanagement of the RFS, ACE has been taking direction from our Board of Directors to be proactive about opportunities to expand ethanol demand through new clean fuel or low carbon policies and markets. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. farmers currently store over 20 million metric tons of carbon per year and they can store an additional 180 million metric tons per year representing 12-14 percent of U.S. carbon emissions annually. The Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has found that deploying specific crop rotation systems in the upper Great Plains would result in increased carbon sequestration, reducing the carbon intensity of agricultural production, and generating hundreds of dollars per acre in revenue if credited in state low carbon fuel markets. Despite this promise, established mandatory carbon markets like the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard do not yet credit greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions achieved through carbon sequestering conservation practices like no-till, cover crops and nitrogen management undertaken in ethanol feedstock production. These regulators want better localized quantification, verification and modeling protocols in order to grant access to these low carbon markets. These same themes permeate discussions in Washington D.C. on the theory of using low carbon fuel programs to drive decarbonization goals, and in the Midwestern states when discussing the specifics that should be included in new clean fuel policies and markets. That is why ACE partnered with South Dakota Corn, Dakota Ethanol, South Dakota State University and Cultivating Conservation to leverage $7.5 million in USDA funding to document ethanol’s net-negative carbon potential in the real world. Under this ACE-USDA program, farmers will be compensated for adopting climate-smart agricultural practices that sequester carbon, reduce GHG emissions, and improve soil health. Importantly, the partnership will quantify the resulting soil health and GHG benefits, correlate them with existing models, and develop a non-proprietary verification system to secure the first approved access to LCFS markets based on these on-farm conservation practices. The project is leveraging USDA funds to open low carbon fuel markets for farmers and ethanol companies. In the South Dakota project area, this access could mean upwards of $10 million in additional revenue annually because of the GHG contributions from on-farm conservation practices. The new ACE-USDA project answers the question of “how” for one ethanol facility corn draw. Beyond that, it also illuminates the path forward for the industry. Recently, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Program designed to reduce barriers to climate markets such as LCFS programs and leverage USDA funds to develop new revenue streams for farmers. It is a significant opportunity to utilize USDA resources to gain broader access to existing state low carbon fuel markets. It is an even more significant opportunity to establish the quantification and verification protocols necessary to scale ethanol’s ability to power a sizable piece of a decarbonized transportation sector into the future. I realize some people are concerned all this talk about climate change may spell trouble for liquid fuels because too many politicians lazily think electric vehicles are the only transportation-related climate solution, but ACE is confident ethanol is the best low carbon option to replace petroleum and provide meaningful GHG reductions. That is why we have been highlighting climate-smart farming practices though this new USDA project, and we will keep taking proactive steps to ensure corn ethanol is part of the climate solution. Our hard work is already yielding important results for farmers and ethanol producers who want to seize opportunities to increase demand based on ethanol’s low carbon value in new clean fuel markets.

8 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022


Drive

In 2022, the Low Carbon Future is Here

Emily Skor

CEO, Growth Energy 202.545.4000

eskor@growthenergy.org

After almost two years of uncertainty amidst a global pandemic, consumers are eager to look ahead to a post-pandemic world with fewer restrictions and more opportunities. For American drivers, that means more travel. For the biofuel industry, it means a resurgence in demand for more affordable fuels that can drastically reduce carbon emissions and help us move towards our nation’s goal of a netzero future by 2050. 2022 marks a fresh opportunity to take advantage of all the tools at our disposal, and that means making biofuels a priority both in policy conversations and in the fuel mix. Gone are the days of searching for low-carbon solutions, because biofuels are the effective solution available today. The lowcarbon future is here. If we want to decarbonize the transportation sector, America needs biofuels. Even accounting for the projected growth of electric vehicles, the Energy Information Administration indicates that the vast majority of cars on the road will run on liquid fuels for decades to come. Higher blends of lowcarbon ethanol can be used immediately in our current auto fleet to accelerate the transition to a 100 percent renewable energy future. A nationwide transition to higher biofuel blends like E15 could reduce our carbon emissions by more than 17.62 million tons, the equivalent of taking 3.85 million cars off the road each year. By making a simple switch at the pump and increasing the share of biofuels in our fuel, we can drive the transition to a low-carbon future, protecting our climate and human health. Keeping that in mind, our team at Growth Energy will build on the zero-carbon momentum driven by this administration’s emphasis on addressing climate change. If they are serious about making changes to reduce carbon emissions, they need to get serious about biofuels. On this front, our priorities are clear. First and foremost, we will continue to fight for the integrity of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), ensuring that it is administered as intended and that blending requirements of low-carbon, renewable fuel at 15 billion gallons are upheld. Without a strong RFS in 2022 and beyond, our farmers and producers will not have the certainty they need to produce enough homegrown biofuels to fuel a low-carbon transition. To further drive down carbon emissions, we are fighting for incentives like the 45Q tax incentive, the Clean Fuel Production Credit, and equitable sustainable aviation fuel incentives that provide producers with strong policy signals to further reduce carbon intensity and expand into new markets. We also need voluntary conservation incentives that will drive progress across the entire agricultural supply chain. As biofuel producers capture the value of low-carbon farming practices, farmers would also have the opportunity to benefit in the form of premium prices for their commodities. In addition, Growth Energy will accelerate the nationwide push toward higher biofuel blends like E15 through support for investments in infrastructure that expand consumer access and offer motorists more affordable, earth-friendly fuel options at the pump. At the same time, policymakers must move quickly to ensure consumers have uninterrupted access to E15, especially in the wake of a court ruling last year curtailing year-round sales of E15 in conventional fuel areas during the summer. As we embark on a new year, we want to make sure the message is clear: biofuels remain the premier climate solution that is affordable for motorists, available today, and compatible with our existing auto fleet. For the Biden administration to decarbonize the transportation sector, we must harness the power of higher biofuel blends. With an increased share of biofuels in the mix, we have the power to reduce emissions, drive the transition to a low-carbon future, and bring more clean energy jobs to rural America. ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 9


Global Scene

How Biofuels Can Supercharge the EU’s Drive to Carbon Neutrality

Emmanuel Desplechin Secretary General ePURE, the European Renewable Ethanol Association

desplechin@epure.org

The European Union has launched an effort to supercharge its energy and climate laws to meet ambitious emissions-reduction targets by 2030 and be better positioned to achieve carbon-neutrality mid-century. But the wide-ranging proposals in this so-called “Fit for 55” package do not always give enough of a role to a proven decarbonization solution: renewable liquid fuels such as European ethanol. Fully enabling biofuels in the drive to carbon-neutrality is just common sense. Even under a scenario in which electric vehicles make rapid gains in market share and the sale of internal combustion engines is phased out, the EU car fleet will consist predominantly of vehicles that run fully or partly on liquid fuel in 2030 and beyond. For these petrol and hybrid cars, the EU has a ready-made, homegrown solution: renewable ethanol is the most immediate, cost-effective, sustainable and socially inclusive way to reduce emissions. Europe cannot afford to ignore this important part of the Fit for 55 equation. The Fit for 55 proposals include everything from another revision of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive (RED) to CO2 standards for cars to the Energy Taxation Directive. Here’s an overview of how policymakers should improve these important pieces of legislation to make Fit for 55 fit for purpose: Improve the RED The current target for renewable energy in transport was insufficient to achieve the EU’s decarbonization objectives as set out in the European Green Deal and the 2030 Climate Law. By removing the use of multipliers that only hide the EU’s continued reliance on fossil fuel, the new RED proposal is an improvement. But more can be done. To fully unlock the potential of the RED, the EU should: Set higher GHG-reduction targets for renewable energy in transport; promote sustainable crop-based biofuels and give Member States control; continue the deployment of advanced biofuels and enforce existing compliance rules; and ease the deployment ethanol blends, making E10 standard and providing incentives for higher blends. Be Realistic about 'Zero-Emission' Vehicles The Commission’s decision to set a 100% CO2 emissions-reduction target by 2035 is a de facto ban on sales of new cars with internal combustion engines. It is based on an unrealistic accounting of vehicle emissions: by focusing solely on tailpipe emissions, the proposal misleadingly labels battery electric and fuel cell vehicles as “zero emission.” This distorts competition between powertrain technologies, contradicts the principle of technology neutrality and ignores the emissions-reduction contribution of renewable fuels. Instead, the EU should incentivize better fuels based on well-to-wheel CO2 emissions and make better use of existing sustainable renewable fuels like European ethanol. GHG-Based Taxation Policy With its lower energy content compared to petrol, renewable ethanol is the most heavily taxed fuel in the existing EU taxation regime. The Commission’s proposal to move away from volume-based taxation should help sustainable biofuels compete with fossil fuels. But by excluding “sustainable food and feed crop biofuels” from the category of “sustainable biofuels,” and increasing their minimum taxation level over time to reach the same as fossil fuels, the Commission’s proposal for a new ETD is inconsistent with RED II. For a fairer, more sustainable Energy Taxation Directive, the EU should be consistent and promote renewable fuels over fossil fuels based on GHG reduction. As one of the best such tools, European ethanol must be considered more than just a “transition fuel” or “stopgap solution” in the EU’s planning. It is a proven solution that is already delivering results for decarbonization, but with the right policy choices it could do a lot more in the years to come.

10 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022



BUSINESS BRIEFS PEOPLE, PARTNERSHIPS & PROJECTS

Renewable Fuels Nebraska names Caldwell executive director Renewable Fuels Nebraska has hired Dawn Caldwell as its executive director. Caldwell assumed the role November 1. “We are excited for Dawn to lead the organization into the future,” said Tony Leiding, RFN board president. “Dawn brings significant experience and credibility to our team with her strong background in agriculture and leadership Caldwell skills. I know she will represent our producer and associate members exceptionally well, while growing demand for biofuels and their coproducts in Nebraska.”

Caldwell joins RFN with a wealth of experience in the agriculture and ethanol sectors. After attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in animal science, she worked in the Nuckolls, Thayer, and Fillmore Counties extension office before moving into the private sector as a feed specialist at Deshler Grain and Feed. Over the past two decades, Caldwell worked for Aurora Cooperative, moving from animal nutrition to corporate communications and, ultimately, head of government affairs.

USP-grade ethanol production begins at Marquis Marquis Energy held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 50 MMgy United States Pharmacopeia (USP) production facility in late October. The new facility, colocated with the company's Hennepin, Illinois, complex, will produce a GMO-free, pharmaceutical-grade alcohol that can be used in a variety of applications, such as personal, household, and fabric care products, as well as the medical and cosmetics industries. Marquis will be offering onsite customer support from technical account managers. “Pharmaceutical grade alcohol is a way for Marquis to diversify product offerings. We look forward to becoming leaders in this space and working with new customers,” said CEO Mark Marquis.

Pictured (from left to right): Les Smith, senior project manager; Mark Marquis, CEO; Scot Hyatt, USP manager; Amanda Marquis; director of technology; Johan Ullman, director of international biofuels marketing; Alex Marquis, logistics manager; and Tom Marquis, vice president and director of marketing. PHOTO: MARQUIS ENERGY

ACE communications director takes on public affairs role

Muckenhirn

Former American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Communications Director Katie Muckenhirn has taken on the new role of vice president of public affairs at the organization’s office based out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Muckenhirn will continue to manage the organization’s media relations, while assuming a larger role in ACE’s public policy efforts and planning of ACE’s Washington, D.C. fly-in and annual conference.

12 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022

ACE CEO Brian Jennings says employing Muckenhirn’s experience as the organization’s communications director for nearly five years, to take on these additional activities is a natural transition as the organization restructures and seeks new staff roles. “We are ecstatic Katie is taking on this new and elevated role to showcase her work ethic and skill in continuing to oversee ACE’s communication strategy, while planning for our two main industry events each year,” Jennings said.


POET to adopt FBN digital grain sustainability technology POET, the world’s largest biofuel producer, and Farmers Business Network, a global Ag Tech company and farmerto-farmer network, have announced that FBN’s grain origination and carbon-scoring platform, Gradable, will be adopted at all 33 of POET’s ethanol bioprocessing facilities, creating the world’s largest integrated infrastructure to source and sell low-carbon grain for the biofuels supply chain. Gradable will enable POET to track attributes of individual bushels of grain—including carbon intensity—to supply low-car-

bon fuel markets while providing farmers who grow low-carbon crops access to potential new revenue streams. POET sources more than 930 million bushels of grain annually from across the Midwest. Gradable technology provides a modern digital infrastructure for efficient, transparent, and secure grain transactions for both farmers and grain buyers. It allows farmers to easily collect and securely submit verifiable production data, including nitrogen fertilizer use, which accounts for the largest share of emissions associated with grain production globally.

Red Trail Energy awarded first C02 storage permit in North Dakota In mid-October, the North Dakota Industrial Commission approved a carbon dioxide storage facility permit for Red Trail Energy, a 65 MMgy corn ethanol plant in Richardton, North Dakota. The permit moves RTE’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) project closer to becoming the first commercial-scale CCS project in the state. Red Trail plans to capture and permanently store nearly 200,000 tons of CO2 annually. The injection zone is within a more-than-200-foot-thick layer of sandstone nearly 6,400 feet

below the surface. Immediately above the sandstone is a 1,000-foot-thick layer of shale, which is neither porous or permeable. North Dakota is the first of just two states in the nation to take on CO2 storage permitting and regulatory oversight (outside of enhanced oil recovery). In 2018, EPA granted North Dakota primacy over the Class VI wells needed for CCS, and RTE’s project is the first Class VI well approved under state primacy in the nation.

Summit Carbon Solutions actively drilling CCS test wells Summit Carbon Solutions announced in early December that it had commenced drilling multiple stratigraphic test wells for its landmark carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in North Dakota, a key milestone in its development of the world's largest project of its kind. Summit has formed relationships with local landowners and is now collecting data to guide the safe, permanent storage of carbon dioxide in deep subsurface formations. The project will capture over 10 million tons per year of carbon dioxide emissions from ethanol plants and other industrial

facilities via pipeline aggregation. North Dakota was selected as the storage destination due to its abundant geologic storage capacity and well-established carbon management regulatory framework. The sites Summit is developing will ultimately become the largest CCS hub in the world with an estimated aggregate potential to store 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide safely and permanently. Three dozen Midwest ethanol plants are participating in the project.

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 13


Process

POURING ON

IMPROVEME New and improved yeasts—more robust, flexible and effective than ever—are helping ethanol producers optimize today while adapting for tomorrow. By Matt Thompson

14 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022 14 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022


ENT GRATE OPPORTUNITIES: Dry yeast is hand poured into a mix tank. Yeast developers like Novozymes say their research and product development is focused on creating value, optimizing yield and, ultimately, maximizing plant returns. PHOTO: NOVOZYMES

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 15

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 15


Process

Hans Foerster of IFF likens running an ethanol plant to managing an ecosystem. “There's the influence of the larger environment, whether that's from your environmental regulators who say that you have certain constraints on your wastewater, or the financial constraints that the marketplace imposes,” he says. “There’s a lot that goes into running an ecosystem.” And in the biological system of an ethanol plant, yeast is just one factor—albeit an important one—of process optimization. “I think if you look at top-tier producers, no matter what product they use, [yeast] is only one contribution to why they achieve the highest operational or financial performance,” Foerster says. “It has a lot more to do with the plant team and the systems and processes in place there. An advanced yeast can be part of that. But it’s a part. It certainly isn’t a substitute for those other elements.” Matt Richards, director of application technology at Lallemand, says one of the roles yeast and enzymes play is to help reduce costs. “It's about creating value for the facility, both in terms of the primary product of ethanol, and now in terms of the coproducts as well, trying to ensure that the oil yields are [on target] and the protein is higher with less inert materials like cholesterol. It’s about reducing cost for the producers by allowing them to produce their exogenous or added enzyme doses,” he says. For Robert Osborne, R&D manager for yeast application research at Novozymes, successful yeast innovation is about maximizing plant returns. “Our goal is to help our customers get the absolute maximum value out of their facility possible,” he says. “Our yeast strains are less reliant on urea. That's a differentiating characteristic of our product portfolio, resulting in a simpler process and one less expense for our customers.” 16 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022

LAB FERM: Yeast fermentations are done in shaking incubators with the ability to program temperature profiles to optimize yeast performance and mimic the temperature profile observed in a customer’s plant. PHOTO: IFF

For Phibro, innovations in yeast are valuable in helping plant managers optimize for yield, throughput and many additional factors. “We’re now engaged in innovation in the yeast space. Our focus is on GA [glucoamylase] replacement with consistency and robustness,” says Stephanie Gleason, senior manager of technical services for Phibro Ethanol. Fit and Flexibility All four companies say yeast has advanced quickly in recent years, and they have each contributed in different ways to those advancements. Kevin Cox, director of bioenergy applied research at Novozymes, says there are three themes that describe the company’s recent yeast innovations: yield performance, robustness and enzyme expression. “Recent advances in technology enable ethanol producers to maintain corn grind and gain higher ethanol titers, or decrease corn grind and get roughly the same ethanol output. This gives plant managers flex-

ibility in their approach to ethanol production,” he says. “Right now, ethanol margins are quite good, so producers are able to make strong profits. From the perspective of yeast performance, Novozymes has put a big emphasis on robustness in our breeding and engineering programs to ensure our yeast products are able to maintain high ethanol yields and strong performance even when fermentations are challenged with heat stress or bacterial infections. Lallemand has been working on faster fermentation, yeast expression and keeping an eye on high-protein coproducts. “For grain ethanol, it’s primarily trying to improve on the existing products that we have in terms of fermentation rate, the enzyme production capabilities of the yeast as well as continuing to try push ethanol yield and reduce glycerol to allow for higher protein coproducts,” Richards says. Gleason says Phibro’s innovations in the yeast space give plant managers flexibility in how they run their plants. The company’s latest strain in its Kinetx yeast line


SPEED TO MARKET: Technology such as liquid handling robots are used to automate workflows in the lab, accelerating yeast innovation. PHOTO: IFF

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 17


Process

ON THE FIND: Automation is a critical tool in the process of screening and selecting new yeast strains. PHOTO: IFF

does just that. “Whether they want to run for gallons or yield, the strain will push forward under whatever conditions they want to run,” she says. “We want to provide the customer with a super robust strain that will work under the conditions and how they want the plant to run.” The yeast also helps producers reduce costs by providing GA replacement, offsetting some of the enzyme that needs to be added to the system. For IFF, a major focus has been robustness and a high titers ratio. “This yeast is capable of overcoming [infections and temperature excursions] and delivering 15%-plus w/v titers with very little glucose at drop,” Foerster says. “If you had asked us a decade ago, ‘Is that possible?’ I think most of our scientists would have said, ‘Possible, yes. Unlikely? Also yes.’ The fact that we've been able to make such progress is really a testament to their hard work guided by the insights from customers.” Forester continues, “We've been investing in yeast engineering for over a decade now, and always with the aim of better fitting customer needs and learning stepby-step that those needs both change over time and are quite distinct plant to plant. Our yeast blends are one way that custom18 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022

ers are adding fit and flexibility to their operations.” Industry Input Ethanol industry customers—namely plant managers and operators—play an important role in yeast development. Foerster says IFF’s yeast development teams go through a two-part process. The first is discovering new yeast traits, and the second is incorporating those traits and working with producers to test them in the marketplace. “Producers play a critical role,” he says. “Often, as I’m thinking through this and looking back, they really provoke the scientific questions.” He gives an example of producers asking IFF if yeast could reduce residual starch. “They’re not going to come to us and say, ‘Can you alter this gene in the yeast?’ They’re going to come to us and say, ‘This is all great, but residual starch is what I’m being hammered on. Can you help with that?’” Richards says producer input is critical to Lallemand’s process, too. He says the company receives valuable initial feedback from its customers, in terms of problems they hope yeast can solve and how their plants are operated. “That input helps drive

R&D,” he says. “And then it’s being able to operate the plants under tighter tolerances that have been done in the past in order to ensure the new products work.” He continues, “To generate yeast that have a specific purpose and are targeted at a specific goal, there’s a need to tighten parameters a bit, and that’s really where the second step comes in. For the operations staff, really putting in the effort, getting the knowledge, working on the training and understanding how the yeast perform in order to make those operational changes.” The same holds true for Phibro, Gleason says. “Feedback really comes from our producers,” she says. “We look at what’s available in the market, and then what are the needs of our industry in that space. Do they want to run for yield? Or do they want to run for gallons, or do they want to run regardless of what the market conditions are and still get that performance.” Cox and Osborne agree. “We definitely do not want to develop technology with blinders on,” Osborne says. “We don't want to be naive to think that we, as the technology provider, know more about how a plant operates than the actual plant operator. So, we very much pride ourselves with having the voice of the customer and working closely with major players in the ethanol industry. We absolutely want the feedback from the industry to help give us guidance on where to spend our energy and how to develop next-generation technologies. Cox adds, “We definitely spend a lot of time visiting ethanol plants and talking directly with our customers. These dialogues are critical to help us build a good understanding of what innovation ethanol producers need and desire in the future.” Unlocking What’s Next Yeasts have experienced continuous advancements in traits like robustness and flexibility over the past several years, as well as technological advancements like embedding enzymes into yeast, and experts in the field expect advances to continue. “Even though it’s one of the most studied organisms that exist on the planet, we’re still learning new things about how


systems inside those cells operate and interact, and therefore how their function can be improved,” Foerster says. “I feel comfortable predicting that even higher yields are possible. And producers have told us that it is crucial for them to be able to create new biorefinery products. Biofuels are at the industry’s core, but we are also working to deliver new animal feeds with superior value. Moreover, new innovations will make it possible for corn-based ethanol to have an even lower carbon intensity. I think all of those things, motivated by the ethanol producers’ thirst for innovation, make it much more likely that you’ll see continued yeast innovation.” Gleason also foresees continuous improvement in the yield and robust­ness characteristics of yeasts, as well as more novel innovations that might redefine what’s possible with yeast. In her opinion, after developing a robust yeast strain that can help maximize yield, the ethanol industry would seek other areas in which yeast could play a role. “What is the next thing our industry would want? It’s to be able to do something else that would benefit the process. I can see that being the next big step in yeast innovation,” she says. Osborne says Novozymes predicts a next generation innovation could be corn fiber substrate conversion. “The race is on to liberate C5 sugars from corn fiber to produce higher value ethanol while potentially tapping into low-carbon fuel credits,” he says. “I believe we’re on a path towards a biorefinery model, and plants will lead that evolution. Policy will also play a role, and we’re trying to keep our finger on the pulse. For example, if ethanol to sustainable aviation fuel advances, the ethanol production demands will increase. Thus, we’re trying to keep ourselves connected with ethanol producers and potential off-takers for advanced fuels and precursors to make sure we know where and how biology fits in. I think we’re going to see this rapidly evolve in the next three to five years, and it’s going to be exciting. Cox agrees, adding that coproducts will also play a role in future yeast innovation. “As we see it, yeast is the key biotechnol-

ogy tool in ethanol plants,” he says. “We can enable further substrate conversion and continue to push higher ethanol yields. We can enable coproduct improvement and enhancement. There is so much to go for. We're in position to pivot with the industry and we’re keeping our eyes on where things go knowing that yeast innovation will be the centerpiece of many of our innovation programs going forward.”

Osbourne adds, “We’re living in the middle of the DNA revolution. The rate at which we can pivot, engineer and produce products that deliver on our customers’ needs is exciting. We’ll be part of driving that conversation, but our customers will drive it as well.” Author: Matt Thompson Contact: editor@bbiinternational.com

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 19


WRINGING O MORE CORN OIL

While most ethanol producers aren’t actively pursuing DCO yields over 1.2 pounds per bushel, the pursuit of ultra-high, or even theoretical maximum yield, is as compelling as it is consequential. By Holly Jessen 20 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022


Coproducts

Mick Henderson, general manager of Commonwealth Agri-Energy LLC, considers it a balancing act. To

OUT DATA CAPTURE: ICM has a Flottweg test trailer it can bring to ethanol plants, to give customers information about potential yield with the installation of FOT Oil Recovery. PHOTO: ICM INC.

increase the facility’s corn oil yield he is focused on optimizing his existing systems and other efforts without aggressively reducing the fat content of the distillers grains produced at the plant. At least for now. “I wouldn’t pay a super premium for the equipment or the ingredients, but I’d like to know who is, and make sure that in my neighborhood and in my market that I’m not the last guy,” he says. The Hopkinsville, Kentucky, ethanol plant currently produces 48 to 50 MMgy of ethanol and markets dry distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) with a minimum of 6 percent crude fat content. The plant is in poultry producing country, where fat is an important part of the diet. “If you took a 50 percent bigger cut off the distillers, go from 6 percent fat, which is our minimum ticket today, and go down to 3 percent, you’d have a much better value for the corn oil you separate,” Henderson says, “but what if you don’t sell your feed at the same price you had before?” For the last couple of years the facility has been extracting 0.9 to 0.95 pounds of corn oil per bushel, a competitive yield, and has been working to ramp up to 1 pound per bushel. “Just to get 10 percent more, to go from 0.9 to 1 pounds per bushel, would be significant,” he says. “It may not be a huge technology leap, as it may not cost me a lot more to get there, but it would be extremely valuable.” Henderson’s ears perked up at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo this past summer, when James Broghammer, CEO of Pine Lake Corn Processors, in Steamboat Rock, Iowa, said his facility was making investments to increase its corn oil yields to 1.25 pounds per bushel. Henderson and Broghammer spoke as part of a producer panel at FEW.

Green Plains Inc. is another company reaching for similarly high corn oil yields. During its third quarter earnings call, held Nov. 4, Todd Becker, president, CEO and director of Green Plains, spoke on the company’s efforts to Henderson roll out Fluid Quip Technologies’ trademarked MSC system. It has been in operation at Green Plains’ ethanol production facility in Shenandoah, Iowa, since 2020 and has achieved yields of 1.1 to 1.2 pounds per bushel, Becker said. He also revealed that the MSC system installed at Green Plains’ Wood River, Nebraska, plant had been operational for a while, with yields of 1.2 pounds or higher. “We believe these are some of the highest yields achieved in the industry as Fluid Quip's technology is incredibly expanding corn oil yields,” he said, “and we believe this is just the beginning.” In addition, efforts to debottleneck operations at all Green Plains facilities has pushed corn oil yields at traditional ethanol plants without MSC up toward 1 pound per bushel. The company has said it expects to have the capacity to produce more than 330 million pounds of corn oil annually by the end of 2022. Revenue from corn oil has had a significant impact on the bottom line for the company. “With vegetable oil prices 30 cents to 40 cents a pound, or more, above historical averages and rising, we could see total corn oil contribution exceed $160 million at 65 cents per pound as a baseload next year as well,” Becker said during the call. “Which is well over $100 million more than historical contributions.” So, what’s the average corn oil yield across the dry grind ethanol industry? Chuck Gallop, director of innovation for ICM Inc., says it’s somewhere around 0.7 to 0.8 pounds per bushel of corn oil to

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 21


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Don’t let EPA cripple the rural economy.

Coproducts

Farmers and biofuel producers need strong biofuel requirements. EYE ON OIL: Storage tanks at Commonwealth Agri-Energy LLC stand at the Kentucky ethanol plant. The company is focusing on plant optimization and enzymes to unlock more corn oil. PHOTO: COMMONWEALTH AGRI-ENERGY LLC

Learn More at GrowthEnergy.org/RVO

a ground bushel of corn. “Of course, this number varies depending on geographical location, as fat content in the corn changes, so will the oil recovery potential,” Gallop says. Juan Vargas-Ramirez, technical service scientist with Novozymes, spoke at the FEW about corn oil extraction and touched on the topic of theoretical maximum yield. Using an average corn oil yield of 0.75 pounds per bushel, he calculated theoretical maximum yield at approximately 1.9 pounds per bushel, meaning an average dry grind ethanol plant recovers about 40 percent of total oil potential. That assumes a standard test weight of 56 pounds per bushel, a dry weight moisture of 15.8 percent and oil content of 3.9 percent for corn (numbers from the U.S. Grains Council 2020/2021 Corn Harvest Quality Report), Vargas-Ramirez said in his presentation.

Getting There Beyond plant optimization, Commonwealth A g r i - E n e r g y ’s strategy to increase corn oil yield includes utilizing protease Gallop enzymes from IFF, the company that merged with DuPont’s Nutrition and Biosciences business in early 2021. “We do our own twists and turns, but we haven’t bought a package that you can buy off the shelf from some very good companies,” Henderson says. Another thing the company has done is upgrade from two small Flottweg Tricanter centrifuges during a plant expansion nearly four years ago. “We went to a bigger machine that is a lot more typical for the plants that use the Flottweg centrifuge,” he says. “We wanted to be kind


CREAM OF THE CROP: Distillers corn oil is shown after it was removed from decanted cake. The next step is going to FOT Oil Recovery for a second pass.

CENTRIFUGE UPGRADE: Commonwealth Agri-Energy LLC installed a larger Flottweg Tricanter centrifuge during a plant upgrade but hasn’t yet invested in other corn oil extraction technologies.

PHOTO: ICM INC.

PHOTO: COMMONWEALTH AGRI-ENERGY LLC

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PLANT UPTIME IS IMPORTANT TO EVERYONE Our full service team of experts have 20 years of ethanol plant maintenance rewliability and uptime history. 24/7 support and ready access to a full inventory and all Fluid Quip equipment parts, ensures that you maintain your plant’s uptime status.

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26 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022

STEM TO STERN OPTIMIZATION: It’s vital to keep an eye on every part of the process, from what corn is purchased to the very end of the process, says the general manager of Commonwealth Agri-Energy LLC. Shown here is the centrifuge control panel. PHOTO: COMMONWEALTH AGRI-ENERGY LLC

of standardized for that so the spare parts and service would be a little more normalized.” To optimize ethanol production and pull out more corn oil, producers must examine and understand every stage in the process. That means a close look at everything, from “stem to stern,” Henderson says. “We call it the canary in the coal mine. If the canary stops singing, as in if you stop producing oil off the backend of your process, you’ve got to go find out where upstream you may have changed something that has affected your yield,” he says, adding that it’s important to balance between ethanol and corn oil yield. “You have to be careful that you don’t lose focus about the whole package.” Keith Jakel, sales and marketing manager for Fluid Quip, agrees that plant optimization is a good first step. As of October, the company had done several corn oil optimization studies at ethanol plants in the previous several months, helping clients find ways to capture as much corn oil as possible from their current system before any capital expenditures or operating expenditures are made. “Look internally first,” he says. For companies that want to go further, there are multiple technology providers with various corn oil-related solutions. For example, ICM is introducing a new

Jakel

technology called FOT Recovery, Gallop says. FOT Recovery is an expansion of the company’s Feed Optimization Technology. Each can be installed as a standalone tech-

nology or together. FOT Oil Recovery comes in response to the high demand for corn oil. How much it will increase corn oil yields is dependent on the ethanol plant. “We are performing onsite trailer testing with Flottweg centrifuges so we can come onto your plant site, test your feedstock in real time and tell you exactly what the oil yield potential will be,” he says. Producers looking to install ICM’s full Advanced Processing Package (APP) produce ProtoMax, a 50 percent protein animal feed. APP is made up of four technologies, including the previously mentioned Feed Optimization Technology. The other three are Selective Milling Technology, which has been installed at about 35 ethanol plants, as well as Fiber Separation Technology and Thin Stillage Solids Separations System. Again, the technologies can be installed separately or together. “Our advanced processing is much like


CAPTURING CORN OIL: Novita Nutrition’s processing facility, shown here, is located in Aurora, South Dakota. This summer the company broke ground on a new 22,100 square foot storage facility.

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PHOTO: NOVITA NUTRITION

Johnny Cash’s Cadillac, you can install it one piece at a time, if you want,” Gallup says, adding that ICM’s technologies are trademarked as well as patented or patent pending. A related technology is Visionary Fiber Technology’s fiber reactor, of which ICM is the exclusive distributor. That process cleans up corn oil to increase its value as a feedstock for renewable diesel production. “We do have one system sold and it’s under construction as we talk, and by the time this article is published that system should be online and producing deionized distillers corn oil,” Gallop says. Fluid Quip is the technology provider behind Green Plains’ efforts to install MSC at all its ethanol plants to produce Ultra-High Protein Feed, a 50 percent purity protein feed, as well as increase corn oil production. In addition to Shenandoah and Wood River, which are operational, the MSC system is under construction at the company’s Mount Vernon, Indiana, and Central City, Nebraska, plants. At press time, Green Plains was expected to start construction at its Obion plant in Tennessee next, with plans to roll the technology out to all Green Plains plants by 2024, depending on the permitting process. In addition, Green Plains announced a joint venture partnership to install MSC at Tharaldson Ethanol, a 175 MMgy ethanol

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LOW-FAT FEED: Inside Novita Nutrition’s production facility located in Aurora, South Dakota, where the company uses a proprietary process to remove distillers corn oil from distillers grains.

CORN OIL OFFSHOOT: Novita’s branded products include NovaOil for animal feed or renewable fuels production as well as NovaMeal, a bypass protein feed well suited for ruminants.

PHOTO: NOVITA NUTRITION

PHOTO: NOVITA NUTRITION

plant in Casselton, North Dakota. Green Plains will provide 50 percent of the capital as well as other services, according to a Green Plains press release. That MSC system is expected to begin operations later in 2022. Now, with virtually every ethanol plant looking to ramp up corn oil yield or increase the value of the corn oil produced, a lot of corn oil extraction solutions are popping out of the woodwork, Jakel says. It’s crucial that producers carefully evaluate any new technology or equipment so they understand the true return on investment. “Know exactly what it is you’re getting and what value you’re receiving for what you’re purchasing,” he says. This is why Fluid Quip has a white paper on its website called “Technology Selection Process for Ethanol Facilities,” an effort to help ethanol producers add sophistication into how they select new technologies. It’s so important that companies carefully do their due diligence and evaluate risk, he says. Coproduct Market Considerations Another question is how the market will react as more and more corn oil is pulled out at ethanol plants, making lower corn oil distillers grains or other high protein coproducts more common across the 28 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022

industry. Gallop pointed to the pushback that happened back when corn oil extraction technology was first introduced. That subsided when ethanol proEndres ducers realized corn oil was an important revenue stream and animal feeders realized it didn’t result in much of an energy loss. “It became an industry-accepted practice and I think that will continue to happen as we develop more and more ways to pull the fat out,” he says. Jakel predicts distillers grains will continue to be whittled away into separate coproduct piles. He believes ethanol plants have to do that in order to get the full value. “The goal at the end of the day would be to get rid of DDGS altogether,” he says. “That would be the best thing that could happen for a biorefinery. Because the DDGS pile when it is separated has much higher value across those products than it does all together.” Another player in the world of protein animal feed from ethanol coproducts is Novita Nutrition. The company, which began operations at its Aurora, South Dakota, production facility in 2017, brings in

distillers grains from ethanol production companies and processes it. The end result is two branded products, NovaMeal, an animal feed product, and NovaOil, a highquality corn oil for feed and renewable fuels production. NovaMeal is a highly digestible bypass protein that works well for ruminate animals, such as dairy cows or feedlot cattle, says Don Endres, CEO and cofounder of Novita. It is almost 90 percent rumen undegradable protein, compared to soybean meal, which is less than 40 percent. After processing incoming distillers grains, NovaMeal is 2.5 to 3 percent fat. Endres sees a lot of variability in the distillers grains the company processes, he says. Over the past year Novita took in DDGS with fat content that ranged from 7 percent to more than 12 percent. Looking to the future, Endres has his eye on high oil corn varieties. These can have up to 6 to 9 percent fat content and have the potential to produce more oil per acre of corn than an acre of soybeans. “That significantly will improve the economics for growers as well as ethanol producers and potentially Novita’s business as well,” he says. Author: Holly Jessen Contact: editor@bbiinternational.com


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Technology

FLYING

UP CLOSE AND WITHIN

By far, the most common use of drones is aerial photography, but as the capabilities of commercial drones have advanced, the applications have become more sophisticated, from 3D mapping to plant inspections. “We use drones to solve problems and create efficiencies,” says Steve Schleicher, partner and vice president of business development at Pinnacle Engineering. The environmental engineering group has a fleet of 11 drones and multiple cameras and sensors. The two newest cameras, with 45 megapixel resolution, produce 27 megabyte images, he adds. “The clarity is insane.” “There’s a lot of recreational pilots out there using drones just for photos,” he says. “We’re utilizing drones as another tool in the engineer’s toolbox.” Michael Braulick manages the drone program as a partner and senior engineer with Pinnacle. “The pictures we’re taking are more engineering focused. We’ve got cameras with 30-times optical zoom. If we’re doing an inspection on a structure that someone would have to climb, we can fly the drone up, see if there are issues, even check how many bolts there are,” he says. “A lot of our pilots are engineers themselves with the mindset, what do I

30 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022

Ethanol industry drone applications are soaring far beyond aerial photography. Plant personnel are now using the technology both around and inside their facilities. By Susanne Retka Schill

look for, how do I get the information I need to provide to our clients?” “From another standpoint, we have a lot of software to back us up,” he adds, software that allows stitching together images and creating 3D images. Besides visual images, the drones can be equipped with sensors that detect gases or infrared cameras that detect heat. LiDAR imagery uses lasers to collect surface data and multispectral cameras are useful for assessing plant health. “Multi-spectral is huge in ag,” Braulick says. “Farmers are using it to access vegetation health to figure out drain tiles or look for insect damage. We’ve been using it for plant health and vegetation densities related to storm water and other permitting needs.” “We try to integrate drones in everything we do,” Schleicher says. In the company’s emergency response service, the drone pilots are now the first on site to fly over the area to determine the extent of a problem. “We fly drones over the course of an emergency to get updates, help us with site monitoring and the restoration effort, and also with sharing information with government agencies, and if necessary, the public,” Schleicher says. The drone equipped with gas sensors is particularly helpful in emergency responses to chemical releases. “If there’s a chemical of concern, instead of sending someone in with an air monitor, we send the drone in and get the first round of data. You can get a drone out

of an area much faster than a person, if the wind switches.” On the civil engineering side, Pinnacle uses drones for site layouts and desktop reviews of wetlands and endangered species habitat. Drone images are also an efficient tool to monitor construction projects, Schleicher says. “On larger projects we use drones for a number of inspections. They are excellent tools for project control and tracking. Regular drone flights indicate how many contractors are on site, materials on site, how much gets used and the progress—tools for checking on project costs and controls.” On the environmental compliance side, drone imagery is used for such things as developing storm water pollution prevention plans or facility response plans. “Most ethanol plants have some type of emergency response program that requires drills and exercises,” Schleicher says, explaining that up-to-date drone photos are good tools for planning emergency response, plant evacuation and resource mobilization. The imagery also enhances employee training programs. Plant Application Nick Phillips’ interest in drones grew out of his hobby of building and flying remote controlled airplanes. As the environmental health and safety specialist at POET Biorefining-Shell Rock, he says the safety benefits are compelling. When the


AIRTIME: Using a confined space drone for internal inspections, rather than sending in personnel, reduces costs and improves safety. Drones like this one being flown at POET Biorefining-Shell Rock have intuitive controls, beyond-line-of-sight capability, high-definition live streaming and an array of other features. PHOTO: POET

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 31


Technology Shell Rock, Iowa, facility’s previous owner, Flint Hills Resources, began experimenting with drones at one of its Midwestern refineries, Phillips followed the program and began building a business case to use drones for inspections at FHR’s six ethanol plants. (The plants were acquired by POET this summer.) A pilot project was approved and they got their first drone in 2018. Now, the group has six external drones and certified pilots at most sites, plus they share the use of two confined space drones. Inspections with the confined space drones have the highest return on value, Phillips says, even though they are far more expensive than the external drones. “It really adds flexibility. We can grab a battery, put it in the drone and be ready to do the inspection in three minutes. The confined space inspection drone flight time is around 10 minutes, but it’s amazing what you can see when you’re using 4K video.” The video can be viewed frame-by-frame, enlarged or enhanced, and shared with team members and contractors.

ILLUMINATING TECH: A growing number of U.S. ethanol producers are relying on confined space drones like this Flyability Elios 2 to safely carry out tank and bin inspections. The Elios 2 offers collision and shock resilience by integrating the quadcopter and its high-tech payload—a 4K camera, thermal imaging capability, dustproof lighting and more—inside a protective cage. PHOTO: FLYABILITY

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ZOOMING IN: Cameras on modern drones can take plant photos with spectacular clarity. In this image, a drone flying around an ethanol storage tank was able to zoom in on a single vent in the center front (circled in red). PHOTO: PINNACLE


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Alberto Romero, an API certified inspector, operates the confined space drone for inspections at the six plants in the group. One big advantage, he says, is the ability to inspect areas using the drone that might otherwise require confined space entry procedures, a standby rescue team, respirators, and often the time to set up scaffolding. “Going into areas with a drone is a lot easier, instead of going in [physically],” he says. Romero says anyone familiar with video games finds it relatively easy to learn the drone controls—one toggle moves the drone up or down, another moves it sideto-side. A tablet mounted on the controller allows the pilot to see everything the drone sees. Since Romero only flies the confined space drone inside buildings, equipment or ducts, he is not required to be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration. Drones being flown in outside air space are required to be licensed by FAA, along with their pilots. As a private pilot with remote-controlled experience, Phillips didn’t

find it difficult to fly the drone, study up on the regulations and take the test. Others learning to fly the drones outside used a $6 app on their phones to learn airspace rules before taking the test. The drones themselves can be small— the confined space drone, for example, is protected by a 14-inch diameter carbon fiber shell. Quadcopter drones maneuver with four propellors, two spinning in one direction and two in the other, with internal gyros controlling rotation. “That’s why they are so stable,” Phillips says, which enables clear photos or videos. The cost of a drone can vary widely, Braulick says. While a basic drone costs $2,500, the larger and more specialized commercial drones can go up to $20,000 and multiple attachments can easily triple the cost. “They all have GPS so you know where you’re taking your picture all the time and how high off the ground, which gets important when you use software to stitch together images or model.” The software packages can cost as much as the drone, he adds.


TIGHT SPACES: At roughly the size of a large beach ball, confined space drones like the Flyability Elios 2 can fit into industrial tank and vessel access ports that would be difficult, if not impossible, for plant personnel to physically access. PHOTO: FLYABILITY

When looking at providers of drone services, Schleicher recommends asking about licensing, insurance and maintenance, noting that the frequent use of commercial drones can pose more issues than a hobby drone used very little. “The more in-tune

the company doing inspections with drones is, the less risk,” he says, adding that the FAA is very strict about following regulations. “We had one of our drone pilots that got stopped by FAA at a site, and he said it was much scarier than being pulled over by

a cop. He was doing everything right. He had a flight plan, a license. But it’s a risk if you aren’t doing those things.” Author: Susanne Retka Schill Contact: editor@bbiinternational.com


NOVEL USE OF OXIDIZING BIOCIDES TO INCREASE ETHANOL YIELD By Reed Semenza

In ethanol production, yeast (Saccaromyces cerevisiae) is used to convert sugar into ethanol. Other microorganisms can compete with yeast for the sugars. These microorganisms include but are not limited to lactic acid and acetic acid bacteria. When acid bacteria grow, they compete with the supply of sugar resulting in less sugar for ethanol production. Also, acid-forming bacteria can create low pH conditions that tend to inhibit the growth of ethanol producing yeast. To control the growth of acid producing bacteria, many ethanol plants add antibiotics to the fermentation tanks. The antibiotics kill much of the acid bacteria, but the antibiotics apparently do not harm the yeast. The current method calls for 3 to 5 pounds of antibiotic, usually Virginiamycin, per 500,000 gallons of corn mash in the fermenter. Actual dose of antibiotics is determined by the level of lactic acid in the corn mash during the first 30 hours of fermentation. Antibiotics, though generally effective, have several major disadvantages. The main disadvantage of antibiotics is that they only work in the fermenter. Biofilms that grow in the mash cooler and consume sugars are not arrested and, as a result, ethanol yield is compromised. A second disadvantage of antibiotics is that acid bacteria can become resistant over time rendering the use of antibiotics less effective, resulting in ethanol production losses.

In order to further improve ethanol yield, DeLasan CMT, a patented system comprised of 22% peracetic acid (PAA), distributed by DeLaval, and hydrogen peroxide (HP) were blended in line and added to the fermenter via the mash cooler. The primary objective of the study was to determine the most economical dose of DeLasan CMT and to determine the relationship between lactic and acetic bacteria reduction, ethanol yield improvement, and dose. Secondary objectives included measure-

ment of residual levels of PAA, HP, and stabilizers in the distillers grains. Background The ethanol plant in the study is a 55 MMgy continuous plant located in Illinois. The facility’s management desired to improve ethanol yield, save money on their antimicrobial program and produce distillers grains that are free of antibiotics. The plant process flow is shown in Figure 1.

FIGURE 1

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).

36 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022


Fermentation The corn mash enters the stage-one mash cooler at 180 degrees F and is cooled to 140 degrees F. It then enters the stagetwo mash cooler and is cooled to 90 degrees F. Mash flow through the cooler is 650 gallons per minute (gpm). From the stage-two cooler the mash is sent to the fermenter. Once in the fermenter, fermentation begins to accelerate, releasing heat which is dissipated in the pre-fermenter cooler. The corn mash is then sent to the beer well at the end of fermentation. System parameters are shown in Table 1. During fermentation, carbohydrates, ethanol, and organic acids are routinely monitored to insure that the fermentation process is occurring normally and to insure that undesirable bacteria are kept under control. Also, the mash temperature is kept in a range of 90 F to 95 F. Typical end fermenter process parameters are shown in Table 2. Study Procedure DeLasan CMT and 34% HP were added at a rate of 2.2 and 3.0 gallons per hour, respectively, to a stainless steel pipe that carried the mixture to a header located between the first and second stage mash cooler. At the point of injection, the mash temperature was 140 F and the mash flow rate was 650 gpm. The pumps used to pump both the HP and DeLasan CMT were ProMinent diaphragm pumps fitted with Teflon liquid ends. The dose of the DeLasan CMT was 15 ppm (as PAA) and the dose of the HP was 30 ppm (as peroxide). However, the DeLasan CMT and HP were fed for only half of the fermenter fill time, making the overall dose 7.5 ppm of PAA and 15 ppm of HP. Samples were taken every hour at the mash cooler exit and fermentation tank. The samples were tested using a Hach DPD total chlorine test. Three milliliters of sample was added to a test tube, then one DPD powder pillow was added to the sample. The sample was then stirred gently for five seconds and a pink color was observed at the bottom of the test tube. PAA concentration was estimated based on the hue of pink color after 30 seconds.

Vessel

Volume (gal)

Recirc Rate (gpm)

pH Range

Temp (in/out)

2,500

650 gpm

5.8 – 6.4

180/90

850,000

1100 gpm

4.2 – 4.6

95/90

Mash cooler Fermenter TABLE 1

Ethanol % Lactic Acid% Acetic Acid% pH 13.0

.20

.05

4.6

Cell Count

Viable Count %

250

97

TABLE 2

Program Variation

Log LAB Count Mash Cooler Exit/ Fermenter

anti-biotics

10(4)/10(4)

CMT + Peroxide

10(3)/10(2)

DeLasan CMT only

10(4)/10(4)

Peroxide only

10(5)/10(6)

TABLE 3

FIGURE 2

HP concentration was estimated after 6 minutes. Normal corn mash tests on carbohydrates, ethanol, and organic acids were taken by plant personnel every six hours. Results were compared with normal historical averages when antibiotics were used.

Microtesting As part of the study, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) were plated in several locations including the mash cooler inlet, mash cooler outlet, and fermenter. The bacteria counts were analyzed as a function of program chemistry variations. All the LAB counts in the mash cooler inlet were zero and so those results are not shown. However, ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 37


Fermentation there were major differences in counts based on program chemical variations as shown in Table 3. The microtesting indicated that the only program that would reduce the LAB coming out of the mash cooler was the normal program of DeLasan CMT and peroxide. Also the normal program (CMT + peroxide) reduced the LAB in the fermenter by two logs versus the antibiotic program. It is postulated that the peroxide increased the LAB in the mash exit by dislodging but not killing biofilm in the mash cooler (see Figure 2).

FIGURE 3

FIGURE 4

Test Results Four years of operating results indicated the following. Organic acids: Lactic acid in the beer well was reduced from an average of 0.20% to 0.10%. Backset was increased with no increase in lactic acid production (see Figure 3). Ethanol production: ethanol production was 1.5% higher with DeLasan CMT vs antibiotics. This result was due to the decrease in lactic acid production in the fermenter and decrease in biofilm activity in the mash cooler (see Figures 4 and 5). Conclusion Overall study results were extremely positive over a period of four years. The study indicated that the DeLasan CMT program is effective in preventing ethanol loss due to the formation of biofilm in the mash cooler and organic acids in the fermenter. The net ethanol yield increase was 1.5% over the study period. No negative effects of the program were noted based on the balance of carbohydrates, ethanol, and organic acids. In addition to helping the plant achieve ethanol yield goals, the DeLasan program met the following objectives: • Cost effective: Because the DeLasan CMT is effective at very low dose, the program cost was less than the cost of the antibiotics. • Increased ethanol production: The DeLasan CMT program resulted in a net increase in ethanol yield of 1.5%. In a 55 MMgy plant, that amounts to increased profits of $1.5 million per year. • Improved distillers grains: Elimination of antibiotics resulted in more marketable coproduct. • Increased backset: Because the thin stillage had less organic acid content, backset was increased by 5%, thus reducing water, energy and nutrient costs. Author: Reed Semenza Technical Manager, DeLaval Reed.Semenza@DeLaval.com

FIGURE 5

38 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022


Your plant is unique. Your treatment options should be too. DeLaval Cleaning Solutions released DeLasan CMT TM a patented process treatment for corn mash used for fermentationat at fuel and beverage ethanol plants. DeLasan CMT is a leading technology that is best suited for control of organic acids in your fermentation process. The unigue product formulation, low cost, high concentration of actives, and patent pending application make DeLasan CMT unique among other fermentation treatments. Additional benefits of our DeLasan CMT program can include: • Cost reduction in your organic acid control program • Does not contribute inorganic salts • Breaks down easily into food ingredients • Improves your ethanol production

• No pre-mixing required • Recognized as safe for grains • Meets the new FSMA requirements • Eliminates your need for anti-biotics

Contact your DeLaval representative for more information

Phone: 1-800-477-8370 | cleaningsolutions@delaval.com | http://cleaningsolutions.delaval.com/ DeLaval Cleaning Solutions, ad division of DeLaval Inc. 11100 North Congress Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64153-1296 is a registered trademark of Tetra Laval Holdings & Finance S.A. and DeLaval is a registered trade/service mark of DeLaval Holding AB. The manufacturer reserves the right to make design changes. © 2019 DeLaval Cleaning Solutions a division of DeLaval Inc. DeLaval, 11100 North Congress Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64153-1296. www.cleaningsolutions.delaval.com


Spotlight BY IFF

Your Needs Change, Your Yeast Can't The Xcelis Yeasts platform from IFF offers tailor-fit yeast and yeast blends to address ethanol producer needs—even as they vary over time. Over the past year, ethanol producers have used Synerxia® Ruby, Synerxia Sapphire, Synerxia Emerald, and eBoost® GTX yeasts to increase ethanol yield, reduce residual starch, improve operational consistency and enhance fermentation rates. Now, blends of these yeasts are enabling even greater fermentation performance. “We have found that yeast blends are very often greater than the sum of their parts,” says Lee Robinson, IFF lead application scientist. For example, during a heat-stressed fermentation, performance for a blend of 50% Synerxia Sapphire and 50% eBoost GTX is significantly more robust than eBoost GTX alone and delivers a higher ethanol yield. The resiliency of Synerxia Sapphire really shines because it consumes glucose that the higher yielding but less robust eBoost GTX would otherwise leave behind. Synerxia Sapphire makes yeast blends significantly more tolerant to stressors such as heat, high ethanol titer, and infections, while eBoost GTX provides dramatically enhanced ethanol yield and ultra-low glycerol production. Another benefit of the platform is flexibility. Your process and market conditions change over time, so shouldn’t your yeast solution adapt? At times, you may need more plant throughput, which can be enabled by a high-rate yeast. At other times, such as when a severe infection is experienced, an ultra-robust blend may be required. Perhaps you have invested time and money into providing the most ideal fermentation conditions and want to run the highest yielding (but less robust) yeast solution. The Xcelis® Yeasts platform allows an ethanol producer to seamlessly switch the yeast blend to meet the needs of the moment. So how does the ethanol producer determine the right yeast blend? The concept of yeast blending can be overwhelming. How will the two yeasts perform during fermentation? What is the right ratio of yeasts? Fortunately, IFF has been modeling and testing yeast blends for the past two years to answer those very questions. Zach Baer, who leads new model development for the Xcelis® AI fermentation modeling group, is pioneering models that mathematically describe single yeasts and yeast blends. “We have learned some very interesting things,” Baer says. “We originally thought that two yeasts in a blend would perform as the average between the two yeasts. What we actually found is that there are strong positive synergies between IFF yeasts. We can blend a fast, robust yeast with a high-yield yeast, and we find that both yield and robustness are greater than predicted.” To help producers decide between many potential blends, our Xcelis AI fermentation models allow for efficient, virtual comparison of blend options in plant-specific conditions. 40 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JANUARY 2022

Beneficial Blend: A blend of 50% Synerxia Sapphire and 50% eBoost GTX proved to be more robust than eBoost GTX alone, while delivering a higher ethanol yield. Synerxia Sapphire consumes glucose that the higher yielding but less robust eBoost GTX would otherwise leave behind, while eBoost GTX provides enhanced ethanol yield and ultra-low glycerol production. *Fermentations held at 94°F. PHOTO: IFF

Josh Naylor, IFF marketing coordinator, adds that IFF is laserfocused on providing the best fermentation results for its customers. “This isn’t about products—this is about customer outcomes,” he says, adding that yeast blends should provide the highest yield possible given the customer’s process conditions, and be flexible enough to change with market and process conditions over time. IFF customers have demonstrated that they can significantly enhance fermentation performance through yeast blending. We are excited to bring value-added yeast blends to the fuel ethanol industry.


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