Page 1

JULY 2021

Optimal ROI

High Corn Oil Prices Incentivize Investment in Enhanced Separation PAGE 18


Opportunity in Aviation PAGE 26

2021 Ethanol Producer Award Winners PAGE 36

E15’s Pandemic Resilience PAGE 42

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EDITOR'S NOTE Interest and Innovation


Capitalizing on Corn Oil


EVENTS CALENDAR DRIVE Framing a Bright Future for Biofuels GLOBAL SCENE Paris, and Beyond By Andrea Kent





Primed for Commercialization

By Steffen Mueller


By Susanne Retka Schill



By Matt Thompson


By Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits



E15 Gains Momentum

Despite pandemic, sales jumped in 2020 By Susanne Retka Schill


Mobile Fermentation Unit Enhances Yeast Development Cycle

Collaboration, Upgrades, Resilience

Presenting the Ethanol Producer Award winners

By Ron Lamberty



Sustainable aviation fuels are coming

GRASSROOTS VOICE Billions of Dollars of E15 Available—At Zero Cost to Retailers


Research evaluates best reduction strategies

By Lisa Gibson

By Emily Skor


Carbon Competition

High prices shorten ROI

By Lisa Gibson




Driving Behaviors and Gallons Get Biofuel campaign aims to increase E15 sales


Bulk Procurement Automation Reduces Risk for Business Beyond Usual By Circuit Design Corp.



Feed Diversification, Differentiation Drive ICM Enhancement By ICM Inc.

By Lisa Gibson

ON THE COVER Carbon Green BioEnergy in Lake Odessa, Michigan, is realizing the benefits of its oil separation technology investments, as corn oil prices hit all-time highs. PHOTO: CARBON GREEN BIOENERGY

Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) July 2021, Vol. 27, Issue 7. Ethanol Producer Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Ethanol Producer Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203. ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 5

Editor's Note

Interest and Innovation

Lisa Gibson EDITOR

When determining content for the year’s largest issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine, for distribution at the world’s largest ethanol industry conference, we have specific goals. We want coverage that is relevant, newsworthy and interesting. And we want our overall product to be wellrounded, thorough and attractive. I might be biased, but I think we’ve done it. This issue addresses diversification, new markets, electric vehicle research, E15 progress, consumer education and, of course, the 2021 Ethanol Producer Award winners. This content pulls input from sources across the industry with expertise in multiple areas. Let’s dig in. Our cover feature explores the impacts of rising corn oil prices on capital investments. Sources say now is the time to invest in corn oil separation enhancement, with a halved return on investment. With short ROIs and predictions that high corn oil prices will last for the next couple years, revenue potential is huge. The story starts on page 18. Next is an exploration of market opportunities in aviation fuel. The potential for ethanol as a feedstock is still uncertain, but one technology developer is evaluating the option as it scales up its process. Fuel consumption in the market is enormous, at 100 billion gallons globally in 2019. Find out more on page 26. This year’s Ethanol Producer Award winners again represent the industry’s most innovative forward thinkers, most productive teammates and friendliest neighbors. Nominations this year were competitive. Our editorial board struggled to choose just one winner in each category. I think you’ll be as impressed as we were. The full list of winners begins on page 36. Next we evaluate E15’s growth in the past year. I was a bit surprised to find that the blend grew in sales and availability while most of us were hunkered down in our homes. But it did. And looking ahead, pending regulatory changes and infrastructure incentives pose a strong outlook for E15. Turn to page 42 for more. Finally, we profile a pioneering campaign from Growth Energy to educate consumers directly on E15 and its environmental benefits. Complementary to Prime the Pump’s focus on retailers, this consumer-focused campaign brings messaging directly to drivers. Growth Energy’s market research for the campaign is extensive, leading to cohesive messaging throughout. Details on page 48. I’ve seen this industry evolve considerably in the past year and a half. I’ve been proud to be a part of it, witnessing the innovation and large-scale betterment you’ve accomplished. And I’m eager to sit around the tables with you again, in person, at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Des Moines this month. See you there.




Upcoming Events

ADVERTISER INDEX EDITORIAL Editor Lisa Gibson | Online News Editor Erin Voegele |

DESIGN Vice President of Production & Design Jaci Satterlund | Graphic Designer Raquel Boushee |


2021 Int'l Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo


American Coalition for Ethanol


AGI Tramco


Apache Stainless Equipment Corporation


BASF Enzymes LLC




BetaTec Hop Products


Bion Companies


Check-All Valve Mfg. Co.


Circuit Design Corp.


Int'l Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

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

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

CTE Global, Inc.


CEO Joe Bryan |



President Tom Bryan |

EPM's Digital Press Package


EPM's Plant Map


Fagen Inc.


Fluid Quip Mechanical


Fluid Quip Technologies, LLC


Growth Energy


Hydro-Thermal Corp.


ICM, Inc.


IFF, Inc.

43, 45, 47

Indeck Power Equipment Co.


J.C. Ramsdell Enviro Services, Inc.


KATZEN International, Inc.


Kurita America

56, 57

Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits


Mason Manufacturing, LLC


McCormick Construction, Inc.


Natwick Associates Appraisal Services


(866) 746-8385 |



Phibro Ethanol Performance Group


National Biomass Summit & Expo



Premium Plant Services, Inc.




Salco Products, Inc.


Seneca Companies


Victory Energy Operations, LLC




Zenviro Tech US Inc.


Zeochem LLC


Vice President of Operations/Marketing & Sales John Nelson | Senior Account Manager/Bioenergy Team Leader Chip Shereck | Business Development Director Andrea Anderson | Sr. Account Manager Marty Steen | Account Manager Bob Brown | Circulation Manager Jessica Tiller | Marketing & Advertising Manager Marla DeFoe | Marketing & Social Media Coordinator Dayna Bastian |

EDITORIAL BOARD Ringneck Energy Walter Wendland Little Sioux Corn Processors Steve Roe Commonwealth Agri-Energy Mick Henderson Aemetis Advanced Fuels Eric McAfee Western Plains Energy Derek Peine Front Range Energy Dan Sanders Jr. Customer Service Please call 1-866-746-8385 or email us at service@ Subscriptions Subscriptions to Ethanol Producer Magazine are free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge for anyone outside the United States. To subscribe, visit or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to: Ethanol Producer Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to 701-746-5367. Back Issues, Reprints and Permissions Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at 866-746-8385 or Advertising Ethanol Producer Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Ethanol Producer Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at 866-746-8385 or Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. Send to Ethanol Producer Magazine Letters to the Editor, 308 2nd Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or email to Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.

Biodiesel & Renewable Diesel Summit

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

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

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

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

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Please check our website for upcoming webinars

COPYRIGHT © 2021 by BBI International



Framing a Bright Future for Biofuels

Emily Skor

CEO, Growth Energy 202.545.4000

With vaccinated drivers hitting the road and a growing international dialogue around clean energy, optimism in our industry is running high. In May, I hosted our 12th Annual Executive Leadership Conference, alongside Growth Energy plant members and innovators, where we discussed our industry’s ambitions and bold plans for the future. After a tough year, it was truly inspiring to see so many colleagues and peers in one place. Together, we’re framing the future on our terms, building on a growing appreciation among lawmakers for the full diversity of our industry and the vital role biofuels play in addressing climate change. During our opening session, I noted early signals that this administration is ready to act as a partner in our efforts to grow demand by taking steps toward the inclusion of biofuel relief in the next round of COVID assistance and backing our industry’s position in the U.S. Supreme Court against improper small refinery exemptions. The promise of that partnership was on full display at this year’s ELC, which featured virtual appearances by U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. Regan, the first sitting EPA administrator to address our ELC in a decade, touted biofuels’ role in President Joe Biden’s administration’s agenda and emphasized his intention to insert greater transparency into agency actions and finalize 2021 and 2022 renewable volume obligations (RVO) by late fall. Vilsack trumpeted his agency’s commitment to biofuels, stating that “you can look to USDA as a champion for market-based solutions to climate change, for championing biobased products like renewable fuels, and for putting American agriculture at the heart of rural revitalization.” Even with these positive trends, many challenges remain. That’s why we’ll continue to call on the White House to include biofuels in its infrastructure plans and shut down the previous administration’s penchant for issuing improper refinery exemptions, in accordance with the 10th Circuit’s 2020 opinion on the issue. We need regulators to restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard and tear down barriers to growth. That means establishing strong biofuel targets for 2021 and 2022 and setting robust new standards for future years. It also means acting swiftly to lift labeling requirements on E15 and limits on the use of existing infrastructure for higher blends, and clearing the backlog of approvals for cellulosic pathways. There is no path towards a net-zero future without plant-based biofuels. That’s why we’re working to ensure a level playing field for biofuels alongside other climate solutions. For example, Congress must ensure its commitment to green infrastructure includes all low-carbon fuels, not just electrification. Growth Energy has expanded its market development team, adding top retail veteran Mike Lorenz to lead our global and domestic market development efforts. Together, we’re working with retail entities representing more than 50,000 sites across the country and building new awareness among consumers about the benefits of E15. There could not be a better time to highlight how American bioethanol is leading the way as the single most affordable and abundant source of low-carbon fuel—available today—on the planet, which is why we unveiled our new consumer initiative at ELC. The Get Biofuel “Fuel Beyond” campaign is an important element of our market development strategy to expand access to higher biofuel blends. We now have a full-throttle industry effort that includes pursuing pro-growth policy, leveraging commercial opportunities, and spurring consumer demand—the E15 trifecta. Over the past year, we have all seen how resilient the biofuel sector has been in the face of extraordinary challenges. Now, with fewer headwinds and a new administration, it’s time to show the world what our industry can do when the fight is no longer just about survival but about framing a brighter, healthier future fueled by bioethanol.


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Global Scene

Paris, and Beyond

Andrea Kent

Board Member, Renewable Industries Canada Vice President of Government and Public Relations, Greenfield Global 833.476.3835

Earth Day 2021 was one for the books. President Joe Biden hosted a global climate summit virtually attended by leaders of 40 countries, including large emitters India and China. The event aimed at rallying leadership in the fight against climate change, and it delivered. In what one economist called “Target Bingo,” the U.S., Canada and other countries, upped their targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Paris agreement, an international accord set in 2015. Biden unveiled the U.S. goal to cut emissions by 50% to 52% from 2005 levels—an announcement British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called “game-changing.” The new U.S. target, enhanced commitments from Japan and Canada, and prior targets from the European Union and Britain mean countries accounting for more than half the world’s economy are now committed to reductions to achieve the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal. The policy ambition is undoubtedly palpable. But, emissions targets on their own do not lead to emissions reductions. Canada serves as an excellent example of targets versus reality. Canada is the 10th-largest GHG emitter in the world. At the summit, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the country’s goal to a cut of 40% to 45% by 2030 below 2005 levels, up from 30%. Meanwhile, Canada’s emissions have only slightly decreased from 2005 to 2019. Despite Canada’s national carbon pricing, 2019 emissions were the highest since 2008. While the pandemic will lead to a big decrease in 2020, Environment Canada projects modest emissions growth between 2021 and 2030 without robust climate policies. Layer in Trudeau’s broader plan to decarbonize the economy and reach net zero by 2050, and the task becomes even more challenging. Canada, fortunately, has an ace in its hand: the recently released draft regulation for a national low carbon fuel standard. Canada’s Clean Fuel Regulations are poised to deliver on the emissions cuts needed this decade, including projections to increase the national blend rate for ethanol from the current mandate of 5% to 15% by 2030. Regulations to ensure renewable fuel blending in fossil fuel are not new in North America. Today, Canada’s renewable fuel standard currently requires liquid fuel producers and importers to have an average renewable fuel content of at least 5% in gasoline. The proposed CFR moves away from operating on a volume basis, and the metric becomes carbon. Canada’s proposed regulations would require liquid fuel producers and importers to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of the liquid fossil fuels they produce and import into Canada. The CI reduction requirements become more stringent over time. Like the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, the CFR is designed to increase the use of renewable fuels with lower GHG life cycle CIs. The proposed regulations would also establish a credit market whereby the annual CI reduction requirement could be met via three main categories of creditcreating actions, biofuels blending projected to be the largest. At the time of writing, the proposed CFR is in consultation with some key details to be decided. But overall, its focus on carbon intensity (not volume), flexibility and market and trading mechanisms aimed at immediate and lasting economic benefits is a sound policy modernization of volume-based mandates. It also affirms why governments should not underestimate biofuels in pursuit of net-zero ambitions. Ethanol has already made significant strides over the past decades regarding market access, production capacity, and delivering meaningful GHG reductions from the road transportation sector. At the same time, ethanol’s future environmental and economic benefits still hold great potential. Any government that takes climate change seriously cannot afford to overlook modern biofuels. This is the conversation we have with government and policymakers every day, especially as climate targets increase. Decarbonization requires effort. Targets may reflect policy ambition but do not account for the critical actions in key sections necessary to reduce GHGs. To do that, governments need new and better policies. Done right, Canada’s CFR can be the smart, market-driven policy required to meet targets and lead to a more innovative energy mix.



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Grassroots Voice

Billions of Dollars of E15 Equipment Available—at Zero Cost to Retailers Ron Lamberty

Senior Vice President American Coalition for Ethanol 605.334.3381

Summer is the busiest time of year for most of the retail fuel business, and 2021 is no exception. With the delayed hardware changes required for Euro-Mastercard-Visa (EMV) card acceptance finally hitting a hard deadline this April, regular summer maintenance and upgrade projects—including those delayed from 2020, and sooner-than-anticipated advances in automation and technology courtesy of a worldwide pandemic—2021 could be one of the busiest retail fuel construction seasons in recent memory. Meanwhile, the ethanol industry awaits U.S. EPA finalization of its proposed rule changes for E15 labeling, and requirements for demonstrating underground storage tank (UST) system compatibility with higher ethanol blends, which EPA will issue this summer. Labeling changes should make consumers less afraid of a fuel they shouldn’t have been afraid of in the first place, and proposed UST regulations wouldn’t change UST compatibility requirements, but would eliminate the intimidating gauntlet of EPA obstacles retailers currently have to run to prove their existing equipment is safe for E15—a frequently cited reason by station owners for not offering E15. Over the years, professional ethanol haters slowed the E15 roll-out to a crawl with ghost stories about liability and being required to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new tanks, lines, and other fueling equipment to store and sell E15. Unfortunately, those ghosts are very real to most fuel marketers, who still believe the “high cost of converting to E15” myth and have never checked their own equipment. The Big Oil PR machine also frightened regulators into mandating big scary orange E15 warning labels and creating the gauntlet mentioned above, which crushed many retailers’ hopes of easily offering E15—even when they know their equipment is compatible. Those things are especially frustrating when you know the ethanol industry asked EPA to approve E15 rather than a higher blend, precisely because UL’s listing for gas/ethanol blends in above-ground equipment said “up to 15% alcohol” in most of the tests, and UL’s definition of “gasoline and alcohol blends” for UST systems included up to 100% of either product. Yet somehow, EPA believed the anti-E15 horror stories over its own science and wrote rules protecting us from imaginary E15 monsters. The best way to get rid of ghosts and monsters is to turn on the lights and see those things don’t exist. The Flex Check compatibility tool ( was built to shine light on the fact most current fueling equipment is E15 compatible, and thousands of marketers have used the tool and become less afraid of E15. More importantly, some folks at EPA tried Flex Check and even referenced the tool in their E15 labeling and UST proposed rule, which would allow fuel marketers to provide reasonable, logical proof their equipment is compatible with E15. Over the past few months, especially in Iowa and Minnesota where statewide E15 standards are being considered, the haters are back at it, now saying every station would need to spend $600,000 on upgrades if the legislation passed. However, in EPA’s rule, they said about a quarter of all tanks they checked would be compatible under one of their proposed changes, and the Minnesota Lung Association did a study that said more than 75% of USTs in that state were compatible with E15 or higher. Using these estimates and embracing the oil lobby’s “math” of $600,000 per store equipment cost numbers, we can now say if EPA finalizes its proposed rule changes, they’ll make somewhere between $20 billion and $65 billion dollars’ worth of E15 equipment available at no cost to retailers! “Petro math” says it could be a great year for E15!




Brandt joins USGC as trade policy director Andrew Brandt joined the U.S. Grains Council in late April, as the director of trade policy at USGC headquarters in Washington, D.C. In this capacity, Brandt will work with U.S. and foreign government officials as well as members and coalition partners to address policy issues related to the export of U.S. feed grains and their coproducts. “We are very happy to have Andrew joining our Washington staff and are excited about the perspectives he can bring to our work, having worked on the Hill and as a co-owner of his family farm in Missouri,” said Ryan LeGrand, USGC president and CEO. “His broad experience in the international trade policy arena will not only serve him well but will be welcomed as the Council continues its trade mission globally.” Prior to USGC, Brandt worked for the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, where he served as an international trade policy advisor, counseling the committee on international trade policy related to

agriculture, biotech, energy and other matters. Brandt also previously served as legislative assistant to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, offering guidance on agriculture, biotech, international trade, banking and environmental policy. Before working in the Senate, Brandt worked as legislative director for Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, as press assistant for Rep. Jim Talent, R-Missouri, and in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, where he advised staff on federal crop insurance program policy and worked to help implement provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill. Brandt holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business and a bachelor’s of science degree in agribusiness management from the University of Missouri. Brandt replaces Floyd Gaibler, USGC’s longtime trade policy director, who passed away in January.

More than a Check valve




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Three Rivers Energy installs Fluid Quip alcohol system Fluid Quip Technologies will install a High-Quality Alcohol system at Three Rivers Energy, a 55 MMgy ethanol plant in Coshocton, Ohio. The HQA installation will enable Three Rivers Energy to produce high-quality and high-purity 25 MMgy of GNS alcohol for the global sanitizer and disinfectant markets, with reduced energy requirements. In addition to the HQA system, Fluid Quip will also construct and install a high-efficiency distillation system for the biofuel production portion of the plant, lowering the overall cost to produce biofuel. “We are entering a new age for high-quality alcohol production,” said Neal Jakel, managing director for Fluid Quip Technologies. “The Fluid Quip HQA system will allow biofuel manufacturers like Three Rivers to produce sustainable, high-quality beverage-grade alcohol, while using less energy than traditional alcohol production systems.”

The installation of the HQA system at Three Rivers Energy marks the second installment of this technology for Fluid Quip. “The combination of these cutting-edge technologies offers tremendous long-term opportunities for Three Rivers Energy, the local Coshocton community and farmers in our region,” said Jim Galvin, president and CEO of Three Rivers Energy. “The investment in the FQT HQA System will allow Three Rivers to diversify its product portfolio with the production of high-quality, low-carbon alcohols while also improving efficiencies across our biorefinery in the production of our biofuels, animal feed and corn oil.” “Biorefineries are making strategic decisions to diversify their revenue streams and broaden the scope of their output capabilities,” Jakel added. “We believe using our technologies puts them on a clear path toward continued revenue growth and positive returns for shareholders.”

Hyro-Thermal adds sales team member


Hydro-Thermal Corp. has added Joel Gerstner to its sales team as the ethanol, sweetener and starch sales manager. In this position, Gerstner will contribute to the sales, support, and management functions of the ESS team with a focus on driving growth. Having been in the industrial outsides sales

market for over 15 years (regionally and nationally), Gerstner has an extensive history in the chemical processing, petroleum, power generation and manufacturing industries. “I enjoy helping customers improve their processes, performance, and reliability of their equipment, which helps them achieve or exceed their internal/external goals and objectives.” he says.




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Capitalizing on CORN OIL

Prices are rising to historic levels, creating opportunities for separation enhancement with short payback periods. By Lisa Gibson

When Carbon Green BioEnergy, in Lake Odessa, Michigan, started investing in enhanced corn oil extraction in 2017, corn oil prices were good. In 2019, when the systems were up and running, prices were still fine. But now, they’re great.

“We’ve really realized the benefits this year, with everything coming together,” says Ed Thomas, plant manager at Carbon Green BioEnergy. With corn oil prices above 50 cents per pound and thriving local animal feed markets, corn oil has become a large portion of revenue, Thomas says. And it comes at a crucial time. “We went through a long period of time where plants are slowing down due to netbacks and market pressure on ethanol,” Thomas says. “And this has been one of the items you can look at and say, ‘Hey this is doing well for us.’”

'With corn oil prices above 50 cents per pound and thriving local animal feed markets, corn oil has become a large portion of revenue. And it comes at a crucial time.' Ed Thomas Carbon Green BioEnergy

As the pandemic thrashed the ethanol industry, diversification became even more crucial. Soaring corn oil prices, attributable in large part to widespread renewable diesel development, rings loudly as an opportunity to make up losses. Technology developers have taken notice and emphasized shorter returns on investment with high revenue potential. “That’s a good strategy for plants to look at—take advantage of technology

BOS BENEFITS: Historically high corn oil prices have halved the return on investment for the Brix Oil Separation system from Fluid Quip Technologies. PHOTO: FLUID QUIP TECHNOLOGIES



when it presents a decent ROI to you,” says Keith Jakel, Fluid Quip Technologies sales and marketing manager. “Maybe those who didn’t take advantage of the alcohol play can take advantage of this. “At the end of the day, we’re all about plants diversifying revenue.”

Extraction Investment

Carbon Green BioEnergy has partnered with Trucent to increase its oil extraction. The key, Thomas says, is to create redundancies in the process: two pretreatment skids, two centrifuges, redundant syrup return system. “So you can lose a part, or plan maintenance, but still continue to work. “We put a big focus on retention time in the system—increasing retention time,” Thomas says. “And also put a process focus on how the extraction additives were injected. We added a mixing chamber and things of that nature.” The pretreatment skid reduces the particle size of material going into skids. “Essentially, you’re trying to get rid of the boulders running through the plant,” Thomas says. “We found that it increased the oil production. We also found that it helped the units stay cleaner.

CLEAN EXTRACTION: As corn oil prices rise, companies like Trucent and Fluid Quip Technologies are emphasizing the benefits of increased extraction, with shorter returns on investment. PHOTO: TRUCENT


“We found some of the changes we made got us a little more of a level playing ground, so to speak.” Carbon Green BioEnergy also has upgraded extraction additives. All in all, Thomas says corn oil yield averages about 0.85 pounds per bushel, fluctuating between 0.7 and 0.9. “I wouldn’t consider that an industry leader, but regionally, because of the differences in fat content coming in in corn, that’s a good number from our experience. “We’re a northern plant so, traditionally, we see a lower oil content, fat content in the corn supply. It’s a regional difference.” Thomas says Carbon Green BioEneryg isn’t the only producer capitalizing on high oil prices. “I know that there’s definitely a focus on adding centrifuges, and again we feel that there’s a lot of benefit in that reduced downtime if you do have maintenance due to redundancy. Doubling up on centrifuges helps split the stream uniformly, to avoid overworking the equipment. “You are gaining some efficiencies by just not trying to max throughput through the unit.”

'Every plant is unique and we know there are changes in corn profiles across the country. Some regions have lower or higher oil, depending on where you’re at. So that also has to be taken into consideration.' Keith Jakel Fluid Quip Technologies

Price Prediction

“We predicted this,” says Kevin Moore, vice president of advanced separations at Trucent, of soaring corn oil prices. “There is great demand for vegetable oils as a feedstock for renewable diesel. And corn

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oil is a great feedstock for that because it’s got a great CI (carbon intensity). “We’ve got a unique place in the industry,” Moore adds. “We consider it our mission to help ethanol producers extract as much corn oil as possible.” Trucent focuses on equipment, chemistry and service, Moore says. “We think there is opportunity for certain customers to add more centrifuges, which will help output. It allows more capacity and it’s re-

ally been helped by rising prices. ROIs are better.” The Tru-Shield screen also helps condition syrup in front of the centrifuge, he says, and lowers viscosity for easier separation. “We see anywhere from a 5 to 10% improvement in oil output with the placement of our Tru-Shield in front of centrifuges.” The chemistry component is tailored. “We’ve found that no one formula,

SHIELDED SEPARATION: Trucent’s TruShield conditions syrup for the centrifuge.



no one chemistry is universal. We work closely with our customers to optimize our chemistry formulation to extract the most oil.” “On the service side, we’ve got a long history of being able to do material balances, being able to analyze oil content in all of the ethanol screens.” Moore has seen an increase in plants investing in corn oil extraction as prices have risen. “We have found, particularly as ethanol plants have debottlenecked their facilities to get increased output, customers that started with one centrifuge can justify the addition of a second. Those with two can justify a third, particularly because oil values are so high. “Typically, we’ve been in the oneyear-and-less payback period, and obviously with values now almost doubled, we cut the payback times in half.”

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      . (8 8 8) 5 4 9 -1 8 6 9









With similar, substantial cuts to ROI, Fluid Quip Technologies has renewed focus on its Brix Oil Separation system. The process includes a clarifier, fiber separation and polisher. It’s three pieces of equipment placed in the optimal location for each plant. BOS was originally designed as a

workaround of the GS CleanTech Corp. patent lawsuit, where CleanTech sued ethanol producers for patent infringement on dry mill corn oil extraction. The suit was filed in 2009 and a district court ruled in 2016 that the patents were unenforceable. CleanTech in 2018 filed an appeal with the U.S. court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which was denied, and petitioned the court for a rehearing en banc in April 2020, which was also denied. The company in November 2020 petitioned the Supreme Court to review the case. That petition was denied in February 2021. Meanwhile, BOS initially had an ROI of between four and six years with 20-cent corn oil, Jakel says. “Which is not a bad return in most industries. However, this is not viewed as favorable in the ethanol industry.” With 40-cent oil, that ROI shrinks to two years. “It’s an opportunistic play because of where the prices of oil are. We normally would not employ this type of technology because it doesn’t have a good ROI. “This is another opportunity that a plant could look at to take advantage of something that might be available. Each plant has to weigh out how long they anticipate that market to be around. We think it’ll be around at least two years for that ROI. Once you pay back for the system, then it’s just easy cash in your pocket, no matter where you’re at on oil.” Fluid Quip’s process doesn’t use any chemicals, he adds. “That’s a big part of it. It keeps OPEX costs at a minimum. When you introduce chemicals, you have an uncontrolled OPEX cost.” Any oil price above 40 cents is a great ROI for BOS, Jakel says. “It actually has some relevancy now.” Moore and Jakel agree that a plant’s oil separation system should be tailored. “Every plant is unique and we know there are changes in corn profiles across the country,” Jakel says. “Some regions have lower or higher oil, depending on

where you’re at. So that also has to be taken into consideration.” And Moore says there’s still time to tailor an enhanced oil extraction process. As enormous renewable diesel projects announced in the past few years start operating, corn oil will continue to be favored as a feedstock, he predicts. “Much more is coming online. “This is something the industry has been talking about for a while. The pre-

diction on the demand side is coming to fruition and we’re of the opinion that it’s just getting started.” Author: Lisa Gibson Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4920





T e a m i s what it tak es.®


ND eC North Dakota Ethanol Council


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Primed for

COMMERCIALIZATION Sustainable aviation fuel set for explosive growth, offering a potential market for ethanol as feedstock. By Susanne Retka Schill

GLOBAL GROWTH: Globally, aviation consumed more than 100 billion gallons of jet fuel in 2019. Interest is growing in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), but ethanol’s role in that burgeoning market is still uncertain. PHOTO: ISTOCK


Interest in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is taking off with all the renewed focus on reducing global greenhouse gases.

Yet, while alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATF) is one of several approved processing options, it’s uncertain whether corn ethanol will be favored as a feedstock in what could be explosive SAF growth. One ASTM-approved pathway has reached commercialization status—hydro processed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) using fats, oils and greases. A second ASTMapproved pathway—alcohol to jet (ATJ)—will reach commercialization in the next couple of years. Both pathways are approved for up to 50% blending, with work ongoing to expand the blend rate. Counting the projects that have already been announced, Steve Csonka, executive director of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative, says SAF capacity could reach 1 billion gallons by 2025, amounting to a 1% blend rate. “If you count work going on



'One of the ways to lower the life cycle analysis for ethanol and biodiesel is to introduce a winter cover crop. ' Steve Csonka Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative

that hasn’t been publicly announced, we could maybe even get to 2% by 2026,” he says. Global aviation consumed just over 100 billion gallons of jet fuel in 2019, with expectations that total consumption will more than double by 2050.

Coming Online

LanzaJet is one of the companies expected to bring commercial production of ATJ fuel online next year. Beginning this spring, Burns & McDonnell is engineering and installing utilities and infrastructure at LanzaTech’s Freedom Pines R&D and demo site in Soperton, Georgia. Engineering firm Zeton is simultaneously building the first 10 MMgy modular system at its factory, for the LanzaTech site. Burns & McDonnell’s site work is expected to be completed early next summer when the modules are scheduled to arrive. The modular approach is efficient,

says LanzaJet CEO Jimmy Samartzis. “When the module arrives, you’re not starting from scratch. The unit has been tested and commissioned in large part.” LanzaJet expects to use factory-built modules for facilities aiming at 10 to 30 MMgy production rates, and a mixture of stick-built plus modular construction for larger facilities, Samartzis says. “When you think about what we want to accomplish with ethanol as the feedstock and a focus on local or regionally sourced ethanol, keeping them at this size makes sense in terms of sustainability.” LanzaJet’s ATJ modular approach complements parent company LanzaTech’s technology that uses carbon-rich gases to feed its microbial conversion process. Getting its start with biomass gasification, LanzaTech pivoted in 2011 to using steel mill flue gas as the carbon source. Its joint venture in China




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The LanzaJet technology is unique among the handful of competing ATJ technologies, in being able to produce up to 90% SAF and 10% renewable diesel, with no other products. If desired, the mix can be adjusted to produce as much as 75% renewable diesel and 25% SAF. Jimmy Samartzis LanzaJet

scaled up the process and has successfully reached 10 MMgy commercial scale producing ethanol and other biobased chemicals. A year after beginning work in China, LanzaTech joined a collaboration led by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory using waste-based ethanol as the feedstock for ATJ process development. LanzaTech acquired the technology in 2018 and formed LanzaJet to launch commercialization. LanzaJet technology is based on the unique catalysts developed by the PNNL collaboration. The ATJ process starts with dehydration, running ethanol through a reactor with a catalyst to remove water. The resulting ethylene hydrocarbons are then combined using a second catalyst to build the range of carbon chains needed for jet fuel in a process called oligomerization. Another catalyst hydrogenates the carbon chains,

which are then fractionated into synthetic paraffinic kerosene as renewable diesel and jet fuel. The LanzaJet technology is unique among the handful of competing ATJ technologies, Samartzis says, in being able to produce up to 90% SAF and 10% renewable diesel, with no other products. If desired, the mix can be adjusted to produce as much as 75% renewable diesel and 25% SAF. Launched in June 2020, LanzaJet has secured off-take agreements for all of the Georgia production with Suncor, British Airways and All Nippon Airways and attracted major investors. “We are fortunate to have Suncor, Mitsui and Shell as investors because they all play in ethanol markets in different ways,” Samartzis says. “Mitsui is a pretty significant ethanol trader. Suncor has operations and involvement in ethanol in Canada and the U.S., and Shell,


Markets obviously has an interest.” Each of the partners brings a geographic interest, he notes, that will potentially result in projects in Japan, North America, the U.K., Europe and around the globe. A European project launched in December targets operations beginning in 2024, Samartzis adds. The FLITE (Fuel via Low Carbon Integrated Technology from Ethanol) consortium received a 20 million-euro EU grant to build an ATJ plant using LanzaJet technology. Site selection and other details will be announced in the coming months. The European Union and U.K. have a strong focus on waste-based feedstocks, Samartzis says, although ethanol from any feedstock is suited for the LanzaJet process. “For us, a lot comes down to what are the supporting policies for sustainable aviation fuel and what is required to participate in those mechanisms? It’s also about what end users want to fly on.” In

some cases, it’s not the feedstock that is the concern, but the country of origin. “In the right markets, our gallons of SAF get close to being competitive with conventional jet fuel, but that is enabled by policy,” he says, adding that there’s a reason the majority of SAF in the U.S. is used in California, where the value of carbon credits under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard creates favorable economics.

Sustainability Scoring

The aviation industry has its own carbon scoring and development mechanism as part of a broad policy framework developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization. Under the carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation (CORSIA), the default analysis of U.S. corn ethanol for ATJ scores at 55.8 grams/megajoule, Csonka says. Another 22 grams is added for land use change, resulting in only a

12.5% reduction in carbon relative to jet fuel’s baseline. “U.S. airlines are primarily interested in greater levels of reduction, although there may be some airlines in some parts of the world that might accept such scores,” he says. CORSIA does allow petitions to replace the default value with assessments that use actual data to potentially lower the carbon intensity, he adds. Corn ethanol faces hurdles, Csonka admits. “I know folks have asked EPA to go back and do a reassessment on what the baseline life cycle analysis looks like for corn ethanol today. I hope that work gets done. Having worked with some of the folks providing technology in this space, I agree that they’ve made leaps and bounds over the past few years.” Discussions around sustainability with nongovernmental organizations go beyond carbon intensity scores to include issues around water quality, land use change and food versus fuels. “There are

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things out there that can be done to make ethanol production look more attractive to everyone involved,” Csonka says, citing cover crops as an example. Csonka is particularly interested in new oilseed cover crops such as pennycress or carinata. “One of the ways to lower the life cycle analysis for ethanol and biodiesel is to introduce a winter cover crop. It’s more work, but it addresses multiple things: an incremental revenue source with three crops in two years instead of two, no new equipment, and addresses issues with pesticides, herbicides, nematode control, pollinator habitats, water quality, erosion control and soil carbon sequestration.” Expanding oilseed crops and tapping into ethanol producers’ corn oil coproduct would actually be the fastest way of ramping up SAF production, Csonka explains. As the most mature technology, the HEFA pathway converting lip-

ids into SAF is beginning to drive down costs. Furthermore, the supply chain for oilseed crops is established and adaptable to new crops alongside existing soy and canola feedstocks. Supplying distillers corn oil will likely be the way corn ethanol producers will first participate in SAF, he says. In preliminary modeling, LanzaJet ATJ fuel sees an 80% reduction in carbon intensity relative to conventional aviation fuel when using waste-based feed sources. Much depends upon the market and the model used to calculate carbon intensity, Samartzis says. “With the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, it’s one thing and with EPA, it’s different and it depends upon the feedstock. Our process itself adds some carbon intensity to the overall equation, but it’s not a lot. The bulk of the carbon intensity impact is from the ethanol itself,” he says. “We’re still in the middle of modeling that out

with different feedstocks and different markets.” An advantage for LanzaJet is that the ethanol feedstock needed for its ATJ process is produced at commercial volumes around the globe. Samartzis does not rule out any ethanol source. “We’re also talking to corn ethanol producers in the U.S.,” he says. “There are some terrific stories of low-carbon corn ethanol opportunities. I don’t want to discount that. I think it’s a matter of keeping all these various interests in mind and aligned as we move these technologies forward.” Author: Susanne Retka Schill Freelance Journalist










111 Willis Ave, Wheeling IL 60090 ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 33

presents 2021 Faces of Ethanol


Director of Quality, Alto Ingredients Inc. PEKIN, ILLINOIS

As director of quality for Alto Ingredients Inc.’s Pekin location, Stacy Swanson supports lab work for four production facilities.

On working in ethanol I started my career at the USDA Agricultural Research Service primarily doing benchtop experiments on starch-oil composites. I left my technician position to finish the last year of classes and research for my master’s degree in chemistry. After graduation, I went to work at Aventine Renewable Energy in 2013 (currently Alto Pekin, LLC) as lab analyst and then lab coordinator for the Pekin site. Then, I was offered a full-time teaching position with Spoon River College, and I loved the years I spent teaching general and organic chemistry. Aventine called when they had a lab manager opening and offered me the position. It provided me the opportunity to move up the ranks as quality manager and ultimately as director of quality for Alto Ingredients. In my current position, I am able to use my background in research and education to support our growing lab/quality department for the four production facilities on the Pekin site. We provide 24/7 support for two distilleries, a food-grade yeast plant, and a fuel ethanol plant, and ensure the product quality of wet and dry mill coproducts, fuel ethanol, beverage-grade alcohol, and API- and excipient-grade alcohol that meets pharmaceutical industry requirements. The day to day No two days are the same, and the last year has been mainly spent on reviewing regulatory requirements, implementing new testing and documentation, expanding the lab coverage and training new analysts, onboarding employees with our new electronic recordkeeping system, equipment qualification, process validation, and many certifications including ISO 9001, HACCP, ICH Q7, EXCiPACT, and more. My favorite part of the job is watching our team continuously improve and adapt to the tasks that arise as we bring on new equipment and testing. On ethanol in the community Our company has made community service a priority by offering an annual community service day for all employees. We can pick a service day activity of our choice, and within my department we have donated time to Salvation Army bell-ringing, food pantries, local car shows, pancake and sausage suppers for charity, Veteran’s Day celebrations, Halloween trunk-or-treat, wildlife education and prairie maintenance. We have representation on the Chamber of Commerce and continue to bring job growth to the Pekin community. On working with industry partners During the start-up of one of our facilities, I worked with BASF Technical Sales Representatives. They went above and beyond analyzing data, supporting us on-site regularly, and sending out samples for testing. Their support was integral and the partnership was greatly appreciated.


presents 2021 Faces of Ethanol


Plant Manager, Alto Columbia LLC BOARDMAN, OREGON

Angela Boatman had no ethanol experience when she applied for her first position at the plant, now she is plant manager at Alto Columbia LLC, formerly known as Pacific Ethanol Columbia in Boardman.

Working in ethanol I graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. My first job out of college was working for a high-tech microprocessor manufacturer in Hillsboro, Oregon. I worked there for 11 years and then left my job to move back to eastern Oregon. My husband and I were raised in small towns in Eastern Oregon and we wanted to be closer to our families while raising our two daughters. In 2012, I came across a job opportunity for plant superintendent for a cellulosic demonstration facility in Boardman, Oregon. I applied and was offered the job. I had no experience with regards to the ethanol industry—just a lot of determination and tenacity. This is how my ethanol career started. From there, I played musical chairs at the Columbia plant. I was the maintenance manager for two years, then moved into the production manager role. In 2019, I was promoted to plant manager. There is never a typical day at an ethanol facility. I try to incorporate a daily routine, but you never know what the day and/or night will bring and how long your working day will be. When I first get to the plant each day, I review plant performance and begin to set priorities for the day. As the plant manager, I am responsible for all aspects of the plant operations from production, maintenance to the commodities department. I enjoy my job because there are always challenges and opportunities to learn. I am successful because I have a great group of people working with me that have the same passion and concern about their job and work environment. I know that I may not be able to solve every problem, but with my team I know “we got this.” As a woman in ethanol I have never felt that I have been impacted negatively being a woman working in the ethanol industry. I have always believed if you work hard, ask people for help when you need it and try to do right, then respect from peers and managers will come as well. I can remember taking engineering classes in college and a peer pointing out that we were the only two females in the class size of 100 plus. Up to that point, I had never noticed the ratio of women to men in engineering classes. The same holds true working as a woman in the ethanol field. I don’t think about it. I believe having more diversity in any work environment is a benefit. It allows for better decision making and problem solving and, in return, adds value to a business. Working with industry partners I met Tamila Fraser from BASF back when I was in the production role at Columbia. We trialed one of their products, Lutropur MSA. More recently, our corporate engineering team has been collaborating with BASF Enzymes on several different innovative projects. BASF is always willing to help, no matter the issue. A few months back, we lost the beer well agitator gear box and did not have a spare. BASF used their network to try to locate a gearbox and gave us solutions to manage the solids in the beer well, while waiting on a replacement for the gear box.



Collaboration, Upgrades, Resilience The Ethanol Producer Awards highlight industry leaders and their contributions to their industries and communities. By Matt Thompson

2020 was a year of struggle, but the ethanol industry illustrated its trademark resilience. Ethanol Producer Magazine is extra pleased this year to recognize plants, companies and projects that are helping their communities, helping the industry, and remaining strong in the face of ever-changing market conditions.

The winners of the 2021 Ethanol Producer Awards are:

The Good Neighbor Award: Commonwealth Agri-Energy

Mick Henderson, general manager of Commonwealth Agri-Energy, a 45 Mmgy plant in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, says he is proud his plant was able to help during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to upgrades the plant had undergone two years before, Commonwealth was able to quickly start producing ethanol for use in hand sanitizer. “Not to say that we were planning on some big hand sanitizer push, but three years ago, when we did our plant expansion, we were utilizing a cascading pressure distillation to do that expansion energy efficiently,” Henderson says. At that time, they put a side-cut on the top of the still “just in case,” he adds. When the pandemic hit, Commonwealth tapped that line to make ethanol for hand sanitizer.


of the overall production at Commonwealth, but Henderson says it’s a long-term investment. “We started investing in the plant,” he says. “We probably spent $1 million last summer in pretty short order to make it safe and efficient.” And, he says, the focus has been on producing a quality product, and the plant produces USP-quality ethanol for hand sanitizer. “I think it’s a good diversification of the product line that will serve the business well, long-term,” he says. “It was a motivational incentive for my employees to come to work when it was kind of scary for a while,” he says. “The motivation was that we were supplying an ingredient, not just in the local gasoline, but providing that hand sanitizer on the counter at schools and hospitals. That was a real feel-good shot in the arm for us.”

Board of the Year: Glacial Lakes Energy

TOPPING OFF: Commonwealth Agri-Energy's new stainless steel storage tanks are part of the plant’s commitment to producing high-quality ethanol for use in hand sanitizer. PHOTO: COMMONWEALTH AGRI-ENERGY

Henderson says at the start of the pandemic, the first request for ethanol for hand sanitizer production came from a nearby Army base. Soon after, the plant formed partnerships with local distilleries that produced the hand sanitizer, allowing them to remain operating during the crisis, which Henderson says may not have otherwise been the case. “The distilleries were being shut down; fuel ethanol fit the bill,” Henderson says. “These little craft distilleries were going to have to all shut down, so they said, ‘Can you supply us, too?’” And Commonwealth did. Henderson says each of the three distilleries Commonwealth partnered with were using 12 to 16 totes a week at one point during the height of the pandemic. “We were the silent partner, for the most part,” he says. Producing ethanol for hand sanitizer may only be a small part

Glacial Lakes Energy’s Watertown, South Dakota, plant was the first Fagen and ICM plant, which Jim Seurer, Glacial Lakes Energy CEO, says has become %2$5' the industry standard. That plant opened in the early 2)7+(<($5 2000s, and many of GLE’s current board members were also on the board at that time. Seurer says working with a board that has such longevity has its advantages. “I think it makes my job easier, especially as some of these guys are historians. They remember fact patterns that have occurred. It helps me focus on just continuing to be the most efficient and get the most out of our facility,” Seurer says. In his nomination, Dave VanderGriend, ICM CEO, noted that “The trajectory of the fuel ethanol industry could have been very different if not for the efforts of the GLE board, Dennis Vander Griend and Ron Fagen,” as the board took a chance on the ICM/ Fagen plant design. Seurer agrees with VanderGriend. “Had they not kicked that door open, what would it look like today?” Seurer says. “It could look much different than it does. And we all know that the Fagen/

BENEFICIAL BOARD: Glacial Lakes Energy’s board of directors set the path for ethanol in the early 2000s. PHOTO: GLACIAL LAKES ENERGY



ON THE MAPS: Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits parks its research and development fermentation trailer at Absolute Energy.

ICM plants, in terms of efficiency and forgiveness, rank right up there as one of the best,” he says. Despite challenging industry conditions, Seurer says the board continues to meet its goals and objectives. “We sat down with the board early on when there were shutdowns occurring, and we chose maybe a little different route,” he says. “We just felt like the best answer was to keep pushing forward and meeting those commitments.” Despite the challenges the pandemic brought, Seurer says capital improvement projects were delayed, but still completed. “[The pandemic] did slow some of our plans with the two new plants, the Huron and Aberdeen plants,” he says. “It was a collaborative approach, and the board had a high level of trust in management, and we pulled through very well.” Seurer says new faces are coming to the GLE board. “We’re in the process of transitioning the board. We’ve got newer folks coming on, in some cases second genera-


tion of founders, which is identical to what is going on on the farm,” Seurer says. But the board will still benefit from experienced members. “We still have some of that longevity, some of that history out there.”

Collaboration of the Year: Absolute Energy and Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

Longevity is also important to this year’s recipients of the collaboration of the year award: Absolute Energy and Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits. “We have had a very good relationship with Lallemand for some time,” says Rick Schwarck, president and CEO of Absolute Energy, a 125 MMgy plant in St. Ansgar, Iowa. “They’re stepping up and making a commitment to the industry to help with yeast development and improved fermentation and conversions,” he says, adding that

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SUPERIOR DISTILLATION: Green Plains Inc.Superior in Superior, Iowa, is one of three plants upgraded with state-of-the-art distillation systems. A new evaporate sits on the left, with new beer columns on the right. PHOTO: GREEN PLAINS INC.

those improvements help increase yields. “Better yield leads to a better CI (carbon intensity) score for the overall industry,” Schwarck says. Schwarck points specifically to Lallamand’s research and development trailer, which is located on Absolute Energy’s campus, and has been in operation for about three months. “It’s a series of mini fermenters that replicate the plant,” he says. “When they’re developing and trialing new yeast, you can do that using our direct mash, in those fermenters to see how they perform.” After successful testing in the R&D trailer, Schwarck says, the yeast can then be tested on a larger scale in the plant itself. The advantage, Schwark says is that it “[cuts] down the delivery time from development to actual application of a product.” “Lallemand’s a good partner as we implement this research and development for the benefit of the whole industry, not just us,” Schwarck says.

Project of the Year: Green Plains Inc.

Last year, Green Plains Inc. completed upgrades to the distilla352-(&7 tion systems in three of 2)7+(<($5 its plants: Superior, Iowa, and Fergus Falls and Fairmont in Minnesota. Those upgrades resulted in less downtime for cleaning beer columns and reboilers, lower operating



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costs, significant reductions in energy usage, and improved carbon intensity scores, according to Ryan Hennes, senior project manager at ICM, who nominated the Green Plains projects. The three distillation upgrades are part of Green Plains’ Project 24, an initiative to reduce operating costs to below 24 cents per gallon. “Our Project 24 improvements have reduced energy and water usage, lowering operating costs and, more importantly, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint,” says Todd Becker, president and CEO of Green Plains Inc. “We are continually focused on transforming our operations to become more sustainable and efficient, on our road to creating the biorefinery platform of the future.” “Not only do those projects represent a large step forward as far as reducing the energy usage at those plants, we reduced the downtime at those plants,” Hennes says, adding that downtime is a major problem at plants using high pressure distillation systems. “Those plants are down fairly consistently to do a CIP process.” “The plants have experienced a reduction in maintenance cost as the stress of shutting down and then starting back up during CIP days has been eliminated,” says Adam Crotteau, senior vice president of operations at Green Plains. “This has allowed plant maintenance staff to focus on performing preventive maintenance tasks instead of being reactive to equipment failures.” Hennes says the system works by “combining the advantages of a high-pressure rectifier with the benefits of a vacuum beer column.” The high temperatures and pressures in beer columns, he adds, can lead to rapid fouling, which means the columns need to be cleaned often. The addition of a vacuum beer column, which operates at lower temperatures, reduces fouling, Hennes says. An evaporator is also added, which condenses 200-proof vapors, and reduces the energy consumption used in distillation. “You see such dramatic results with those projects,” Hennes says. “Each proj-

ect demonstrated a reduction of over 5,000 btus per gallon and a reduction in electricity of over 0.2 kwh per gallon.” In addition, the plants have been able to go at least six months between shutdowns. Project 24 brings even more benefits, Crotteau says. Syrup volume is greatly reduced due to higher solids in evaporation, corn oil yield increases due to the favorable operating conditions, and DDGS color is improved due to lower operating temperatures in distillation.

Workplace of the Year: Valero-Welcome

As Ethanol Producer Magazine’s recipient of the Workplace of the :25.3/$&( Year award, Valero Re2)7+(<($5 newable Fuels’ plant, in Welcome, Minnesota, is invested in its employees. According to Welcome’s plant manager, Nicole Gries, Valero considers its employees one of the most critical parts of the business. “[Valero] fosters a culture that supports diversity and inclusion, and provides a safe, healthy and rewarding work environment with opportunities for growth.” Lillian Riojas, Valero’s executive director of public relations and creative services, agrees. “We consider our employees a competitive advantage and our greatest asset,” she says, adding that the company provides extensive training, including professional development and leadership training, as well as tuition reimbursement. Those investments in employees pay off—according to Gries, the plant has a low turn-over rate. In 2020, she says, four employees retired, all of whom had been with the plant since its startup in 2009. Health, wellness and safety of its employees are also important to Valero. Gries says the Welcome plant offers a Total Wellness Program which “invites employees to Choose Well, Live Well and Be Well, and includes not just annual medical benefits enrollment, but also a variety of virtual health and financial wellness training sessions throughout the year.” Gries reports the Welcome plant has not had a recordable injury for any of its employees in the last

WELCOME WORKPLACE: Valero’s Welcome, Minnesota, ethanol plant invests in its employees and fosters a culture of diversity and inclusion. PHOTO: VALERO

two and a half years—five years for contractors. Those statistics, among others, led the plant to receiving Valero’s Chairman’s Award for Excellence in 2020. Riojas echoes Gries in the importance of employee safety. “We believe safety is our foundation for success.” The Total Wellness Program grew out of feedback from employees, Riojas says. “Employee feedback is critical to continuous improvement of our programs,” she says. “This feedback prompted new programs, such as Financial Wellness and participation incentives in the Total Wellness Program.” Welcome’s plant management is a diverse group, according to Gries. She says the leadership team is half female, including her role as plant manager. In addition, 14 of the plant’s 68 employees are military veterans. “A Welcome shift supervisor was honored in 2020 with the Patriotic Employer Award from the Department of Defense program Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), after being nominated by an employee in recognition of the plant’s support of his and other service members’ military commitments,” Gries says. Author: Matt Thompson Freelance Journalist

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E15 Update

E15 GAINS MOMENTUM Pandemic resiliency, pending regulatory changes, infrastructure incentives speak to strong E15 outlook. By Susanne Retka Schill UNLEADED88 INCREASE: E15, branded by Growth Energy as Unleaded88, grew in availability and, in some states, purchase volumes in the past year, despite COVID-19. PHOTO: GROWTH ENERGY


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Hopes were high for E15 expansion in the summer of 2020 after the U.S. EPA’s warm weather restrictions limiting E15 to flex-fuel vehicles were eliminated the year before.

Then came COVID-19. People left their cars parked, stayed home and gasoline demand tanked. So it was encouraging news when ethanol associations began reporting E15 sales held up in 2020. In early April, the Renewable Fuels Association reported data from the Iowa Department of Revenue showed E15 sales jumped 24% in 2020, despite a 14.3% drop in overall motor gasoline consumption in the state. Iowa’s drop in gas usage mirrored the national trend, which saw a 13.5% reduction in 2020 compared to 2019. Data from the Minnesota Department of Commerce showed 2020 E15 sales nearly held steady, down just 4%. Data on E15 sales is scarce, notes Cassie Mullen, RFA director of market development. “This is information retailers hold very close to their vest.” The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency doesn’t track E15 yet, nor does EPA. Data is available 'We’ve had more in some states as a result of related conversations with program reporting. The reports are encouraging, refineries in the Mullen says. “I don’t see signs of past three months E15 growth stopping, considerthan we have had ing the growth we saw during the in the last 10 years. pandemic. We can thank retailers By our accounting, like Sheetz, Casey’s and Kum & Go for making E15 a mainstay prodwe’ve been in front uct alongside their regular product. of enough people Consumers are getting higher-octo represent about tane, lower-priced fuel.” Retailers 50,000 retail sites report cost savings at the pump for nationwide, and it’s consumers of between 3 and 10 been primarily new cents, plus the benefit of E15 not cannibalizing sales of other blends. people.' “E15 is driving consumers to their Mike O’Brien Growth Energy lot,” she says. “When somebody sees it on their sign, they’re gaining a new customer.” Retailers participating in Growth Energy’s E15 program do report monthly sales, says Mike O’Brien, vice president of market development, but confidentiality agreements prohibit disclosing the gallons sold. O’Brien can report the percentage changes, however, which shows E15 sales in 2020 grew by more than 10% alongside a 10% growth in the number of sites offering the blend. “It speaks to the strength of E15,” he says. “Coming into spring, we were seeing sales volumes increase across the board as things opened up from COVID-19.” Momentum is growing, O’Brien says. “We’ve had more conversations with refineries in the past three months than we have had in the last 10 years,” he reports. And, with the help of two new staffers working with him in market

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HBIIP Success

More stations will be offering E15 in the next year or two as a result of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s $100 million Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program. USDA reports all of the funds have been awarded and has made a couple of announcements so far on committed funds, Mullen says, with more to be announced. RFA helped 33 companies secure HBIIP grants in 21 states, accounting for more than 1,200 dispensers at 244 'Most who do HBIIP locations, Mullen says. The $24 million are putting in E85. in USDA funding will be matched by And the E85 cost and $40 million in retailer funding. E15 implementation Growth Energy reports helping get muddied together. retailers garner about $30 million for Most retailers could about 300 sites. “We’re going to have do E15 for very little or some new players,” O’Brien adds. “The biggest of note is Maverik. The west has nothing.' not had much E15 activity and Maverik Ron Lamberty is the largest retail entity in the western American Coalition for Ethanol part of the U.S.” Another significant player in the southeast participating in HBIIP is Circle K Atlanta, he says, which has connections to the largest retailer in the world. “That will give us some footing outside the U.S.” The American Coalition for Ethanol has focused its outreach on small retail-

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E15 Update

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ers with a single station or small chain. Last July alone, ACE’s summer campaign to promote HBIIP attracted more than 15,000 people to its information and video web pages, with 192 visitors heading directly to the HBIIP application page that month. But while there was interest, the ability of singlestore or small chain retailers to participate was limited, says Ron Lamberty, ACE senior vice president. “It was such a complicated process that the average Joe just didn’t do it.” ACE is aware of a handful of small retailers who were awarded grants with the help of the organizations providing grant writing assistance. In retrospect, Lamberty wonders if the focus on getting folks to apply for HBIIP funding confused the message he’s been pushing since E15 became legal. “Most who do HBIIP are putting in E85,” he says. “And the E85 cost and E15 implementation get muddied together. Most retailers could do E15 for very little or nothing.”

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Regulatory Hope

The widely promoted idea that stations have to do costly 'When most stations put infrastructure upgrades to offer E15 is flat out wrong, Lamin E15, it immediately berty says. “All pumps and becomes about 15% of nozzles are warranted for 15% sales. In areas where they already and the overwhelming market it aggressively, majority of underground storit has gradually come age tanks are compatible for 100% ethanol.” He points out up to where E15 is their that for decades, the UL defibestselling gasoline grade, nition of blends in its certifiwhere it’s more than half cation documentation speciof sales.' fies blends from zero to 100% Ron Lamberty ethanol. American Coalition for Ethanol “I’ve been hammering EPA about some of the rules on E15, which got put together at a time when everybody was being fed stories about what would happen with E15,” Lamberty says. “Now that we’ve got 10 years of experience, nothing has happened.” EPA’s rules for E15 are expected to be changing soon, once the agency reviews the comments on its proposed rules that were due in mid-April. The proposed changes would make it easier for station owners to demonstrate their equipment is compatible and would require equipment installations in the future be fully compatible. Besides reducing a barrier for station owners, the proposed rule promises to minimize a barrier for consumers at the pump—the orange warning label. EPA proposed two options: eliminating the label entirely or modifying it. “We would prefer no label,” Mullen says. “But we prefer a label that’s less cumbersome in the language, and get rid of the orange color.” In anticipation of new E15 rules, Lamberty reports a renewed push by op-

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ponents claiming the change would be too expensive. “They’re doubling down on the lie and hoping they can get more people permanently afraid before the rules change.” He points out that in both Minnesota and Iowa, where ethanol supporters are seeking E15 mandates, there’s talk of it costing $500,000 to convert a station. “That would replace very piece of equipment in a station that had to do with refueling,” he says. “It’s ridiculous.” “I’m hoping when EPA’s proposed rule becomes final, if it ends up as it was written, people will look at it and say, maybe I do have equipment that will work,” Lamberty says. Getting station owners to try E15 is key, he adds. “If they try it, they’ll keep doing it. When most stations put in E15, it immediately becomes about 15% of sales,” he says. “In areas where they market it aggressively, it has gradually come up to where E15 is their bestselling gasoline grade, where it’s more than half of sales.” O’Brien reports a promising move among some major retailers toward replacing E10 with E15 as the primary fuel. “We’ve got 20 sites we’ve seen this at for a year now, and sales are in the range of 70 to 80% of total sales.” He expects a handful of retailers to put similar programs in place this summer. The word is out about E15’s successes, he adds. “This retail industry is a little smaller than what people realize, and they talk to each other.”

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Author: Susanne Retka Schill Freelance journalist




Growth Energy has launched a consumer campaign to promote E15’s benefits to the optimal audiences. By Lisa Gibson

Consumer Awareness Following and complementing its Prime the Pump initiative, Growth Energy is launching a consumer campaign to increase awareness of the environmental benefits of E15. The goal is to trigger

more sales of E15 to consumers who want to make a small change for a big Earth impact. Ideally, they’ll fill up with E15 and also demand more access to it. Growth Energy’s Emily Skor, CEO, and Elizabeth Funderburk, vice president of communications and public affairs, speak enthusiastically about their new endeavor, named Get Biofuel, and the goals they’re setting for it. “What this campaign does is appeal to the emotion of wanting to do something in a small way that can benefit the environment,” Funderburk says. “I’m really excited about it,” Skor adds. “The growth opportunity for the industry is going to be when E15 is the standard fuel offering nationwide. In order to get to that place, we’ve got a full throttle industry effort and you really have to pursue three different things.”

‘E15 Trifecta’

Skor calls the three-pronged approach the “E15 trifecta.” First is policy: summer E15 use is approved; there’s ongoing work toward favorable E15 labeling; and efforts are underway to ensure equipment compatibility and clarity on rules and regulations, Skor says. “There’s a whole program of work that we’re leading in that policy realm.” Next is leveraging commercial opportunities and that’s where Prime the Pump shines—in expanding E15 availability from retailers, she says. “The third leg of the stool to complete the entire market development strategy is prime the consumers to demand something different,” Skor says. “They need to demand a fuel beyond what they currently have in terms of their choice and that is what this campaign represents. “This is where we connect the dots for the consumer. We showcase the environmental benefits of higher blends and encourage them to choose higher blends at the pump.” Funderburk adds, “Everything we do is really with a focus on driving demand and we know what that

GET UNLDEADED88: Growth Energy is pulling its Unleaded88 branding from Prime the Pump into its Get Biofuel consumer-focused campaign. Branding and recognition are key, says Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. PHOTO: GROWTH ENERGY


Consumer Awareness means on the market development front. We also know what that means whether it’s in the states or on Capitol Hill, but throughout, the consumer really has a critical role to play.”

The Target

Based on extensive market research, Growth Energy has identified women and millennials as its target audience for Get Biofuel. “They are most likely to change their fuel choice, if you say to them, ‘I’ve got a fuel that’s better for the environment and better for the engine and is going to save you money,’” Skor says. “We’re targeting the consumer in her space. We’re targeting millennials and women, and those for whom climate consciousness is very top of mind. There’s a whole new generation of consumers and drivers who want to make a difference.” “These were groups that really had interest in making a small change that could really benefit the environment and they found that really compelling,” Funderburk says. Women and millennials had a more

FUEL BEYOND: Growth Energy’s Get Biofuel campaign invites consumers to “Fuel Beyond” and choose ethanol blends at the pump. The campaign emphasizes benefits to the environment. PHOTO: GROWTH ENERGY

open interpretation of biofuels than other target groups in the market research, she says. Air quality and climate issues have never been more pervasive than they are now in influencing consumers’ purchase behaviors,






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Skor says. “It’s the right time because we’ve got the right mindset across the country.”

The Message

The environmental focus is crucial, both Skor and Funderburk agree. Get Biofuel will

drive awareness of ethanol blends and the small changes that can be made while fueling up. “First, we raise awareness around these environmental benefits of biofuels, and then we want to connect them with the changes someone could make every day at the pump, spurring demand for E15 and higher blends, which ultimately will drive sales at the pump,” Funderburk says. “So we want to appeal to them and their wants to benefit the environment.” Many in the millennial and female focus groups had positive impressions of biofuels, but didn’t have an opinion about ethanol, Funderburk says. “These days, people tend to be either really pro or really negative about ethanol. In this audience, many hadn’t formed an opinion so this was a good way to get in front of them and engage, educate. “Many were new drivers and were interested in being more informed,” she adds. Safety for vehicle engines will also be a main message. “We have to make sure consumers and these audiences know this will not harm their engines,” Funderburk says. “That’s a big stumbling block. That is the message that perpetuates. “You can have a fresh new campaign look, but it does come down to brass tacks: Will this harm my engine? We have to give consumers what they need to feel confident that it will not.” Get Biofuel is a three-year campaign that now is in a pilot phase with projects in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Salt Lake City, Utah. “A lot is in reach, but about 18 months into the program, we really want to see how this is impacting demand,” Funderburk says. “A lot will be identified from our initial pilot.” Eventually it will be nationwide. “We’ll go where there’s availability, maximize the footprint and gauge where consumers are headed and Learn More At where their interest is,” Funderburk says. “But we don’t want to limit it to those markets. There’s much to be done in those markets where there isn’t sig-

nificant availability of E15 but there could be. … Ideally, we want people not only to go to the pump to fill up with E15, but also demand that they have that access to E15 at their local gas stations, as well.” Get Biofuel is the logical next step after Prime the Pump. “Now we’re priming the consumer to demand that more,” Skor says. “At the end of the day, we start by driving awareness, but this is about driving behavior change,” she adds.

The Outcome

In addition to awareness and education, Get Biofuel invites consumers to sign the Biofuel Pledge on its website,, outlining the decision to switch to a friendlier fuel. The implications for the community-forming pledge could be far reaching in the future. “It could mean something on the policy level eventually,” Funderburk says. “For now, it’s general for

those who want to make a commitment and are deciding what that next step is.” The Get Biofuel campaign is designed to pique interest and prompt further research on the part of the consumer, Funderburk says. “Once we appeal to them, they can go and proactively find out more about it,” she says. “They can have their own assessment. On the most basic level, this campaign is bumper stickers on top of bumper stickers.” “This is a very empowering initiative,” Skor says. “I’m really excited because it’s a quality of creative that we really haven’t seen in the industry,” she adds. “It’s really of a very high caliber and I’m excited about it.” Author: Lisa Gibson Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4920


Consistent. Responsive. Innovative.

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Carbon Competition Modeling electric vehicle carbon intensity by state and month shows winter penalty erases EV advantage in northern states By Steffen Mueller When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ethanol and electric vehicles (EVs) are technologies with great potential. Combined, they could be even better. A recent study conducted by the Energy Resources Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago found all EV and ethanol blends provide substantial GHG reductions relative to gasoline-only vehicles. Notably, high-octane fuel vehicles (HOF) using E25 or E30 provide similar GHG savings as EVs in many states. Importantly, E85 and HOFplug-in hybrids are the lowest GHG-emitting technologies.

Ethanol at high-blend levels can provide immediate GHG benefits while EV adoption increases.

LEADING THE CHARGE: University of Illinois research shows the carbon reduction achieved by the use of electric vehicles is gained again during the winter in northern states. Researchers say EVs must be paired with high ethanol blends.

Our analysis compared the GHG emissions from EVs to those from internal combustion engines fueled with a variety of ethanol-gasoline blends. When calculating life cycle emissions for EVs, most modeling tools include upstream emissions but utilize average national or regional electricity grid emission factors. A closer look at the electricity grid suggests using average grid emissions may be inadequate. A large-scale build-up of the


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).


Table 1. Rural Illinois: GHG Emissions of Ethanol Blends and EVs SOURCE: UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

120 100


80 60

EVs on AVERT Marginal Grid (Seasonal Adjustments) EVs on AVERT Marginal Grid


Gasoline E15 HOF E30


EVs on Avert Marginal Grid (Annual Avg) HOF Hybrid

0 Jan













EV fleet should be preceded by life cycle modeling efforts as detailed as those performed for the U.S. EPA’s 2010 Renewable Fuel Standard. Adding substantial power loads for charging EVs will require a greater reliance on marginal generating capacity—generating plants with average marginal emission factors 21% greater than the grid average. Researchers have determined the difference can be as great as 68%. A marginal generating resource is the lowest-cost power plant that responds to a change in power demand. Another factor to consider when projecting future emissions from EV charging is the marginal electricity mix variation by time of day and month. While it is assumed most EV charging will be done off-peak, it’s not certain. Furthermore, GHG emissions are often higher than

average during late night and early morning—low-demand hours when coal is the dominant marginal fuel. In our study, we calculated the marginal emissions factors for 15 states and regions in the Upper Midwest using the latest version of EPA’s Avoided Emissions and geneRation Tool (AVERT) model. AVERT analyzes how hourly changes in demand change the output of fossil-fuel generators and with that, their emissions. We compared the marginal emissions to the annual average for each of the 15 states and regions modeled to find only one—Missouri—was quite low with a 6% difference. Ten states or regions experience marginal emissions that are 25% to 50% higher than average grid emissions (Chicago metro, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin). Three states experience marginal emissions that are 50% higher or more than the average (Colorado, Indiana and Kentucky). We then modeled what the marginal emissions would look like by each month for charging EVs and compared that with emissions from gasoline, E15, E85, HOF with E30, and HOF in a plug-in hybrid vehicle. (See tables 1 and 2) Rural Illinois is connected to the Midwest AVERT Region. The light grey area in the chart represents the carbon intensity of EVs charged on the local, marginal electricity mix by month. The darker sections of the curve represent an additional penalty assigned to EVs for inefficiencies during winter charging. It is obvious that all studied alternative vehicle technologies are generally cleaner than gasoline. However, during severe winter times when significant cabin heating is required, EVs in rural Illinois will not be cleaner than gasoline (dark grey area graph approaches blue gasoline line). HOF

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Table 2. Metro Chicago: GHG Emissions of Ethanol Blends and EVs SOURCE: UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS





60 EVs on AVERT Marginal Grid (Seasonal Adjustments) EVs on AVERT Marginal Grid


Gasoline E15 HOF E30


EVs on Avert Marginal Grid (Annual Avg) HOF Hybrid

0 Jan













vehicles provide very similar GHG savings compared to EVs on average (red line compared to grey area). E85 and the HOF-hybrid vehicles are the best options. The situation is different for the Chicago metro area, which connects to the less carbon intensive (CI) Mid-Atlantic AVERT region, resulting in lower CI values for EVs. Even in this region, HOF vehicles running on E30 are cleaner than EVs during some winter months. The modeling done for the remaining regions show similar results. In nine states, the CI for EVs approaches or equals E15 and gasoline during the winter months, with E85 and HOF-hybrid vehicles the best options year-round, with CIs lower than EVs on the average AVERT marginal grid. Ethanol at high-blend levels can provide immediate GHG benefits while EV adoption increases. Long-term, due to the similar GHG savings of EVs, E85 and HOF, promoting these technology options toward the same adoption level across many Midwestern states will significantly increase the GHG emissions reductions that can be achieved by any one technology alone. Utilities across the Midwest face significant challenges when implementing load-shaping and demand-side measures to avoid EV charging on both peak load and during marginal coal/natural gas hours. E85, HOF and HOF-hybrids can provide the natural bridge and ensure the cleanest use of resources. Biofuels received a lot of scrutiny in the scientific/modeling world when the RFS was first implemented. The modeling included indirect effects as removed from the Midwestern Corn Belt as emissions from shifts in Asian rice production (a source of methane emissions) in response to impacts on global food production due to increased ethanol production in the U.S. EV life cycle analyses need to get the same level of attention, and EVs should be held to the same standard as biofuels. We need to carefully watch for policies and incentives, for example, that act as an implicit subsidy to EVs but ultimately are incurred by the electricity consumer.



Author: Steffen Mueller Principal Economist, Energy Resources Center University of Illinois at Chicago 312.316.3498 ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 57


Mobile Fermentation Unit Enhances Yeast Development Cycle

The Lallemand semi-trailer is no stranger at FEW, but this year attendees are invited to step inside and see the company’s new Mobile Application Process System. MAPS aims to test new strains in real world conditions, speeding up development. PHOTO: LALLEMAND BIOFUELS & DISTILLED SPIRITS

Using a plant’s mash in real time aims to de-risk and speed up pre-commercialization trials. Developing new yeast strains can be challenging. What looks promising in the laboratory needs to be validated in the real world, but a full trial at an ethanol plant takes time—sometimes up to 10 weeks—and comes with risks. There’s a reason why we often get asked: “Who’s already run this before, we don’t want to be first.” The risk of a costly plant upset or a stuck fermentation is very real. Aiming to de-risk yeast trials for cooperating ethanol producers while reducing the time required to introduce productive new yeast strains into the market, Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits continues its commitment to innovation by developing a new approach. We are proud to now introduce, the Mobile Application Process System, to the industry this summer at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo. The mobile unit will be used to test yeast strains in research and development under real-world conditions at multiple plants. Developing new yeast strains is a multi-step process. First comes idea generation and subsequent lab work that identifies promising new strains. Generally, we will need to run multiple experiments to confirm that the desired results will hold up without any unintended side effects. While we can try to mimic plant parameters in the laboratory or we can even take mash from a facility into the lab, it’s never a true representation of what goes on in fermentation in a commercial ethanol plant. The lab will never be able to replicate certain plant processes such as flow conditions, upsets or low-grade contaminants. Once a strain passes the initial screening tests, the laboratory results need to be validated in real-world conditions. Some strains will be returned to the lab for more work while others will begin optimization—a phase that until MAPS could take weeks at a single plant and months when tested at several plants. With MAPS, we expect to cut that time at least in half, plus enable testing strains with other new technologies being deployed in the ethanol industry. Housed in a 53-foot semi-trailer, MAPS is a self-contained fermentation unit complete with a propagation tank, six 300-gallon fermenters and a generator to run the agitators, instruments and distributed control system. The design, engineered and built by Nelson Baker Biotech, uses a plant’s mash flow to fill the system. Nelson Baker worked with Interstates to install the automation and DCS system. Commissioned late last summer, we’ve been learning how to operate the system and duplicate the fermentation kinetics at our primary host plant, Absolute Energy, a 125 MMgy plant located on the MinnesotaIowa border near Lyle, Minnesota. Parked near fermentation alley at the plant, lines connect the MAPS to the plant, receiving mash for propagation and eventually fermentation. Once fermentation is complete, the material gets pumped back into the beer well for downstream processing. MAPS can then be cleaned using the same connections from the plant. MAPS is designed to not only use the host plant’s mash, which au58 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2021

tomatically exposes the yeast to the plant’s recycle streams, but also to mirror its cleaning regimen. We were pleased when our initial runs in MAPS matched up to the plant’s kinetics and HPLC results within 93%. As we’ve learned more about fine-tuning the system, we’re reaching 98% congruity. Once we’ve validated the new yeast strain’s characteristics first identified in the laboratory, we can use MAPS to optimize other parameters such as yeast dosing, pH, nutrition, and temperatures to get to peak performance. Because it’s basically a mini fermentation system, we are able to test in real time other parameters that are hard to replicate in lab conditions, such as recycle streams, temperature and fusel tolerance; temperature staging and the ability to optimize enzyme additions. Another advantage of MAPS is being able to run multiple parallel fermentations on the exact same mash under the exact same conditions as the plant. This creates a true apples-to-apples trial comparison, which would not really be possible without this system. This is as close to how things will run in the plant as you can currently get. This new system allows us to cut the time required for commercial scale trials and to test our new yeast strains under a range of industry conditions and mashes. The system is designed to be mobile so it can be moved to other partnering ethanol producers representing different designs, process flows, fermentation times, recycle streams or different bolt-on technologies (such as protein extraction) being deployed in the industry. Because plants experience all sorts of fermentation challenges, we are now also able to test new strains instantly and remove those timeconsuming validation steps. This really helps to increase confidence in a new strain’s performance. MAPS is truly the first of its kind to be use in yeast development. We fully expect to partner with others in evaluating new technologies such as new inline measuring and analytical techniques and testing equipment that will give live results on fermentation. We also expect to use MAPS to validate other LBDS technologies that we are developing. “We’re looking forward to the new research and development taking place at Absolute, developing and deploying new strains for ourselves and the industry as a whole,” says Rick Schwarck, president and CEO of Absolute Energy. “And because the research and development is taking place on site, at an operating plant, putting the results in real-world use should happen faster and more efficiently than we’ve done in the past. It’s important for the health of the industry that we improve our efficiency and lower our carbon intensity as we move forward.” Author: Francois van Zyl Director of Technical Services-North America, Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits 217.417.6361

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Bulk Procurement Automation Reduces Risk for Business Beyond Usual

Jay Shatilla

COVID-19 makes an easy case for automation but the benefits extend well beyond mitigating risk during a pandemic. When it comes to bulk procurement of feedstock for pulp and paper mills, ethanol plants and pellet producers, Circuit Design Corp.’s Bulk Procurement and Logistics System (BPAL) offers a solution that removes risk from the raw material supply chain and creates long-term benefits that extend beyond the present moment. It’s no secret that automating manual processes generates cost-saving benefits by reducing human resource allocations, lowering the occurrence of human error and building real-time operational and administrative efficiencies. CDCorp’s BPAL System was designed not only to deliver these benefits but also to address and remove pain points specific to bulk procurement. “The BPAL System was born out of a clearly articulated need for increased efficiency across the raw material supply chain,” says Jay Shatilla, President of CDCorp.


“We’ve enhanced and expanded its features over the last 10 years in direct consultation with supply chain managers to understand and improve the day-to-day experience of people operating in this field.” BPAL integrates hardware and software systems to reduce manual participation in bulk feedstock delivery while providing real-time remote management and administrative control functions. Through automated sequencing of entry and exit access control, traffic monitoring, inbound and outbound weigh scale registration, sample control, quality analysis, and delivery point control BPAL reduces the risk of human error and maximizes operational efficiency during delivery. On the administrative side, BPAL’s user-friendly interface provides remote access to real-time reporting and information transfer, vendor, payment, contract management and feedstock delivery transaction reporting from all connected devices.

Spotlight BY ICM INC.

Feed Diversification, Differentiation Drive ICM Advancement Innovative suite of technologies transforms distillers grains into high-value feed ingredients.

“Our technologies were developed out of improvements in our ethanol process,” says Matt Durler, ICM vice president of feed development. “However, we’ve found major benefits for both ethanol producers and animal feeders in providing new feed options. The feed no longer has to be one-size-fits-all. It can be tailored to individual markets.” ICM’s Advanced Processing Package combines four patented and patent-pending technologies: Selective Milling Technology (SMT/SMTV2), Fiber Separation Technology (FST/FSTNextGen), Feed Optimization Technology (FOT), and Thin Stillage Solids Separation System (TS4). Together, the APP platform technologies allow producers to separate “clean piles” of valuable feed components that are unique to the ICM process: fiber, protein, enhanced protein with yeast and solubles. The clean piles can be combined in many different ways to design customized feed products for different animals. The new feed products are moving beyond crude, Durler says. “Beyond crude protein, crude fiber, crude fat. We have to dig deeper to understand what really matters to the end user. APP gives ethanol producers the option of creating a wide variety of animal feed, from products that provide high energy to cattle and pigs, to products that concentrate protein for the higher-valued monogastric space and aquaculture, with the potential for further refining critical amino acids for pet food and specific species.” Removing the fiber before fermentation with FST creates a very low fiber stream that FOT concentrates to create fermented, protein-rich distillers grains. When the protein is combined with the yeast cake separated from TS4, it creates a 50% or higher protein feed that ICM trademarked as PROTOMAX. Durler adds, “50% yeast-enriched protein products have been consistently trading at or above soybean meal prices and as high as $200 per ton above traditional DDGS.” In addition to producing PROTOMAX, ethanol biorefineries can produce a new feed by combining two other feed components. “The pile of non-fermented fiber separated by FST meets the legal definition of bran—a well-understood feed ingredient. This bran is combined with solubles separated by TS4 to create a feed that is as nutritious as conventional DDGS,” says Ryan Mass, ICM’s director of nutrition and feed development. ICM has trademarked this new feed as SOLBRAN. “It was no surprise that bran plus solubles performs well in cattle rations,” Mass continues. ICM supplied product for three feed conversion trials conducted with beef cattle in 2018 at the University of Nebraska. “In these three studies, we pulled feed from

ICM Inc. rotary dryer PHOTO: ICM INC.

two plants with FST and ran the trial three times. Two times, this feed tied with DDGS in performance and the third time, we beat DDGS.” Swine research conducted at the University of Minnesota in 2020 reached a similar conclusion: the metabolizable energy available to pigs from SOLBRAN was equal to regular DDGS.

Preserving Feed Quality, Lowering Carbon

In drying, preservation of the protein and bran functionality and digestibility is critical, says Chuck Gallop, ICM operations development manager, technology development. “ICM has carefully designed the APP process for intensified continuous dewatering, which allows rotary dryers to do an excellent job preserving the feed quality.” A traditional plant produces decanter wet cake around 37% solids, Gallop says. “By fractionating these components and processing them independently, we see a 5% to 7% increase in solids to 41% to 44%, and up to one pound of oil per bushel of corn, which is substantial.” The fiber separated with FST at the front end is processed through a proprietary rotary press to achieve roughly 40% to 41% solids. With the fiber removed, the remaining stillage after fermentation contains fewer suspended solids, Gallops says, “which means we can optimize the decanter centrifuge to dewater that protein to as much as 45% solids. When you put the wet cake into the dryer to remove the remaining water, it requires less time, and the temperature doesn’t need to be as high.” PROTOMAX is directed to one dryer with optimized settings, ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 61

Spotlight BY ICM INC.

FST Next Gen rotary press PHOTO: ICM INC.

while the bran and soluble fractions are combined and directed to the other dryer. The conveyors are engineered to maximize customization, Gallop says. “We can put the bran and solubles and protein back together to make traditional distillers grains, keep them separate, or anything in between.” Incorporating TS4 technology adds more efficiencies. “TS4 uses high G-force centrifuges to remove suspended solids from the centrate. With the suspended solids removed, the evaporators operate more efficiently on the remaining thin stillage, achieving solids concentrations greater than 50% instead of the typical syrup

SOLBRAN: bran plus solubles PHOTO: ICM INC.


with 30% to 35% solids. The water removed from the solubles in the evaporator systems is available for recycling, rather than being removed in the dryers and vented to the atmosphere. The combined efficiencies translate to reduced natural gas usage up to 12%, Gallop says, plus a reduction in electrical consumption up to 5%. The electric reduction is counter intuitive, he admits, because adding more equipment with motors would be expected to use more horsepower and electricity. The opposite happens, Gallop says. “When the ethanol plant pulls fiber out before fermentation, all of the downstream equipment works more efficiently. The pumps and agitators don’t have to keep the fiber suspended, which means they do less work and use less electricity. When TS4 removes suspended solids from thin stillage, the resulting syrup is up to 10 times less viscous and each of the evaporation recirculating pumps uses less horsepower.” Trimming energy use results in major savings and carbon intensity reductions close to 2 to 4 points. Alongside high-value, differentiated feed products, APP enhances the process in multiple other ways to improve the bottom line, Gallop suggests, with the opportunity to create more cash flow through strategic technology investments.


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