BENEATH YOUR OWN
FACILITY Analyzing Geology for Onsite CCS PAGE 30
Prioritizing Merchant CO2 Capture PAGE 24
E85’s All-Bio Naphtha Blend PAGE 16
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JULY 2022 VOLUME 28 ISSUE 7
AD INDEX/EVENTS CALENDAR
EDITOR'S NOTE Capturing Carbon, Market Opportunities and Moments By Tom Bryan
GRASSROOTS VOICE High Gas Price Solution? It’s Simple …
FEATURES 16 BLENDS
In Pursuit of Pure
The quest to make E85 a totally biobased fuel By Melissa Anderson
DRIVE A Myth-Buster’s Job is Never Done By Emily Skor
GLOBAL SCENE In 2022, Net-Zero is About More than Climate BUSINESS BRIEFS
By Katie Schroeder
The Ethanol Industry’s Commercial Capture By Katie Schroeder
Sequestering In Place Why on-location CCS works for some producers
By Andrea Kent
CIP Solutions and Customer Relationships
The merchant market for clean carbon dioxide
By Ron Lamberty
SPOTLIGHT 40 SUEZ
By Luke Geiver
Homeland Energy hits 2-billion-gallon milestone By Katie Schroeder
ON THE COVER In North Dakota, two ethanol plants are currently working toward onsite carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). In late 2020, Blue Flint Ethanol, part of Midwest AgEnergy Group, drilled a stratigraphic test well to study the feasibility of CCS. The company is still assessing the feasibility of carbon capture. PHOTO: MIDWEST AG ENERGY
Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) July 2022, Vol. 28, 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
Capturing Carbon, Market Opportunities and Moments The first thing the carbon capture folks will tell you about ethanol plant CO2 is that it’s clean and easy to compress, move and store. On its face, that sounds odd. After all, we’re talking about the purity of a product that’s about to be sequestered underground for eternity. But it’s true. Ethanol plant CO2 is ultra high quality—free of impurities—unlike other industrial sources. As told in “The Ethanol Industry’s Commercial Capture,” on page-24, what makes ethanol plant CO2 perfect for sequestration has, for years, also made it ideal for merchant capture. And while more than 50 U.S. ethanol plants are now readying for CCS, an equal number of them already capture CO2 for myriad commercial and industrial uses. And a lot of merchant CO2 producers are now asking what, if any, compensation, credit or financial bump they should receive for continuing to supply a vital U.S. product while other producers tee up attractive CCS tax credits. Indeed, most of the recent media attention on biofuel CCS has been focused on pipelines—and rightly so, it’s exciting—but stand-alone CCS projects may be positioned for earlier success simply because they don’t have to deal with the thorny challenge of pipeline development (i.e., landowner hesitancy). In “Sequestering In Place,” on page 30, we report on how a handful of U.S. ethanol producers are planning to explore, or have already studied, the feasibility of capturing and storing CO2 onsite, or very close to the confines of their operation. For those with the right geology under foot, it’s an attractive proposition. One of the 50-plus ethanol plants exploring CCS right now is Homeland Energy Solutions LLC, which recently hit its two-billionth-gallon milestone, a production mark that gives context to the plant’s 13 years of operation, expansion and change. As we share with our readers in “Landmark Moment,” on page 36, the northeastern Iowa biorefinery is currently operating at nearly 200 MMgy, but started out half that size in 2009. The company’s current CEO, Telly Papasimakis, attributes the plant’s success to a culture of “principled entrepreneurship” and a management style that encourages a “discovery mentality.” Jumping into carbon capture requires a little of both things, and CCS is part of Homeland’s three-pronged strategy for future success: branching into new products, operating the plant at peak utility and reducing the carbon intensity of the biofuel it makes. Homeland’s journey to 3 billion gallons will be fascinating to watch, and we will. Also, before you put this issue down, page back to “In Pursuit of Pure,” on page 16, a timely story about San Diego-based Pearson Fuels’ quest to provide its wholesale customers with E85 made almost entirely of two biobased inputs: ethanol and renewable naphtha, a byproduct of renewable diesel production. E85 sales are booming in California—its $2 a gallon cheaper than regular unleaded right now—and the demand for this novel all-bio product is strong. But getting renewable naphtha with the right specs approved and supplied at scale will take time, deal making and technical savvy. Enjoy the read.
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6 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
Good for the environment and your bottom line
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High Gas Price Solution? It’s Simple …
CMO, American Coalition for Ethanol 605.334.3381
When someone says, “It’s so simple …,” what usually follows is one of a few things: 1) a complicated explanation that’s only simple to the person and the rocket surgeons they work with, 2) proof the speaker/ author doesn’t have any idea what they’re talking about, or 3) a simple but inaccurate explanation designed to mislead people and deflect blame from those who actually caused the problem. There has been plenty of number two (pun intended) when it comes to “simple” explanations for recent gasoline price increases, but most excuse-making “experts”—who I can only hope were well paid to say the ridiculous things they've lent their names to, writing columns or doing interviews that offer simple explanations for recent gasoline price increases—fall into category number three. I came across a new claim—and a time-honored blame-shifting classic—recently, which reminded me how far politicians and media will reach to avoid placing blame for increased gas prices where it belongs. An op-ed calling the Jones Act the “real culprit of high gas prices,” said the act made it three times as expensive to ship oil from the Gulf Coast to New England than from the Gulf Coast to Europe. I didn’t verify the claim because the author offered “real" dollar amounts of $6 and $2 a barrel, respectively. Assuming the numbers are true, the difference is a dime a gallon, not the buck and a quarter increase we have experienced. Another classic distraction is a claim that fuel taxes are to blame, but that doesn’t add up either. The true “real culprit of high gas prices” actually is very simple. Gas prices are higher because oil companies raised them. A lot. Big Oil issued dire warnings about supply concerns when Russia invaded Ukraine, then jacked up their prices so additional cash from our pockets could soothe those concerns. Remarkably, oil companies have somehow maintained a steady supply of $4 gas and $6 diesel. No outages. Oil defenders also say prices had to rise due to increasing costs. Fair enough, and easy to verify. If prices rose only to offset new higher costs, oil company profits would be flat, not the record profits and massive margins we’re seeing this year. As usual, retailers are blamed and receive additional scrutiny from politicians and media without sharing in any of Big Oil’s windfall. Retail fuel margins are lower than last year, and every link of the supply chain before them is pocketing mammoth profits. Price gouging is happening nearly everywhere but where they’re looking. Ethanol, the RFS and RIN prices also get our regular unearned share of blame from those who don’t know, or don’t care, that ethanol costs a buck a gallon less than gasoline, or those who are fully aware but know from experience they can tell reporters it’s ethanol’s fault—and those journalists won’t bother to check actual prices. For ethanol and retailers, the best defense has been at the pump, where E15 and flex fuels offer realworld proof more ethanol equals lower prices. The more high-blend retailers we can add by explaining ethanol profit opportunities, assisting with new USDA grants, and anything else we can do to help them sell more of our fuel, the harder it will be for Big Oil and their apologists to point the finger at retailers or ethanol the next time they see an opportunity to shake down U.S. drivers.
8 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
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A Myth-Buster’s Job is Never Done
CEO, Growth Energy 202.545.4000
Despite a wealth of data and decades of science on the benefits of bioethanol, incessant detractors continue to attack renewable energy, circulating false claims based on erroneous assumptions. Of course, this is par for the course in the fossil fuel industry, which has long promoted dismissive and ill-informed attitudes about the farm community’s climate contributions. That’s why Growth Energy works hard to arm our champions with the facts and showcase why plant-based biofuels remain one of America’s best tools to deliver immediate carbon reductions, cut smog, and even stabilize food prices. That doesn’t stop opponents from periodically resurrecting the same old false claims, however. In the last year alone, with the fuel savings from bioethanol surging to new heights, our critics have only lashed out harder on other fronts to protect the status quo. For example, a team led by Tyler Lark has been circulating unfounded claims about biofuels since at least 2015. A few months ago, they returned with the same argument, repackaged in a paper falsely arguing that biofuel production increases acres of farmland, negating the contributions of biofuels to our fight against climate change. In reality, U.S. Department of Agriculture data clearly show that U.S. cropland acreage has fallen—not risen—over the last century, and that trend has continued under the Renewable Fuel Standard. According to a scathing review by the nation’s top modelers, including those at the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab, Lark’s latest study is once again guilty of making “questionable assumptions,” “double-counting” emissions and using "outdated and inaccurate projections” in order to discredit the vast contributions of low-carbon biofuels to our fight against climate change. Fortunately, researchers at Argonne and the Environmental Protection Agency, and a host of other leaders in the field of emissions modeling, recognize the undeniable climate benefits of bioethanol—a nearly 50 percent carbon advantage when compared to gasoline. Recently, we also saw the same anti-biofuel playbook used in attacks on E15, with clean energy critics slamming President Biden’s decision to remove restrictions on the sale of E15 this summer. Critics claimed that summer sales of E15 would threaten air quality—despite the indisputable fact that higher bioethanol blends have lower evaporative emissions than traditional blends, while reducing smog and offering cleaner, healthier air for all. Myths about bioethanol aren’t limited to emissions. For example, critics have tried to present a false choice between affordable food and bioethanol. But steady demand for biofuels enables farmers to invest in making more efficient use of existing cropland, allowing them to supply more food and energy than ever before. Even in today’s market, global harvests remain strong, and the U.S. is projected to end the year with a corn stockpile of 1.44 billion bushels. The true driver of food prices is the cost of crude oil—a correlation demonstrated by the World Bank and other experts. We saw during COVID what happens when bioethanol plants are shut down—our nation’s livestock sector loses access to critical animal feed. That’s because bioethanol production draws on the starch in each kernel, while the rest becomes distillers grains, high in fat and protein. Far from consuming nutrients, bioethanol plants concentrate them into America’s second-largest source of animal feed. Again, attacks on bioethanol are nothing new, and we’re sure to see them pop up again. Fortunately, the facts are on our side, and we’ll continue to bust the myths and educate our elected leaders. As EPA Administrator Michael Regan noted recently, expanding the role of biofuels is “a critical strategy to secure a clean, zero-carbon energy future.”
10 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
In 2022, Net-Zero is About More than Climate
Board Member and Past President Renewable Industries Canada Vice President of Industry and Government Affairs Greenfield Global Inc. 1.833.476.3835 email@example.com
Reaching net-zero and transitioning to renewable fuels is fast becoming as much about economic and energy security as climate. Politicians need solutions, consumers want relief, and both should look to homegrown biofuels. The world has changed a lot since February. The invasion of Ukraine, inflation hit a 40-year high, and analysts are predicting that $2-litre gas prices (roughly $6 USD a gallon) will be the “new normal” for many Canadian drivers this summer. The basic problem is not complex: prices go up when high demand meets uncertain supply. How much higher remains to be seen. The geopolitics of oil is well understood, but so must the benefits of renewable fuels. Encouragingly, political leaders are getting on board. The European Commission is deploying renewables to wean off Russian natural gas, and U.S. President Joe Biden has temporarily lifted the summertime ban on E15 sales. But as important as these public statements and rapid response measures are, more will need to be done. And it will be strong, stable, long-term renewable fuel policies—not quick fixes—that will make the difference. Canada’s national Clean Fuel Regulations (CFR) policy is expected to be finalized this June (possibly before this column is published). For the biofuels industry and policymakers, the timing is good news. And the CFR could be a prime example of how to collectively address climate, protect energy security, and support the economic transition. First, the CFR is a performance-based regulation. Done well, it will provide business and investment certainty. The CFR structure will allow the marketplace to effectively see and understand carbon intensity in fuel products. Blending more ethanol becomes an attractive option as it is both an affordable low-carbon fuel and already widely used. Next, the CFR will work best as a complementary policy, working in concert with provincial renewable fuel blending requirements and other carbon pricing schemes. Many jurisdictions will continue to address their environmental challenges with biofuel policy, which the national CFR should not replace. The biofuels industry must keep advocating so that regional and complementary regulatory signals stay in place. This includes enforceable regional renewable fuels blending mandates, measuring carbon intensity based on sound science and real-world lifecycle assessment, and ending exemptions and subsidies that erode the market for ethanol. And last but not least, keeping ethanol on the path to net-zero. Ethanol is already reducing greenhouse emissions by about 50 percent compared to traditional gasoline. And by implementing current technologies and proper lifecycle carbon assessment and accounting, ethanol can be a net-zero carbon emission fuel. In the CFR, lifecycle assessment must recognize this and keep pace with innovation. As monumental and long-awaited a policy as Canada’s final CFR is, it will still be one piece of the energy security puzzle. But it stands to be a big one, and ethanol remains an ideal fit.
12 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
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Aemetis Inc., through its subsidiary Aemetis Biogas Services, has signed a sixyear supply agreement with Trillium to provide an estimated 600,000 MMBtu of renewable natural gas (RNG) to be used as transportation fuel in California. The RNG will replace the equivalent of 4.3 million gallons of diesel fuel, primarily used in heavy duty passenger and cargo vehicles. Aemetis completed Phase 1 of its Central Dairy Digester network in 2020,
with two fully operational digesters and four miles of pipeline. The biogas from Phase 1 has been used as process energy at the Aemetis Keyes biorefinery to reduce the facility’s dependency on petroleumbased natural gas and to decrease the carbon intensity of fuel produced there. Phase 2 of the network consists of a centralized biogas upgrading facility, a utility gas pipeline interconnection unit, 10 dairy digesters and 32 miles of additional pipeline, all planned to be completed later this year. The company plans to establish more than 60 digesters by the end of 2026.
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Green Plains announces aquafeed partnership with Riverence
Green Plains Inc. is forming a joint venture with the Riverence Group to expand aquafeed production in Idaho. The venture will produce trout and salmon feeds for Riverence, utilizing ingredients that include the 60 percent-plus fermented protein product recently produced in early runs at Green Plains Wood River. “This partnership is yet another validation of our transformational path, creating a portfolio of innovative ingredients tailored to meet specific customer needs,” said Todd Becker, president and CEO of
Green Plains. “The Riverence Group is a highly respected aquaculture producer and we are eager to realize the value this collaboration brings to both partners. Using our low-carbon ingredients in Riverence’s feeds can help them achieve their goal of using sustainable, domestically produced plant-based ingredients.” As part of the deal, Green Plains contributed capital and is supplying key ingredient services, while Riverence contributed existing assets and a feed offtake agreement. The joint venture is anticipated to become operational in 2023.
Navigator CO2, Big River announce CCUS agreement
Navigator CO2 Ventures LLC has forged a long-term agreement with Big River Resources LLC and Big River United Energy LLC to provide turnkey carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) services for three Big River ethanol biorefineries located in West Burlington, Iowa; Dyersville, Iowa; and Galva, Illinois. Through the arrangement, Navigator’s planned Heartland Greenway pipeline system will capture, transport and utilize or permanently store CO2 from the plants.
The letter of intent between the companies outlines the key terms of the deal, describing how Navigator will provide “capture-to-end-use” CCUS services, including realization of environmental attributes related to permanent removal of CO2 from the atmosphere—through emissions avoidance—and finding key value optimization opportunities for captured CO2, for an initial term of 20 years and an annual volume of 1 million metric tons of CO2, which is equivalent to offsetting the annual carbon emissions of more than 215,000 vehicles. Start of operations is expected to begin in 2025.
Summit completes $1 billion equity raise, runs radio ad campaign
Summit Carbon Solutions, developer of the world’s largest proposed carbon capture and storage project, successfully completed a $1 billion equity fundraising effort in May. With more than $600 million already raised from prior investors, including Continental Resources Inc. and Tiger Infrastructure Partners, Summit secured commitments of an additional $400-plus million, including $300 million from TPG Rise Climate.
The conclusion of Summit’s fundraise comes on the heels of a recent announcement of its joint venture with Minnkota Power Cooperative, which will provide Summit access to the largest fully permitted carbon dioxide storage site in the United States, located in central North Dakota. There, Summit plans to capture and permanently store up to 20 million tons per year of carbon dioxide from dozens of Upper Midwest ethanol plants and other industrial facilities. Also in May, Summit launched a fivestate radio ad campaign highlighting the benefits of the company’s proposed CO2 pipeline.
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IN PURSUIT OF PURE
San Diego-based Pearson Fuels is showing its wholesale customers that E85 can be made almost entirely from biobased inputs using ethanol and renewable naphtha. The demand is there, but will the latter ingredient become available at scale? By Melissa Anderson
Gas prices are high in California. Very high. But Pearson Fuels is help-
ing drivers reach their destination without breaking the bank, while helping the planet at the same time. The majority of Pearson’s products are found at the pumps of its wholesale customers—branded retail stations and a handful of independents that are currently selling a lot of E85 in Southern California—some of which is now made with a special, all-bio blend. Doug Vind, a managing member of Pearson Fuels, tells Ethanol Producer Magazine that a small percentage of Pearson’s E85 is now being blended with renewable naphtha, a coproduct of renewable diesel production that not only provides some cost relief but reduces the fuel’s carbon intensity. In other 16 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
words, the incentive to blend ethanol with renewable naphtha is not only a strategy for lowering blending costs but also producing a lower-carbon ethanol-based retail fuel— and one of the only pure biofuels available for retail sale in the U.S. It’s one of those rare instances when eco-friendly and economical converge. “We are blending it up and creating an E85 where the 15 percent component is renewable naphtha,” Vind says. “It blends very well, and we’re just happy as can be. We would love to do more.” That is, they’d like to get more naphtha—and the right kind. Producers of renewable diesel have a sizeable incentive to get their renewable naphtha to the West Coast, from qualifying for RINs to credits for LCFS-qualifying low-carbon fuels. There
are hinderances though, as not all renewable naphtha can go straight into ethanol. Vind explains that the product’s suitability as an E85 ingredient depends on how its parent product, renewable diesel, is made. Different refining processes result in significantly different coproduct. That variability, and just finding enough of the right naphtha, makes it a still questionable blending agent for E85. “We are going to try place renewable naphtha everywhere in our E85 system because California likes it,” Vind says. “It’s consistent with their low-carbon policies. It keeps us in the game because, while we used to just compete against regular unleaded, we now have to compete, from a policy standpoint, with the electrification movement.” The easiest way for ethanol to compete against the past (fossil fuels) and future
TANKER TO TANK: Pearson Fuels supplies E85 to Southern California retailers and has recently experimented with offering an almost-pure biofuel version made of ethanol and renewable naphtha. PHOTO: PEARSON
(EVs) is to be as renewable as possible and provide liquid fuel consumers with an ultra-low carbon bridge fuel. The demand is there, ethanol is abundant, but renewable naphtha is still not. While Pearson had initially been able to blend about 40 percent of its E85 output with naphtha, it had had to cut back as the supply couldn’t keep up with demand at their customers’ pumps. “From our unique position in California, my philosophical belief is that the E85 gallon needs to be as close to fully renewable as possible,” Vind says. Achieving this goal requires not only replacing the hydrocarbon component of E85, but also the denaturant used to make ethanol salable and transportable under federal law. In California, Vind explains, the ethanol industry must strive to eliminate any-and-all fossil-based product from E85 to stay relevant and compete with electric vehicles. With renewable naphtha replacing the hydrocarbon component of E85 (i.e., gasoline), it reaches new heights and instantly creates a totally green, affordable transportation fuel. But it can perhaps go one step further, not only playing the role of hydrocarbon in E85 blends, but eventually becoming an authorized denaturant for ethanol. That’s a move Vind strongly supports as a way of making the E85 a truly renewable fuel.
ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 17
Blends “We need to stay relevant to the policy makers and politicians, we need to get into renewability,” Vind says. “We are still bringing in product that is denatured in the old-fashioned way. There is a lot of miles in between production, in most cases, and where we need it. Those logistics have to get figured out, and we have to make sure we are putting in the right product so we don’t have to further treat the fuel.” Pearson Fuels is using renewable naphtha strategically, stretching its limited supply as far as possible, and waiting for the forthcoming wave of production as naphtha becomes a more ubiquitous byproduct of increasing renewable diesel production. As that happens, Vind firmly believes E85 is a tailor-made product and ideally suited for a long-term pairing with the biobased input. “Naphtha seems like it will afford us the ability to use it as a renewable, cost efficient blend stock,” he says. “We have been moving toward trying to substitute for a while, and naphtha really does present itself as the candi-
18 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
date for doing that.” The Renewable Fuels Association has been working behind the scenes to get the first piece in place to make renewable naphtha a major coproduct rather than an afterthought of the renewable diesel industry. Kelly Davis, vice president of regulatory affairs at the RFA, shared that a technical committee of the association submitted a notification to the Tax and Trade Bureau in April, requesting renewable naphtha be added to the authorized materials of denaturants for ethanol to be used for fuel. “We do think it could be used as the hydrocarbon and denaturant in E85,” Davis says, explaining that the information they submitted to the TTC was based on data gleaned from a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study. As Pearson found to be true, there is still only a very small stream within the renewable diesel manufacturing process that is making renewable naphtha suitable as a hydrocarbon source in E85. The issues of supply and specification have brought the product into greater focus for the RFA. The group commissioned
ON TOP OF THEIR GAME: Established 20 years ago, Pearson Fuels is the largest and fastest growing distributor of E85 in the state of California. PHOTO: PEARSON
the aforementioned study with NREL to analyze all the current streams of supply of renewable naphtha to determine if it was possible to use it not only as the hydrocarbon but the denaturant. The results were positive. “One of the things the industry would like is a greener, even less carbon intense E85,” Davis says. “The renewable diesel industry came on strong with a coproduct of
renewable naphtha. There might be an opportunity for some ethanol producers to buy lower carbon intensity hydrocarbons like renewable naphtha and use it to lower their own carbon scores.” Davis agrees that commercial volumes of renewable naphtha should grow quickly as both renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel production ramps up. She explains that as the production increases, producers
will need to find markets for the product. While ethanol is the prime candidate to use it, the current supply uncertainty will need to be addressed quickly. However, it’s not the first step the RFA is taking to bring the renewable naphtha stream into ethanol production and high-blend formulations. “Right now, I’m working on the feasibility,” Davis says. “Let’s make it so we can use it, and once we can use it, we can figure out
BIOFUEL BARGAIN: The E85 supplied by Pearson Fuels in California has been selling for about $2 a gallon cheaper than regular (E10) this summer at retail stations. PHOTO: PEARSON
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supply issues.” With that in mind, there are specifications that Davis will be working on to establish a clearer standard for uniform renewable naphtha product for integration with ethanol. “Cost will always be a concern here,” she says, but the quality specification is most critical. “When we ran all the chemistry data relative to the renewable naphtha, some of them were quite different. We do think that we will have to do something very similar to natural gasoline and request a certain specification. It will be broad ranging, it won’t exclude very much, but it will have to have a specification on the renewable naphtha to make it acceptable for our use.” As soon as Davis gets the specifications set, the RFA plans to introduce renewable naphtha as the hydrocarbon capable of meeting ASTM standards for flex fuel. Doing this technical legwork is expected to pay off in states like California where low carbon fuel standards would give all-renewable E85 a major premium. From there, the business-to-business work of using the naphtha in ethanol begins. “The whole gambit of the low carbon fuel standard is that it’s a business-to-business transaction for carbon,” Davis explains. “We need a national LCFS, but most people are afraid of it because it [might favor and incentivize] electric cars.” Davis and Vind agree that a long transition exists between a fully electric fleet of vehicles and the fleet of today. From economic factors like affordability for consumers to EV charging and questions about electricity supply and sources, the electric fleet of the future is decades away. In the meantime, there’s this movement to make what’s in-between and beyond as green as possible through innovations such as renewable naphtha being used in place of both the existing denaturant and hydrocarbon of choice in E85. Author: Melissa Anderson Contact: email@example.com
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The Ethanol Industry’s COMMERCIAL CAPTURE CO2 from corn ethanol plants is a great candidate for capture and sequestration because it is so clean. That also makes it a versatile and critical product for myriad commercial and industrial uses. By Katie Schroeder
New and improving methods of reducing the carbon intensity (CI) scores of corn ethanol are enabling producers to tap into markets that place a premium on low-carbon biofuel. Carbon dioxide
pipelines, which seek to aggregate CO2 from Midwest ethanol plants for permanent geologic sequestration—and cut CI scores in half—is an attractive option for ethanol plants that don’t already capture CO2 for commercial use. For the those that do, the jump to sequestration may be complicated by their already vital role as merchant CO2 suppliers. Sam Rushing, president of consulting firm Advanced Cyrogenics and frequent 24 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
contributor to Ethanol Producer Magazine, is an expert on the myriad commercial uses for CO2. He explains that 40 to 45 percent of the CO2 on the U.S. market comes from ethanol production. Rushing’s company helps producers find ways to “monetize what would otherwise be vented to the atmosphere” or, in the near future, sequestered. He says Advanced Cryogenics helps corn ethanol producers find the right use for their CO2, whether that be for captive or merchant use. “It’s all about sustainability as well, trying to come up with programs and sources and destinations that would be sustainable throughout time,” Rushing says. Ethanol giant POET actively captures and sells ultra-high purity CO2 to the beverage industry for carbonated drinks, the
food processing industry for refrigeration, municipalities for water treatment, and more, under the POET Pure brand, according to Doug Berven, POET’s vice president of corporate affairs. “It’s the right thing to do for the environment, to capture it and utilize it wherever we can, rather than venting it,” Berven says. As of mid-April, POET captures CO2 at roughly a dozen of its bioprocessing plants, more than a third of its fleet. While CO2 is not exclusively captured by the ethanol industry, ethanol producers have a unique selling point, in that CO2 captured from the process is renewable whether it is sequestered or not. Berven explains that the CO2 produced at POET has 65 to 85 percent less greenhouse gas
UBIQUITOUS USE: Merchant-captured and processed carbon dioxide has many commercial and industrial uses, such as food and beverage production and delivery, greenhouse plant cultivation, metallurgy, industrial cleaning and more. PHOTOS: STOCK
emissions compared to competitors capturing CO2 from oil wells or ammonia manufacturing. “Any time we are sequestering or utilizing carbon we are reducing [CO2 in the atmosphere]. We’re not adding to [the atmosphere] like our competitors are,” Berven says. “That’s a really important aspect to understand.” Utilizing CO2: Technology and Challenges The technology for capturing and liquifying CO2 in an “over-the-fence” operation at an ethanol plant is not overly complicated, Rushing explains. “We are capturing CO2 off the fermentation process and then we condense it, and can sell it as a liquid,” he says. “What it really amounts to is, we have a skid that takes that CO2, scrubs it
and then utilizes it, puts it in a form that is easy to ship either via truck mostly, or rail.” The transportation element is key and can be a problem for anyone looking to pursue merchant CO2. Rushing explains that the CO2 must be compressed into a liquid in order to be transported and stored, since it would have too much volume for easy containment in gas form. “Thirty percent of the transportation of the commodity is by rail and 70 percent by truck, so it’s all about transportation, it’s the bottom line, it really is,” Rushing says. POET is currently considering a variety of new technologies related to CO2 capture, utilization and sequestration, Berven says. “We are looking at all the options, everything that CO2 might be used for, whether
that’s carbon capture and storage … further downstream technology or just being able to capture it and use it as a wholesale feedstock,” he explains. POET is also continuously evaluating the markets, logistics and political landscape around CO2 utilization. “Various hurdles or just general business challenges,” Berven says. “I think we’ll be working out a lot of those challenges in the near future.” He continues, describing the sensitive nature of the domestic CO2 market: “CO2 is a smaller marketplace, obviously, than the bioethanol or feed products we produce, but there is significant value there for a lot of different markets.”
ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 25
Uses for Merchant CO2 The merchant CO2 sector typically produces food- or beverage-grade product as that large market segment tends to dictate product specs. “Many producers will make their CO2 beverage grade because the quality has higher requirements,” Rushing says. “It’s like the benchmark of good quality, so virtually all the merchant plants are making beverage grade CO2, even though the product might go to food and beverage.” He explains that about 70 percent of the CO2 in the United States goes to the food and beverage industry, 40 to 45 percent of which goes to the food industry where it is used for freezing and chilling, among other uses. Liquified CO2 is very cold and makes a great refrigerant. The beverage side of the CO2 market was holding steady, making up around 15 to 20 percent of the market as consumers had been trending toward buying more uncarbonated sports drinks and bottled water. However, Rushing explains,
26 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
with the explosion of seltzer drinks and specialty beers, there is a growing need for CO2 within the beverage industry. The other 30 percent of the CO2 merchant market is used for industrial purposes, everything from agriculture to the metal trade. CO2 is used for growth enhancement for high-quality crops like cannabis and tomatoes in an enclosed greenhouse environment. “Plants utilize CO2 for photosynthesis and exhale oxygen, so it’s essentially a very good application that’s very common in some markets,” Rushing says. The increased use of CBD has also brought another use for CO2, as it is used to extract CBD oil from cannabis and may be preferred over some other hydrocarbons like propane or butane since it doesn’t have any extra byproducts. CO2 is also used in metallurgy to stir molten metal, a gas shield for welding, hardening sand cores in the foundry industry along with many other applications. CO2 is also used for high-pressure blasting with
COLD PLAY: POET captures carbon dioxide at roughly a dozen of its bioprocessing plants, more than a third of its fleet. PHOTO: POET
small rice-sized dry ice pellets. “Under high pressure, they blast clean instead of using sand and solvents, which essentially means that little-bitty grains of dry ice under pres-
IN THE SHOP: CO2 is utilized in commercial and industrial operations with specialized equipment like this refrigerated liquid CO2 skid. PHOTO: STOCK
sure—like 1,600 pounds of pressure—are used in lieu of solvents, sand and stuff like that,” Rushing explains. “You won’t end up with a big pile of sand or a whole bunch of
solvents on the ground since [dry ice] dissipates directly from a solid to a gas.” All of POET’s carbon dioxide product is beverage grade, and the company is in the
process of looking at technologies to further enhance its CO2 business. POET currently sells CO2 directly to its customers but is looking to expand its reach. “We’re look-
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ing at all different types and forms of technologies and partners to advance the use of CO2 for sure,” Berven says. CO2 that is sequestered may earn producer tax credits, but CO2 captured for merchant use does not earn tax credits since it generally ends up in the atmosphere after its use as a product, Rushing explains. Although merchant CO2 products generally dissipate into the air after commercial use, Rushing says there are technologies being developed to potentially recycle CO2 for additional uses, in refrigerant systems for example. Captive CO2 and Sequestration Captive uses for CO2 include enhanced oil recovery as well as sequestration. “If you turn it into a useful fuel or chemical or something like that, that’s one form of sequestration,” Rushing says. “Otherwise, it would be something like downhole into the right geologic formation. Sometimes it’s for enhanced oil recovery—which is [viable once again] due to the cost of oil these days.” Much of the value proposition for sequestering carbon dioxide currently comes from federal tax credits from Section 45Q, which Rushing says yield producers $20 to $50 per sequestered ton of CO2. Plus, Rushing says, credits given to biofuels that, because of future sequestration, attain
a low CI score (under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard) further amplify the financial allure of sequestration. Although he sees value in merchant CO2, Rushing sees sequestration as the end goal. “CCS, to me, is the future,” he says. “[The planet] is drowning in CO2 … and we’re talking about sustainability here. That’s one thing that really needs to be dealt with—really, really does.” But Rushing feels that the tax credits in place need to reflect some of the other ways producers might take CO2 out of the atmosphere besides putting it in the ground, such as utilizing it to enhance plant growth in an enclosed greenhouse. Hopefully, he says, incentives will be extended to certain types of utilization in the merchant industry. “I’d like to believe that some of this will evolve,” he says. “To me, the cleanest thing in the world, if you think about it, would be plant utilization,” he says. “They suck [CO2] up and give us, you know, something more, whether it be a tomato or something else. They yield oxygen, which we need to breathe, and it’s the same for the forest and everything else … totally sustainable.” Berven agrees that tax credits can help implement renewable products that might otherwise have a difficult time breaking through in a market with established technologies. “Sometimes it does take tax credits or subsi-
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dies to help an industry establish itself, [especially] when it comes to climate change and things like that,” Berven says. “I think there is a responsibility in the political realm to help expedite some of these technologies, no doubt about it. But there are other benefits out there as well.” Ethanol producers have an opportunity to jump into a market which, at the moment, is tight due to Covid-related shortages. “Anybody that is venting the product and not selling it to the industry or [involved with] sequestering it should take a look at all the options,” Rushing says. “Today, it’s more valuable than ever. Prices are high, supplies are very tight—and we’ve even had tight supplies in the Midwest, in the Corn Belt.” Berven believes that there is potential for growth in the CO2 market. “We can use CO2 for so many things, from drop-in designer fuels, to plastics, organic chemistry … the medical field, fire suppression … I mean there’s a lot of different areas where we can use CO2,” he says. “And I think especially for the bioethanol industry, the market is going to expand.” Author: Katie Schroeder Contact: email@example.com
OVER THE FENCE: CO2 from industrial facilities like ethanol plants is processed and liquefied for commercial use. PHOTO: STOCK
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SEQUESTERING IN PLACE
Pipeline aggregation of ethanol plant CO2 has captured industry attention, but stand-alone CCS projects might be uniquely positioned for early success. By Luke Geiver
Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects are integrating into existing ethanol plants like never before. In the
past two years, numerous plants in the heart of ethanol-production country—spanning several Midwest states—have announced their intentions to implement CCS. A majority of the projects announced will rely on pipeline networks to take compressed CO2 from participating ethanol plants to alternative locations where the gas will be utilized for industrial purposes or, more likely, injected thousands of feet below the surface. In early May, Summit Carbon Solutions announced a successful $1 billion equity raise for its proposed CCS pipeline, which would link more than 30 ethanol plants into its system. But not every ethanol plant eyeing CCS is planning for pipelines. A handful of plants are taking the steps—or already have—to explore the feasibility of capturing and storing CO2 onsite, or very close to the confines of the ethanol plant’s geographic footprint. Reviewing why and how those plants are approaching and dealing with the variables related to the process shows what it takes to sequester on location, autonomously. 30 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JUNE 2022 30 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
Putting CO2 Under Your Plant Ethanol plants considering onsite CCS should remember that tried-and-true real estate mantra: it’s all about location, location, location. There’s a twist, however. It’s not so much about the surface location. The sequestration portion of CCS relies on the presence of a geologic formation capable of housing carbon gas molecules and trapping them. Every plant location is different in terms of the geologic formations below ground. In some areas, a suitable rock structure like sandstone or limestone may exist only 1,000 feet underground. In other cases, the target structure for CCS may be more than two miles down. The deeper the suitable formation, the costlier the upfront price. While CCS projects using pipelines must overcome the challenge of gaining public and government buy-in for rightof-ways and multi-month installation, inplace sequestration projects must start with the well permitting process. From there, a permitted well can be drilled by a reputable drilling company. The core samples from the drill-out will reveal the geologic formations below the surface. Although the geology is generally already understood for most areas in ethanol country, the process still has to be undertaken to ensure exactly what lies
beneath. If the test well shows favorable geology, it can be used as the injection well. Other injection points can be added, along with the compression equipment needed to take CO2 from its gas state into the liquid state needed for injection. A monitoring system must also be installed. In California, progressive renewable energy producer Aemetis has undergone the early test well phase. The company has completed a study, led by globally recognized drilling contractor Baker Hughes, to evaluate the drilling site, perform an underground formation review and ensure the feasibility of drilling technology for
CCS NEAR THE PLANT: In Illinois, Marquis Energy recently completed a 5,000-foot test well to determine the capacity available for carbon sequestration at the company’s planned industrial site near one of its ethanol plants. PHOTO: MARQUIS
the CCS injection projects. The company’s study showed that more than 2 million metric tons of CO2 per year could be injected at its Keyes ethanol plant site. In late 2021, Marquis Energy began drilling a 5,000-foot test well to determine the capacity available for carbon sequestration at the company’s planned industrial site in Hennepin, Illinois. The site lies above the Mt. Simon sandstone formation. The porous nature of sandstone is well-suited for capturing and containing gas. A large part of CCS isn’t just about the formation the carbon will go into, but the formations around the storage area.
Carbon America, a vertically integrated CCS “super developer,” is helping two Colorado ethanol plants install CCS systems at their locations. At Sterling Ethanol LLC and Yuma Ethanol LLC, Carbon America will help each capture and store roughly 95 percent of the CO2 emissions generated through the fermentation process. Carbon America will build, own and operate the systems in northeastern Colorado. Rex American Resources Corp.’s Illinois ethanol plant, One Earth Energy, drilled its first test well in December 2021. Working with the University of Illinois, the team at One Earth is trying to determine
the feasibility of an onsite CCS well, including its size and scope. In North Dakota, two ethanol facilities are leading the way to onsite sequestration. Near Underwood, Midwest AgEnergy Group (MAG) has been exploring the feasibility of a CCS well for its 70 MMgy Blue Flint ethanol plant. MAG is still testing the feasibility of the CCS system and currently working through the long-term planning stages of development. And then there is Red Trail Energy. RTE is undergoing a historic effort to bring its own CCS system onsite at its ethanol production facility grounds. The project ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 31
ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 31
GOING FOR ZERO: In central North Dakota, Midwest AgEnergy Group is actively exploring the feasibility of carbon capture and sequestration at its 70 MMgy Blue Flint ethanol plant. PHOTO: MAG
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could be a blueprint for other ethanol plants considering the investment into CCS. Red Trail Energy Near Richardton, North Dakota, RTE was originally constructed as one of the first coal-fired ethanol plants in the nation. In 2016, the plant converted to natural gas. It produces more than 60 MMgy using roughly 23 million bushels of corn annually. In addition to the 2.8 gallons of ethanol produced from every bushel of corn, the plant makes 125,000 tons of dried distillers grains, 80,000 tons of modified-wet cake and 15 million pounds of distillers corn oil per year. The second-gen plant received a CO2 storage facility permit in October 2021. RTE has already started constructing a capture facility adjacent to its ethanol plant that will push 180,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. Like the Marquis facility in Illinois, the RTE project will inject into sandstone. The formation, more than a mile below RTE, is known as the Broom Creek formation and is sealed by several layers of impermeable shales more than half-a-mile thick. The shale layers surrounding the Broom Creek formation protect groundwater and prevent CO2 from escaping, according to the University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC), a major partner working with RTE to make the project a success. At the plant, the CO2 exhaust from the fermentation vessels is set to be captured and piped to a capture facility next door. That exhaust is compressed and dehydrated to purify the CO2. The rest of the exhaust, mainly water vapor and oxygen, is released into the atmosphere. Oxygen and water are both corrosive to the CO2 capture and injection components, including the flow line, wellhead tubing, fittings and monitoring components. At the gas capture plant, CO2 is compressed from 1,500 psi into liquid CO2 (which flows like water). The compressor, according to EERC’s design team working on the project, acts like a water tower, providing the pressure for the downhill flow
GROUND-LEVEL ANALYSIS: In North Dakota, Red Trail Energy recently completed a survey involving the use of vibroseis trucks (above left) that perform seismic recordings using battery-powered sensors and wi-fi transmitters placed at 165-foot intervals in a pattern surrounding the injection area (right). PHOTO: EERC
the ground for one to two minutes (staying away from buildings or other infrastructure). The eight-square-mile survey was performed only after RTE had reached out to area landowners and the public, announcing the survey, requesting access to place sensors and to drive the vibroseis trucks in the area. Results from the survey data were used to determine the behavior of the CO2 once injected. The surveys are also used to
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also able to perform a geologic survey to find out where the injected gas would go deep underground. That survey involved a series of vibroseis trucks that perform seismic recordings using battery-powered sensors and wi-fi transmitters placed at 165-foot intervals in a pattern surrounding the injection area. The trucks drive around and over the transmitters, stopping at intervals to vibrate
into the injection well. Real-time, continuous fiber-optics monitors the entire path of the CO2. RTE has shown what it takes to make sequestering in place work. Collaborating with EERC and the North Dakota Industrial Commission, RTE was able to work through the process successfully. In addition to obtaining the appropriate permits for a process neverPGdone before, RTE was ETHANOL PRODUCER_HALF AD
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SHARING THE PLAN: EERC geophysics research scientist Amanda Livers explains Red Trail Energy's planned CCS project to an attendee of a recent community open house while the ethanol plant's COO, Dustin Willett, looks on. PHOTO: EERC
create a monitoring system effective for long-term storage. Dustin Willett, chief operation officer for RTE, says that although most CCS projects have some flexibility, the RTE project is designed specifically for permanent CO2 storage. The project has to be maintained and monitored (including periodic reporting) to ensure economic viability through credits from the California Low-Carbon Fuel Standard. Willett says the site will house just one injection well. The work to obtain the permit for the injection well is a landmark, he says, adding that it could be used as a model for other states, and other ethanol plants, to follow in the future. But some things, Willett also says, must be obtained on an individual plant basis. “Many elements will never be turnkey or faster in the development of a successful project,” he says, “Core collection, subsequent laboratory analyses [and related] contingencies should be planned and expected, because every project has unique components ranging from geology to business structure.”
For RTE, the ethanol plant owns the CCS entity. From 2016 to 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy, via the EERC and North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Renewable Energy Program, provided funding to RTE for feasibility studies. “Establishing good partnerships and working relationships with program and regulatory agencies, and facilitating communication in the early stages, is crucial to project success,” Willett says. In addition to the EERC, RTE also worked with other technical partners including Trimeric Corp. for engineering services, Schlumberger Carbon Services for drilling and geologic work, and Computer Modelling Group Ltd., for analysis of the geologic survey of where the injected CO2 would end up below ground. RTE is currently awaiting a decision on its historic permit to greenlight the system. The company expects positive announcements and milestones later in 2022. Costs for the completed project are still undetermined.
CCS On Your Site: Five Basic Steps For ethanol plants looking into onsite CCS, the early process involves drilling, sampling and data collection. 1. Obtain Permits: Drill holes for geologic research requires drilling permits. Every state has a geologic division with forms or answers on what is needed. 2. Prepare the Drill Site: Pad preparation usually requires leveling a space of 400 feet by 400 feet. The drilling rig needs a flat, workable surface. Pads usually take two weeks to construct. 3. Drill the Hole: Well drilling in the modern age is a multi-step process. Each stage includes adding casing or using drilling mud and cement to ensure that the downhole effect doesn’t impact existing freshwater sources. 4. Gather Downhole Data: After the shaft is drilled out and core samples of rock are collected, wireline trucks with sensors lower line into the well to gather more data. All of this is standard practice. 5. Close the Hole: Following data collection, test holes or wells are sealed temporarily while data is analyzed.
Equipment for the Job While RTE awaits final approval to fully deploy its CCS system in North Dakota, the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project, backed by $1 billion in private equity, offers insight on who is out there to supply equipment. Xebec Systems USA LLC (doing business as UECompression) specializes in electric motor driven high-speed reciprocating compression systems designed for the CO2 emitted from ethanol plants. Xebec is supplying equipment for the Summit pipeline. Greg Herman, a veteran of gas compression technology for Xebec, says the gas dictates special materials for construction and design. Herman says his team is well suited to work with ethanol producers because they understand the intricacies of the gas/equipment relationship. “Our team works closely with project developers and their process engineering
firm. Understanding the challenges presented by the corrosive gas, and building a reliable compressor, is paramount to the system operating as designed,” Herman says. According to Herman, Xebec’s portfolio includes products for renewable natural gas in the agriculture markets, onsite generation of hydrogen and nitrogen as emerging fuel and feedstocks options, and gas upgrading or compression systems for CCS no matter where the CO2 ends up. Herman believes Xebec is a leader in the push to capture carbon in the ethanol space. “We will continue to look for processes and products,” he says, “to continue this movement.”
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This spring, Homeland Energy Solutions LLC reached its two billionth gallon milestone, a production mark that gives special context to the Iowa ethanol plant’s 13 years of operation, expansion and change. By Katie Schroeder
PRODUCING MORE, FASTER: It took Homeland Energy seven-and-a-half years to produce its first billion gallons of ethanol, but only five to produce its second, thanks to a major expansion in 2017. PHOTO: HOMELAND
In April, Homeland Energy Solutions LLC produced its two-billionth gallon of ethanol, reaching the milestone in just 13 years. It is an accomplishment the company’s President and CEO Telly Papasimakis calls “a testament to Homeland’s culture of hard work and sense of integrity.” But it’s also a monumental feat made possible by the company’s decision to double the facility’s size five years ago, an undertaking that required vision, adept leadership and courage. Located in northeastern Iowa between the towns of New Hampton and Lawler, Homeland is currently operating at nearly 200 MMgy. The plant has been online since 2009, starting up as a 100 MMgy facility before expanding in 2017, a project that boosted its distillation capacity, added a third energy center and enhanced virtually every area of the plant. Like most U.S. ethanol producers, Homeland added distillers corn oil (DCO) production to its portfolio early on, one of 36 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
many investments the plant has made to become a more diversified biorefinery. Today, Homeland produces nearly 70 million pounds of DCO and more than 440,000 pounds of DDGS. In 2021, the plant added the capacity to produce 20 MMgy of USPgrade ethanol, an endeavor that came about during the pandemic when Homeland rose to the challenge of helping the nation produce alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Today, Papasimakis says Homeland’s chief objective—after hitting its two-billionth gallon—remains clear. “Our mission is to produce ethanol and its coproducts profitably, enhancing returns to our stakeholders and surrounding communities,” he says. “We have a culture based on principled entrepreneurship, which means we strive to combine an unwavering desire to anticipate and cost-effectively satisfy our customers’ needs.” That community-oriented, entrepreneurial spirit drives Homeland, both as a company and as a an engaged neighbor to the towns near it. Papasimakis believes success at the plant benefits everyone in the region. He tells Ethanol Producer Maga-
zine that the plant’s management strives to cultivate a “discovery mentality” throughout the workplace that fosters innovation, efficiency and product enrichment, always doing so with an emphasis on safety and environmental stewardship. “That core set of values, shared by our employees, has been key to building a business that is sustainable over the long term,” he says. Homeland’s History Commissioned in April of 2009, Homeland initially started up with a 100 MMgy nameplate capacity, consuming roughly 37 million bushels of corn annually during its first eight years of operation. As planned, Homeland quickly became an appreciated taker of area corn. The company was founded by eight individuals from the area, each experienced in building or operating agriculture enterprises. Initially, Homeland’s staffing was relatively lean, but the company utilized industry resources to train and educate personnel, and eventually built a talented team of its own. Through optimization and expansion, Homeland was able to produce its first bil-
lion gallons of ethanol in roughly sevenand-a-half years—well ahead of the 10-year standard for a 100 MMgy plant. Following the 2007 expansion, the second billion gallons of ethanol was produced in about fiveand-a-half years. “That first billionth gallon is like hitting a home run, especially doing it as quickly as we did, and then for the twobillionth gallon, that’s like hitting a grand slam,” says Maintenance Manager Scott Bauer, who has been with Homeland since its inception. Bauer and his colleagues have seen tremendous technological advancement over the years, things like Wi-Fi and wireless transmitters that make it easier to catch maintenance issues before they become a problem. “Having continuous on-time data helps us monitor the equipment health,” he says. “This gives us time to proactively plan for repairs, reducing or eliminating interruptions to the operation of the plant.” Homeland has also expanded its maintenance core competencies and knowledge over time. Bauer says his team now routinely does work in-house, like centrifuge rebuilds, that it previously couldn’t. “A lot of the
things we used to farm out, we do in house,” he says. “That’s been a big change on the maintenance side.” And the plant is not just larger, but more efficient than it was 13 years ago, and achieving upper-echelon ethanol and coproduct yields. “We’ve been able to expand our coproducts, and we don’t look at ethanol as our chief product anymore,” says Homeland Plant Manager and COO Mike Peterman. “We look at it as a coproduct with DDGS and corn oil, and every year those yields improve.” Peterman credits these accomplishments to the plant’s vigilant and technically nimble personnel. “Every day we work to minimize issues, lowering the impact to dayto-day operations,” he says. “A strong team can be very flexible and can adjust quickly and safely under any circumstances.” Agricultural partnerships have played a role in the plant’s success, too, both with grain producers and commercial grain handlers. The plant’s consumption of area corn has allowed a lot of it to “stay local” and “move year-round” as opposed to being delivered to a river terminal for export only eight months of the year. “Ethanol produc-
tion has not only supported local corn prices but allowed consistent year-round access to end-user markets that help farmers throughout the year,” Papasimakis says, adding that since the plant’s inception, Homeland has produced not just 2 billion gallons of ethanol, but over 4.6 million tons of DDGS, 460 million pounds of corn oil and crushed more than 685 million bushels of corn. Evolving with the Industry Peterman says being a good environmental steward—caring about energy consumption, emissions and carbon—is compatible with Homeland’s entrepreneurial nature. “We’re always looking at ways to drive down the amount of [natural] gas demand in the plant, drive down the amount of water that we use, just everything,” he says, explaining that Homeland is one of more than 30 ethanol plants engaged with the proposed Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline, which will aggregate CO2 from participating ethanol plants for permanent sequestration in a deep underground reservoir in North Dakota. ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 37
LARGER LOOP: In addition to expanding virtually every aspect of the plant five years ago, Homeland also added an additional rail line to its loop, giving the plant greater load-out capacity. PHOTO: HOMELAND
Papasimakis says carbon capture and sequestration is one of Homeland’s core strategies for dramatically lowering the carbon intensity rating of the ethanol it produces; it’s also part of a three-pronged strategy for success that includes reducing the plant’s carbon footprint, branching out into new product lines and making sure the plant is being run at peak utility. “These three elements have contributed to our success in adapting to fluctuations in the ethanol industry,” he says. While the ethanol industry has been making efficiency gains for years, Peterman sees an even stronger focus on efficiency and carbon reduction now. “[We are] always looking at ways to improve efficiencies and produce more with less energy,” he says, sharing that Homeland has made major energy center upgrades in recent years. The plant added a turbine and generator which produce about one-third of its electricity. “The electricity from the turbine means less energy pulled from the grid,” says Peterman, explaining that the system is another way Homeland is reducing its carbon intensity score. Next Billion Gallons Looking ahead, Papasimakis says the ethanol industry must remain adaptive to succeed and thrive. And he believes it will, saying, “That’s been the most impressive thing that I’ve seen from successful operators in this space.”
38 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | JULY 2022
A MAJOR LIFT: The 2017 expansion at Homeland improved and upsized many areas of the plant, including significantly boosting the facility's distillation capacity. PHOTO: HOMELAND
Already thinking about Homeland’s three-billionth gallon—five years from now—Papasimakis says Homeland will remain focused on making an already “sustainable, green product even greener.” He says the ethanol market can be challenging, but new technologies will help move ethanol producers forward. He hopes to take the knowledge and success Homeland has gained over the years producing corn-based ethanol and apply it to future opportunities. Peterman shares Papasimakis’ optimism about what’s next. He says the dedication and drive of Homeland’s team is what gives him the most confidence about the plant’s future. “We’ve got a strong team that knows how to win, and they enjoy success,” Peterman says. “They push each other to strive to be the best they can be.” Bauer echoes this sentiment, saying that the teamwork at Homeland is what made the plant’s “grand slam” happen. “None of this could be possible without the employees that we have, and the teamwork that we always step up to the plate with,” he says. Papasimakis agrees, saying, “The future of Homeland is bright. As we continue to expand our mission and utilize technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, our people, our shareholders and the communities around us will continue to grow and benefit for years to come.” Author: Katie Schroeder Contact: email@example.com
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Spotlight BY KATIE SCHROEDER
CIP Solutions and Customer Relationships SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions has been serving customers since 1925 helping them solve water, wastewater and process challenges. Operating in 130 countries across the globe, the company provides chemical, monitoring, equipment and service solutions to a variety of industries, from food and beverage to utilities and chemical processing. According to senior researcher Mike Raab, SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions offers the ethanol industry three key services: deposit control, cleaning and corn oil extraction. Ethanol producers often deal with deposit issues throughout their process stream, frequently collecting on heat transfer area surfaces and lowering efficiency. Raab explains that identification of the deposit is a vital first step to helping producers mitigate this issue. “We have a holistic way of approaching that,” he says. “We do a lot of work around analyzing those deposits for our customers because they can take on various forms chemically and the way that you approach them is going to be significantly different depending on what type of deposit they are.” The company uses a world-class laboratory to analyze and categorize the deposit, then the technology experts tailor the chemistry to remove those specific deposits. The CIP solutions offered are animal feed approved, which is important for the ethanol industry, Raab explains. The company’s
FoodPro* line of cleaners offered to the ethanol industry are only made of chemistries which are GRAS (generally recognized as safe) for use in animal feed. “It’s something that a lot of people don’t realize, but actually animal food products are more limited than human food … because they don’t have a varied diet like humans do, they are fed the same thing almost all the time,” Raab explains. “It makes it somewhat of a tricky process, but one of the things that we’ve gotten pretty good at is working with the things that are approved and available to come up with something that works over a broad range of conditions to help those customers with those applications.” “The way that we think about what we do is that when our customers win, we win,” says Raab. Their engagement with customers is what makes SUEZ Water Technologies & Solutions stand out. He explains that their team knows each customer's process inside and out, problem spots and all. The strong customer relationships they have built allow them to make recommendations and provide guidance to address issues. “We’re directly impacting the products that they make, so we’re trying to help them run more efficiently, and improve the output of their process,” Raab says. *Trademark of SUEZ; may be registered in one or more countries.
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