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MARCH 2018


CONVERTERS Researchers See Promise in CO2-to-Ethanol Discovery

Page 18


Preventing, Treating Bacterial Contamination Page 26

Compliance in BioďŹ lm Control Page 32









MARCH 2018





Next-Level Nanoscience

ORNL researchers continue to develop catalyst for converting carbon dioxide to ethanol By Lisa Gibson


Prevention-Control Partnership

Regular cleaning, targeted treatments are both crucial to avoiding infection By Tim Albrecht

32 BIOFILM Sticking To It

Chemical companies overhaul products in wake of FSMA rules By Lisa Gibson

38 YIELD MAXIMIZATION Step 1: Quality Cook

Improving yield starts with evaluating and enhancing liquefaction By Susanne Retka Schill


2018 Advanced Biofuels Conference 2018 Fuel Ethanol Industry Directory 2018 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo AB Biotek BetaTec Hop Products Buckman CTE Global, Inc. D3MAX LLC DuPont Industrial Biosciences Durr Systems, Inc. Fagen Inc. Fluid Quip Process Technologies, LLC Growth Energy Hydrite Chemical Co. J.C. Ramsdell Enviro Services, Inc. Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits Mole Master Services Corporation Nalco Water Novozymes On Sight Video Surveillance Phibro Ethanol Performance Group POET LLC Premium Plant Services, Inc. R.S. Stover RPMG, Inc. Syngenta: Enogen Victory Energy Operations, LLC

31 36 42 47 5 41 48 24-25 11 28 21 7 2 40 34 3 23 30 43 20 37 4 22 35 29 14-15 16-17

44 TECHNOLOGY Breakdown of Benefits

How infrared thermography can impact ethanol plants By Cody Jackson


9 10










Catalysts, Cleaning and Cook By Tom Bryan


E15 Continues to Build Momentum By Mike O’Brien

The Wisdom of Thumper By Ron Lamberty

ON THE COVER ORNL’s Yang Song (seated), Dale Hensley (standing left) and Adam Rondinone examine a carbon nanospike sample with a scanning electron microscope. PHOTO: OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY


Ambitious Policies Position Canadian Biofuels for Growth By Jim Grey

6 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018

Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) March 2018, Vol. 24, Issue 3. 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.

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2018 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo June 11-13, 2018 CenturyLink Center Omaha Omaha, Nebraska From its inception, the mission of this event has remained constant: The FEW delivers timely presentations with a strong focus on commercial-scale ethanol production—from quality control and yield maximization to regulatory compliance and fiscal management. The FEW is the ethanol industry’s premier forum for unveiling new technologies and research findings. The program covers cellulosic ethanol while remaining committed to optimizing existing grain ethanol operations. 866-746-8385 |

2018 Advanced Biofuels Conference June 11-13, 2018 CenturyLink Center Omaha Omaha, Nebraska Colocated with the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop, the Advanced Biofuels Conference is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleum-derived products. 866-746-8385

ACE Conference August 15-17, 2018 Renaissance Depot Hotel Minneapolis, Minnesota


EDITORIAL President & Editor in Chief Tom Bryan Managing Editor Lisa Gibson Associate Editor Tim Albrecht Copy Editor Jan Tellmann

ART Art Director Jaci Satterlund Graphic Designer Raquel Boushee

PUBLISHING & SALES CEO Joe Bryan Sales & Marketing Director John Nelson Business Development Director Howard Brockhouse Senior Account Manager/Bioenergy Team Leader Chip Shereck Circulation Manager Jessica Tiller Marketing & Advertising Manager Marla DeFoe

EDITORIAL BOARD Ringneck Energy Walter Wendland Little Sioux Corn Processors Steve Roe Commonwealth Agri-Energy Mick Henderson Pinal Energy Keith Kor

The ACE Conference is a must-attend event for industry leadership. Relaying timely updates on public policy, market development, board of director training, and much more, this event combines the detail of high-level training course with all the fun of a family reunion. 605-334-3381

Please check our website for upcoming webinars

Please recycle this magazine and remove inserts or samples before recycling

Aemetis Advanced Fuels Eric McAfee Western Plains Energy Derek Peine Corn Plus Mike Jerke

Customer Service Please call 1-866-746-8385 or email us at 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 lgibson@ Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.

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8 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018


Catalysts, Cleaning and Cook

Tom Bryan

President & Editor in Chief

It’s not every day that scientists stumble upon novel ways to make biofuel, but that’s exactly what Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have done by discovering that a simple catalyst based on carbon, nitrogen and copper can turn carbon dioxide and water into ethanol. Meanwhile, another company is building a platform to turn CO2 into

ethanol via syngas. It may sound far-flung, but as we report in our page-18 cover story, “Next-Level Nanoscience,” these processes have near-term commercial appeal. If this sort of tech scales up, researchers say it will complement, not compete with, existing grain ethanol plants by giving producers new tactics for carbon reduction and volume enhancement. In “Prevention-Control Partnership,” on page 26, we look at how the pitfalls of bacterial contamination can be avoided with good plant hygiene. For most producers, that starts with a strong cleaning regimen and periodic plant health audits. With experts assisting them, producers can effectively knock down potential bacteria and biofilm with caustics and solvents before things get serious. However, vendors can’t be on site all the time, and an ethanol plant’s staff is ultimately responsible for spotting and squashing plant infections on their own. We also explain how the everyday side of plant hygiene—that is, the use of antimicrobials within propagation and fermentation tanks—is continuing to trend toward products that reduce antibiotic use. Similarly, our industry’s use of corrosion and scale inhibitors has been effectively overhauled by the Food Safety and Modernization Act. As reported in “Sticking To It,” on page 32, the regulations have stopped many ethanol plants from using nonoxidizing microbicides out of concerns that traces of the products might end up in the food chain. The challenge now, experts tell us, is that oxidizing microbicides are simply not as potent or long lasting as their counterpart, which forces ethanol plants to be more vigilant about biofilm formation and fouling. In addition to explaining how today’s ethanol plants ward off biofilm, the story does an excellent job of explaining how and where biofilms form. Finally, be sure to read “Step 1: Quality Cook,” on page 38. This story focuses on how the everlasting quest for improved ethanol yield still begins with liquefaction. We report on how the reemergence of jet cookers, enhanced monitoring techniques and the continued roll out of new enzymes is raising the bar on yield maximization.


TWITTER.COM/ETHANOLMAGAZINE MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 9


E15 Continues to Build Momentum By Mike O’Brien

Growth Energy has made it a priority to facilitate the growth and expansion of E15 fuel. In 2016, about 600 retail sites were offering E15, and by the end of 2017, we had more than 1,200 retail locations carrying E15 in 29 states across the country. That jump represents clear progress for the fuel and demonstrates immense potential for continued expansion. We are working with the Prime the Pump program as well as leading retailers to ensure we are exploring every avenue and opportunity to grow the expansion of E15. As these efforts coincide with greater consumer demand for the fuel, one thing is clear: The momentum behind E15 is real. In fact, CSP, the leading convenience store publication, ranked our work with E15 as the second most important fuel story of 2017, even supplanting the major hurricane-related fueling issues that plagued the past year. Alongside Prime the Pump, Growth Energy is leading the charge in spurring E15 infrastructure buildouts in the 29 states where drivers can now find the fuel. In total, Prime the Pump retailers operate in more than 9,300 sites across the country, where they sold roughly 19 billion gallons of fuel in 2016. E15 sites sell about 4.5 billion gallons of fuel annually. This strong network is the foundation on which we can continue our expansion efforts. Our retail partners offering E15 are setting the industry standard for what it means to innovate within the fuel market, and we are proud to work with Casey’s, Cenex, Family Express, Holiday, Kum & Go, Kwik Trip, Minnoco, Murphy USA, Protec Fuel, QuikTrip, RaceTrac, Sheetz and Thorntons to offer consumers greater choice at the pump. Beyond working with this growing family of retailers to facilitate infrastructure expansion and greater availability, we are collaborating like never before to optimize the branding and marketing of E15 so consumers feel comfortable and confident in reaching for it when they fill up. More collaboration has allowed us to take an innovative approach that positions retailers as the prominent face of the effort to secure Reid vapor pressure (RVP) relief for E15. Retailers want to offer E15 because it provides them a competitive solution for their customers, and we want lawmakers to hear that from their perspective, not just from the biofuels industry. This tactic has yielded results, and we now have

10 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018

a written pledge from the EPA administrator that he will give the RVP issue the consideration it deserves. Meanwhile, more consumers are reaching for E15 at the pump. It took four years for American drivers to purchase enough E15 to drive 1 billion miles. Then in four short months, they purchased enough E15 to drive another billion miles. As of January 2018, Americans have driven more than 3 billion miles on E15, a clear testament to the superiority, reliability and viability of the fuel. As E15 becomes more readily available, Growth Energy is fully committed to making sure Americans everywhere understand and appreciate higher biofuel blends, which includes the engine performance-boosting qualities of octane, the many environmental benefits as well as the cost savings that E15 delivers. Our website has consumer-friendly, digestible information about the benefits of biofuels, as well as an easy-to-use mapping system that directs consumers to their nearest E15 and E85 stations. We also launched an engine-performance education initiative geared toward technicians, mechanics and automotive industry professionals, specifically designed to establish and explain the ways higher ethanol blends boost engine performance. We want to ensure that everyone, from average consumers to automotive professionals and experts, are well-versed in why E15 is a smart choice. E15 is gaining a significant foothold in the fuel space, and Growth Energy is honored to work with Prime the Pump and our retail partners to keep driving that progress. When observing the growing adoption by both retailers and consumers, the momentum behind securing an RVP waiver for E15, and the industry buzz surrounding the fuel, there is much cause for excitement. Our goal is to make E15 the new normal at pumps across America, and we are glad to lead that effort on behalf of biofuel producers everywhere. Author: Mike O’Brien Vice President of Market Development, Growth Energy 202.545.4000



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Ambitious Policies Position Canadian Biofuels for Growth By Jim Grey

The story of the Canadian biofuels sector is remarkable. From its infancy, the industry has continued to

drive Canada’s circular economy, supporting the agricultural sector while continually creating environmentally sustainable economic growth in communities across the country. Most important, the contributions of the biofuels sector have meant achieving substantial reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector. In Canada, part of the biofuel industry’s success, and our position today, can be attributed to successive governments, on the national and provincial levels, recognizing the economic and environmental value of nurturing a domestic biofuels industry. This confidence and commitment has built an industry in Canada that generates $3.5 billion worth of annual economic activity and has created more than 14,000 jobs. Projected ethanol production for 2016 was 1.7 billion liters, with an estimated sales value of $1.1 billion. To support this production, 4.2 million metric tons, or $800 million worth of feedstock, were purchased, providing a significant and predictable revenue stream to Canadian farmers. As byproducts of ethanol production, $260 million of distillers grains were sold. Today, these same governments are developing a suite of policy mechanisms that will directly impact the renewable fuels sector for the next decade and beyond. With this process underway, Canada’s ethanol and biodiesel producers expect to continue delivering good news in 2018.

12 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018

In December, the Canadian Federal government announced the details of its national Clean Fuel Standard, which aims to eliminate 30 megatons of GHG emissions annually by 2030. This targeted reduction will include the transportation sector, creating a significant opportunity for biofuels. The Federal CFS also comes at a time when Canada’s provinces have been demonstrating impressive leadership on driving increased use of biofuels. Canada’s five most populous provinces—Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba—have embraced or are in the midst of exploring progressive approaches to promoting enhanced use of clean fuels, either through increasing biofuel mandates or new low carbon fuel policies. Ontario, Canada’s largest province, will increase ethanol content in gasoline from 5 to 10 percent, which is expected to increase the amount of Ontario corn going into ethanol production. There is still work to be done, but with a combination of a strong domestic industry and ambitious GHG reduction targets being planned across the country, Canada’s ethanol industry is poised for growth in 2018 and beyond.

Author: Jim Grey Chair, Renewable Industries Canada CEO, IGPC Ethanol Inc. 519.765.2575


The Wisdom of Thumper By Ron Lamberty

The Petroleum Marketers Association of America recently sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, asking it to revisit E15 labeling regulations. The

ethanol industry responded, calling it a blatant attempt to limit market access to E15, and noting the fact that EPA and FTC addressed E15 labeling in a lengthy, open rulemaking process, taking in comments from thousands of stakeholders, including PMAA. It’s reasonable to want to tear the letter apart and point out the pieces of standard Big Oil misinformation, like the “use of E15 in model year 2001 and newer vehicles may void warranties” canard, which conveniently ignores the fact that most cars older than the 2015 model year don’t have warranties. The typical new car warranty is three years, with a few companies covering vehicles for four or five years. It also ignores real world realities that no warranty has ever been voided by E15, and more than two-thirds of the cars on the road today that are under warranty have warranties that include E15. PMAA also continues to use its inaccurate depiction of the FTC and EPA mandated E15 label as a warning for people that E15 will damage small engines and emission equipment on older vehicles. Not “may” damage, “will” damage. PMAA writes, “E15 cannot be used in motorcycles, boats, and gasoline powered tools and equipment without causing engine damage,” and “using E15 in model year 2000 and older vehicles will also damage emission equipment.” Those are provably false statements, and it’s understandable that some ethanol supporters want to expose those lies. It’s satisfying to fight back, especially when your opposition is dead wrong—and you can prove it. But they’ve always been wrong. And we’ve always been able to prove it, and where has that gotten us?

Maybe we should take the advice of the great philosopher Thumper, who once said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Fortunately, the rabbit’s lack of grammar skills and inclusion of a double negative makes that easy. I won’t say nothing. In fact, I’ll say something nice. The PMAA letter made some excellent points. PMAA correctly states “E15 is currently cheaper than E10 gasoline by as much as 10 cents per gallon,” and that retailers can “use E15 pricing as a marketing tool ... to draw customers into their station and steer them to the fuel that produces the greatest profit margin.” Those are excellent points we’ve been sharing with petroleum marketers for several years now: E15 saves consumers money, while increasing E15 retailers’ margins and customer counts. Now we can quote PMAA as a group that agrees with us! And there’s my favorite part: PMAA acknowledges that “competitors who do not sell E15” are “at a significant competitive disadvantage” to those offering the higher ethanol blend. Yet for some reason, rather than telling their members about this opportunity and informing them how to implement higher ethanol blends safely and effectively, PMAA has provided marketers a steady stream of ghost stories to scare them away from selling E15. In the meantime, station owners and operators who actually sell E15 aren’t having the problems PMAA predicted. The only real problem is current E15 retailers taking millions of gallons and customers away from marketers paralyzed with fear by PMAA’s ghosts. E15 labeling is old news, EPA and FTC wrote the rules and people selling E15 are following them. There’s no need for FTC to revisit the rules, but if PMAA really wants to help petroleum marketers, it may want to revisit its stance on E15. Author: Ron Lamberty Senior Vice President American Coalition for Ethanol 605.334.3381

MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 13

Ironically, the latest breakthrough in the field of energy, is a field. While most innovation begins with the seed of an idea, the greatest advance in the making of ethanol starts with a seed. The first corn seed technology specifically developed to increase the efficiency of ethanol production, Enogen corn lets you source alpha-amylase directly from local growers. Which means you can now enhance your ethanol production while also investing in the local community. Enogen is making waves in the field of energy. ®

©2018 Syngenta. Enogen,® the Alliance Frame, the Purpose Icon, and the Syngenta logo are trademarks of a Syngenta Group Company. MW 1ENG800X-SHIP-AG114 01/18

BUSINESS BRIEFS Iowa Renewable Fuels Association elects officers The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association recently elected its board of directors, officers and executive committee for 2018. Each producer member has a seat on the board and votes on officers. New officers will serve a one-year term during the 2018 calendar year. Board of Directors Officers President: Eamonn Byrne, Lakeview Plymouth Energy Vice President: Bill Howell, Poet Biorefining – Coon Rapids Treasurer: Derek Winkel, Renewable Energy Group Inc. Secretary: Eric Hakmiller, Lincolnway Energy Executive Director: Monte Shaw (nonvoting) The IRFA Executive Committee is comprised of the IRFA officers and other members as elected by the board. Elected to join the IRFA officers on the Executive Committee for 2018 are: Past President: Tom Brooks, Western Dubuque Biodiesel At-Large: Craig Willis, Archer Daniels Midland At-Large: Rick Schwarck, Absolute Energy

People, Partnerships & Projects

4 associate members join RFA Four new members have joined the Renewable Fuels Association in recent weeks: NALCO Water, Whitefox Technologies, Renewable Fuels Nebraska and K Coe Isom. NALCO Water, based in Naperville, Illinois, is a provider of water treatment and process improvements, helping ethanol producers increase performance, lower the total cost of operation and boost profitability. Whitefox Technologies, based in London, is focused on membrane applications and processes. The company combines knowledge of membrane separation with efficient process integration for new or existing production facilities. Renewable Fuels Nebraska, based in Lincoln, is the trade association for Nebraska’s ethanol industry, which produces more than 2 billion gallons annually, making it the second top state for ethanol production. K Coe Isom, based in Lenexa, Kansas, is a national accounting and consulting firm focused on food and agriculture. In addition to tax, audit and lending management, the company also consults with many biofuel producers on specific projects.


JTI Services joins Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association JTI Services LLC has joined the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association’s growing roster of vendor members. “We are pleased to welcome our latest member, JTI Services,” said Tim Rudnicki, executive director of the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association. “Based in Winthrop, Minnesota, JTI Services provides electrical preventative maintenance and safety services to ethanol plants in southern Minnesota.” Cody Jackson, JTI Services operations manager and certified level-III thermographer, said the company specializes in electrical infrared inspections and arc flash risk assessments. “The electrical infrared inspections we provide to the ethanol industry help tremendously with cost savings while the arc flash risk assessments improve plant safety through injury prevention and compliance,” he said.

JTI Services is a family-run business established in 2013 to complement the electrical contracting services provided by its sister company, Jackson Electric Inc. Jackson said Minnesota’s ethanol industry has played a vital role in the company's growth so far and there are plans to expand its services to ethanol plants in other states. “As JTI Services has grown in the last five years, we noticed that our core values and services align the best with ethanol plants and the everyday needs they have. We are experts in the electrical preventive maintenance industry and our expertise is best put to use solving the problems ethanol plants face daily.” Apart from the ethanol industry, Jackson said the company also provides services to heavy commercial industries such as manufacturing and food processing.



Nanoscience The accidental discovery that a carbon, nitrogen and copper-based catalyst can convert carbon dioxide to ethanol shows potential. By Lisa Gibson

DISCOVERY DEVELOPMENT: Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are working on a catalyst they discovered can convert carbon dioxide into ethanol. The project has industrywide implications. PHOTO: ISTOCK

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MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 19

RESEARCH In 2016, Adam Rondinone and his team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory discovered that a simple catalyst based on carbon, nitrogen and copper could convert carbon dioxide into ethanol.

It was a surprise. “We were studying catalysis based on nanoscience and we had some hypotheses about how to set up a reaction,” Rondinone says. “The reaction worked better than we expected.” The team was experimenting with arranging the atoms on a surface to create a highly selective catalyst—one that produces mostly one product. “For catalysis, getting selectivity is always the challenge,” Rondinone says. “You push the chemicals across the catalyst, add some energy and hopefully you get the right product. … We expected an alcohol, but we didn’t expect ethanol. And that started us on a couple-year journey to understand how the catalyst worked. We’re still on that journey. We don’t fully

20 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018

understand how the catalyst works. But we understand what products it can make.” Now, the team is continuing development on that reaction, with a target of commercialization in mind. Rondinone says it could be ideal for yield boosts and CO2 abatement in the ethanol industry. It’s not a competitor, he emphasizes.

The Reaction

The catalyst itself is a coating made of the carbon, nitrogen and copper. Rondinone works exclusively in nanoscience, which plays a major role in the reaction. The carbon and nitrogen are arranged into tiny, sharp spikes, like little lightning rods, with copper nanoparticles imbedded among them, Rondinone explains. The spikes generate high electric fields and kick off the reaction, converting the CO2 into carbon monoxide, which then becomes a reagent for the rest of the reaction to produce ethanol. The coating is being applied to silicone for reactions, but the team is looking at other materials, also.

Essentially, when CO2, water and electricity are applied to the catalyst, ethanol results. “Just the idea that you can take carbon dioxide and water, which are the byproducts of combustion, add energy back in as the form of electricity and push the reaction backwards to hydrocarbon fuel was really appealing, I think, to people and that’s why it attracted a lot of attention.” The yield is high, also. From an electricity perspective, it averages 63 percent, with a range of 60 to 70 percent, Rondinone says. That means if 100 electrons are run across the catalyst, 63 of those electrons are stored as ethanol. With respect to Co2, the yield is 84 percent, with the remaining 16 CO2 molecules converted to methane or carbon monoxide. “That makes it a pretty selective catalyst,” Rondinone says. Every chemical reaction has multiple steps and every step has the potential to branch in different directions. “We want to minimize branching,” he says. “We want to minimize diversions down the wrong pathway and keep all the products moving to-

gether toward this final outcome, which is the alcohol. That’s what the catalyst does very well. “Our understanding of how the catalyst works now is much more sophisticated than it was a year ago.” Rondinone says the team has verified that the reaction is a three-step sequence, with each step taking place on a certain area of the catalyst. “We’re working fast to understand the technology as an industrial technology, not necessarily as a science project.” That means understanding it from the point of view of a party that might commercialize it.

What’s Next

The team is studying energy efficiency, conducting economic analysis and looking at the purest chemicals in the reaction, including how pure the CO2 needs to be. How long does the catalyst last? When it does fail, why? Several parties are interested in participating in commercialization, but the most obvious option is the fuel ethanol industry,

NANOANALYSIS : This 4-inch silicon wafer is coated with the carbon nanospike catalyst that scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory discovered could turn carbon dioxide into ethanol. The wafer is mounted in an electron microscope for analysis. PHOTO: OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

Rondinone says. The team has funding to continue its development work for another year, after which time Rondinone hopes to find a party to license and further scale the technology.

Rondinone says, from his standpoint, the process seems scalable and represents an enormous opportunity. The ethanol industry could see widespread adoption of the technique. “We’ve learned nothing in the last

MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 21


“The race to capture that value of the fuel greenhouse gas-reducing potential is on.” - Tammy Klein Principal, Future Fuel Strategies


year that would say that that won’t happen or that it can’t happen. Whether or not it does, of course, depends on economic circumstances. But we’ve spent the last year now really studying the technology from the industrial perspective and it looks like it will scale. It looks like the economics will work under certain circumstances. … We have been successful scaling the technology in-house.” Tammy Klein, principal of consulting firm Future Fuel Strategies, says the technology holds great potential for the industry, as long as ORNL’s further development finds that the economics, energy efficiency and other aspects of the concept work out. “If all those pieces fall into place for producers, it could be really beneficial.” Klein points to the increase in carbon-reduction tactics in the ethanol industry, many that increase efficiency. “The science is evolving,” she says. “They’ve been doing all sorts of things to reduce their carbon intensity and this is another avenue to do that.” Other jurisdictions are starting to follow California’s footsteps, implementing policies similar to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. It’s a carbon-constrained world, she says, citing Canada and Brazil. “The race to capture that value of the fuel greenhouse gas-reducing potential is on. “We’ll have to stay tuned and see how this all works out,” she adds. “I think it has a lot of promise.”

Before Commercialization

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Electricity costs are the biggest consideration to commercial development currently, Rondinone says. He recommends low-cost excess wind power, an option that Klein says many ethanol producers already are exploring. Rondinone says ORNL’s catalyst potential in the ethanol industry doesn’t have barriers, so much as risks. Nobody understands the long-term viability of the catalyst, for instance. “It may be that the catalyst doesn’t last as long as we’d like it to and makes it nonviable,” he says. Maybe the off gas won’t be appropriate for some reason; the contamination intolerance is unknown. “We have incomplete data. The only barriers are incomplete knowledge. Technical development is crucial.

RESEARCH “We’re early on in this process. If things continue to work out and continue to look good, we will progressively work our way toward larger demonstration. And this will be a several-year process. This is a new technology and it’s going to take some time to develop.” On-site, an ethanol plant would need a large-scale chemical reactor. CO2 from the fermenter would be fed into the reactor, along with electricity, then the ethanol would be separated from the water with vacuum distillation. Rondinone says the team is also exploring options that don’t use water. The catalyst is unique in its efficiency, as well as its lack of rare metals or expensive components. Carbon, nitrogen and copper are affordable, Rondinone says. “This is one of the reasons we think this is scalable.”

Increasing Fuel Supply

Meanwhile, Rondinone says several parties and industries are interested in helping commercialize ORNL’s catalyst, and it clearly fits within ethanol’s existing infrastructure. It could even prompt higher blends. “What you have here is an opportunity to capture that carbon dioxide, convert it back into the product you’re looking for, and then just feed it right back into the same distribution pipeline that you already have in

place. It opens up the possibility of actually greatly increasing the fuel supply for ethanol, which then, in my mind, puts us on the path toward a higher ethanol blend.” Author: Lisa Gibson Managing Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4920

Another Option

Rondinone and his team aren’t the only ones looking at CO2-to-ethanol conversion at existing plants. Gary Young, president of Bio-Thermal Energy Inc., says he has been developing a gasifier that can take CO2 and the carbonaceous material in steam to create a syngas that then can be converted to ethanol through a Fischer-Tropsch system. The gasifier heats to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and converts the CO2 to 70 percent syngas, Young says. He says he is working with a rural municipality in the Midwest to develop a project that would include construction of a 50 MMgy ethanol plant, as well as his system attached to produce more ethanol from the CO2. At that size, the plant could produce ethanol at a cost of 70 cents per gallon, including the cost of the capsule required to house his technology, with 6 percent interest for 20 years, he says. “It more than doubles ethanol production from that plant.” He declines to name the municipality, saying he still is working on the agreement. Young says he hopes to have a project under development with his potential partners in about a year. The system could use CO2 from any industry with a gaseous stream, but ethanol represents the best opportunity because of its pure CO2. “The lowhanging fruit is really the CO2 coming off an ethanol plant.” MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 23

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A regimen of cleaning and antibiotics is vital for success in the fight against bacterial contamination. But the industry is evolving to include the use of more natural treatment options. By Tim Albrecht

Bacterial contamination, specifically lactic acid bacteria, is a looming concern for ethanol producers and can reduce efficiency, lower yield and prompt costly repairs. Lactic acid bacteria produce

various organic acids, including lactic and acetic. If those are present in a system, it’s a clear indication of a bacterial contamination, experts say. But proper sanitation and implementation of a rotational antibacterial control strategy can prevent contamination and the emergence of resistant bacterial strains. The first line of defense is a preventative strategy through basic plant maintenance and cleaning.

Plant Hygiene

Perhaps the most important tool in an intensive plant cleaning is a caustic solution. When cleaning with a caustic solution,

it’s vital to ensure it is the proper concentration and temperature, and is flowing through the system at the appropriate pressure and duration. Time and temperature are two of the four Ts of cleaning, along with turbulence and titration, says Tera Stoughtenger, technical services manager at Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits. Lallemand has a designated hygiene audit team that will troubleshoot lactic-level problem areas for plants. “They’ll go in with the different instruments we have available and try to determine if there are any dead legs,” Stoughtenger says. “That’s one of the key things we look for, especially with plants expanding lately. It seems some pipes get missed and could end up with mash in them, causing bacterial contamination. We will grab samples and look at what type of, or how much, bacteria are present in dead legs, and different tanks and ports.” Bacterial contamination can be caused by inadequate cleaning or impediments to process flow—such as heat exchanger blockag-

ENHANCE AND CONTROL: Allen Ziegler, consultant to Hydrite Chemical Co., evaluates a penicillin replacement, YVE-013. It’s designed for yeast enhancement, but also controls harmful bacteria. Hydrite Chemical helps plants evaluate their cleanliness to avoid bacterial contamination, and offers treatment options when needed. PHOTO: HYDRITE CHEMICAL CO.

26 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018

MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 27


es—and biofilms, among other issues. Sulfamic acid is commonly used as a solvent to clean heat exchangers and for removal of biofilms. Routine review of all cleaning practices and associated equipment is recommended. “Checking equipment, such as spray balls in the fermenters, is a good idea to ensure they’re operating correctly,” says Stacey Campbell, ethanol technical services manager for BetaTec.

Hydrite Chemical Co. classifies plants in three groups—class one being extremely clean plants and class three being more challenging plants, says Allen Ziegler, a consultant to Hydrite Chemical. “No one likes to call their plant infected, but it can be, due to engineering designs or other reasons,” he says. “Some plants, depending on how they’re managed, are always going to be antimicrobially challenged.”


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28 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018

Staying on top of cleaning is also important from a financial standpoint, as procrastination in fixing issues could prove costly. In the past 20 years, Ziegler has encountered many customers who ended up paying more than $1 million for fixes, he says.


Secondary to cleaning is the use of antibacterial products, developed specifically to control bacteria in fuel ethanol plants. These products, each with a different function and area of activity, don’t affect the yeast when used at recommended doses. Introducing antimicrobials into the propagators and fermenters during ethanol production helps inhibit bacterial contaminants, such as Lactobacillus, Acetobacter, Leuconostoc and Pediococcus. This helps reduce yeast stress and increase alcohol yields. Lallemand offers a wide range of antimicrobial products, including Lactoside V and 247, Allpen Special and several varieties of bactenix, containing commonly used antibiotics Virginiamycin, penicillin, Streptomycin and Potassium Pen G. It offers a hands-on approach to its customer service and fermentation management, focusing on tailoring products to each customer’s plant, Stoughtenger says. “We offer a large variety of antimicrobials that are used for both the gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria,” she says. “We can go in to collect samples and send them to our lab. The lab will specify which antibiotics would be best for the plant.” Some plants shy away from antibiotics, over the debate about whether they trickle down the food chain via distillers dried grains with solubles, says Jason Lanham, director of sales for North America for BetaTec Hop Products. “We’re looking at consumers and the end users for coproducts going all the way down to the chicken farms that are buying the distiller grains ethanol plants are producing,” he says. “In some cases, you can even get premiums for antibiotic-free distillers grains.”

BACTERIA liberally without causing a regulatory problem, Ziegler says. “The primary advantages in Defender is it’s effective against both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria,” he says. “It can be used at a very high rate, unlike antibiotics, which have a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) of one part per million, while ours can be used at 173 (parts per million). Because you have a natural breakdown,

you don’t have any carryover into the food chain.” The company also has a new chemical based on sodium chloride—commonly known as table salt—for stronger, more infectious problems that might occur further downstream via the heat exchangers, Ziegler says. “Those are the two primary products we offer that aren’t the traditional Virginiamycin or penicillin. We’re looking

DESIGNED TO DEFEND: A tote of Defender chemical sits in a Hydrite factory. Defender is designed to aid yeast propagation while controlling both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. PHOTO: HYDRITE CHEMICAL CO.

BetaTec has a line of nonantibacterial hops extract products that it says controls bacteria growth, while enhancing fermentation and improving quality of the yeast and ethanol. Its flagship product, IsoStab, controls gram-positive bacteria in the fermentation stage of ethanol production. Naturally occurring acids from the hops flower used to produce IsoStab are absorbed by the bacteria cell and lower its pH, Lanham says. This inhibits the cell’s ability to transfer glucose through the cell wall. In essence, bacteria commonly found in ethanol production are starved to death and they can’t reproduce, says Campbell.

Evolution and Innovation

With recent Food Safety and Modernization Act regulations in place to ensure the amounts of antibiotics used are safe for food consumption, chemical providers are required to evolve and innovate. Hydrite introduced a unique product called Defender that can be added to the ethanol production MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 29

BACTERIA at different platforms that are nonantibiotic-based. Hydrite isn’t the only company looking to evolve. Lallemand recently acquired a company called Lactic Solutions LLC, which was cofounded by Jim Steele, general manager of Lactic Solutions. Steele developed a technology that has the potential to reduce use of antibiotics in the ethanol industry and increase yields, he says. “We

isolate bacteria from the ethanol plant environment and we simply reengineer them to make ethanol instead of lactic acid,” Steele says. “In addition, we arm them to outcompete the normal contaminants that are present. We then use those lactic acid bacteria to reduce the production of lactate and other organic acids, and increase yields by using those less common carbohydrates the yeast tends not to use.”

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30 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018

Rather than sugars ending up in DDGS, where they have relatively low value, Steele’s technology would convert them to ethanol. Long term, Lallemand wants to reduce, or hopefully eliminate, the use of antimicrobials in the bioethanol industry, Steele says. The idea came about when Steele and Lactic Solutions cofounder Jeff Broadbent were trying to construct lactic acid bacteria that would compete with the yeast as the primary ethanologen in bioethanol fermentation. They overheard colleagues at a U.S. Department of Agriculture meeting discussing the difficulties with lactic acid bacteria in bioethanol fermentation and the costs on the industry, Steele says. “We left and talked about how we could take what we knew and redirect the technology toward what we’re doing now, which is enhancing yields and reducing antibiotic use,” he says. “It was one of those rare ‘eureka’ moments, that you only hear about.” The product is still in development and Steele hopes to have something for the marketplace by the end of 2018. Bacteria are constantly changing and technology has adapted to combat them. New enzymes and genetically modified yeasts are causing issues such as infections that have never been seen before, Ziegler says. “When the industry started off, there were all kinds of problems but it learned to manage them, and then they seemed to pop up again with all these new products and technologies being introduced,” he says. “With a dual strategy of both CIP and using new chemistries in propagation and fermentation, we’re seeing pretty good results. It goes a long way to helping you manage that bacterial contamination.” Author: Tim Albrecht Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4922

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Sticking TO IT

The Food Safety and Modernization Act limits options for biofilm control, but chemical and service providers have overhauled their product lines and treatment avenues to comply. By Lisa Gibson

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began implementing the tightened animal feed rules in its Food Safety and Modernization Act in September 2016, U.S. Water Services had to reformulate its entire product line of corrosion and scale inhibitors. None of the 300-plus products would be approvable under the new regulations. “We had to come up with new products,” says Mitch Manstedt, strategic business leader for U.S. Water, a Minnesotabased industrial water treatment solutions provider. “So we’re dealing with some very stringent guidelines here.”

32 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018

Overhauling products designed for biofilm control in the biofuels industry was a huge undertaking for most chemical and service providers in the wake of the FSMA regulations, Manstedt says. The rule effectively eliminated the use of nonoxidizing microbicides in plants complying with the FSMA rules, out of concern for the contents of distillers dried grains. “Anything that could end up in DDGS which might be used for animal feed has to be approved as either a potable water treatment, or FDA approved as an animal feed additive, or safe to use in animal feed through a GRAS (generally recognized as safe),” says Jim Lukanich, director of applied technology for U.S. Water. For nonoxidizing microbicides, that GRAS branding isn’t likely, he adds.

“What we’re left with are programs using oxidizing microbicides only,” Lukanich says. That leads to challenges, as nonoxidizing microbicides—such as quaternary ammonium compounds—are more effective than oxidizing microbicides—such as chlorine, bromine and chlorine oxide—at penetrating into biofilm to kill the bacteria within. “The effectiveness of oxidizing microbicides relies on staying ahead of biofilm accumulation,” Lukanich says. Even with strict regulations, chemical and service providers are finding ways to detect and remove biofilm, limiting negative effects such as fouling, corrosion, overall inefficiency, continued infection and, in some instances, costly cleaning.

OF SUBSTANCE: Because of their rural locations, ethanol plants are especially susceptible to bacterial contaminations, and therefore, to biofilm, a protective covering bacteria produce for themselves. PHOTO: SOLENIS

Biofilm Formation

“There are many things that biofilms can possibly affect in an ethanol plant,” says Wayne Mattsfield, scientist for Phibro Ethanol Performance Group. Biofilm is essentially a protective layer formed by bacteria that have attached themselves to surfaces in wet environments, such as cooling towers, heat exchangers or distillers. “Bacteria tend to attach to surfaces, rather than free flow,” Mattsfield says. Because of their rural locations, generally close to agricultural operations, ethanol plants are at high risk of bacterial contamination. Ethanol cooling plants tend to have a higher level of airborne contaminants, dust, and dirt and plant debris than other cooling systems,

such as a hospital’s, Lukanich says. “The cooling towers operate in an environment that is more opportunistic for those contaminants to get into the cooling water, resulting in a perfect scenario for biofilm growth.” Once attached to a surface, bacteria begin to form an exopolysaccharide layer—biofilm. The biofilm offers protection from chemicals and disinfectants, and acts like an insulation, reducing the ability of cooling water to cool the fermentation process. Interestingly, the biofilms also communicate with their bacteria hosts. “The biofilm almost acts like an organ and it brings nutrients into the center of the biofilm and waste products can be excluded from the biofilm,” Mattsfield says.

Biofilms also provide gradients within the buildup of biological material, he says, specifically with oxygen. The most oxygen is retained in the outer layers, leaving a completely anaerobic environment closer to the surface the bacteria have attached themselves to. “Anaerobes can grow at that lower layer after the bacteria above them have consumed all that oxygen and provided them an oxygen-depleted environment to do their thing.” Anaerobic conditions deep under biofilms can cause pitting of pipes, or microbially induced corrosion, a serious issue than can result in costly equipment failure. And without nonoxidizing microbicides, controlling that damage is even more challenging.

MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 33

KEEP COOL: Cooling systems, such as this one at Glacial Lakes Energy LLC in Watertown, South Dakota, provide the perfect environment for biofilm growth, but the latest Food Safety and Modernization Act regulations limit control strategies. PHOTO: LISA GIBSON, ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE

Following FSMA

Beyond the penetration benefits of nonoxidizing microbicides over oxidizing, the former also continues to serve its purpose after application. When the plant equipment is shut off, the oxidizing microbicides disappear within minutes, leaving no residuals behind, Lukanich explains. “Nonoxidizing microbicides will hang around for days or weeks,” he says. “FSMA takes away a lot of our tools to treat systems and takes away a lot of the good things, or you could say bad things, to control outbreaks of microbiological activity,” Manstedt says. “So even if the system is relatively clean and clear today, on an FSMA program, that’s not saying you can be assured that it will remain that way down the road because if there’s a leak in a heat exchanger, you get

34 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018

mash, or if there’s a lapse in concentration of approved chemistries in there, it could start leading to damage in susceptible areas where it could get out of control. It’s important to be regularly monitoring the state of the cooling tower and to develop a treatment program to prevent biofilm outbreaks.” Ethanol producers need to be aware of their high-risk areas, stay on top of testing, chemical dosages and inspections, he adds. “Before, we weren’t too worried about a small increase in microbiological activity. Before, we could throw a little chemistry at it and it would take care of it. Now, we need to really be concerned about microbial activity, and a small trend in the wrong direction could have devastating effects down the road. You may not see it today. But a couple years from now, it could start to lead to problems.”

But not all ethanol plants must comply with FSMA. Some facilities do, across the entire site, even if the cooling water doesn’t come in contact with the product, Manstedt says. Others classify as noncontact cooling water and therefore may still use nonoxidizing microbicides. It’s up to each facility to determine what’s best for its operations, he says. “Right now, we’re kind of seeing a split a little bit, where the larger ethanol plants are going down the path of 100 percent FSMA coming into that facility, and some others are not. So it all depends on the facility, the risk they want to take and hazard analysis they want to complete.” Lukanich says the best practice for biofilm control, in general, is to continuously feed an oxidizing microbicide, such as chlorine, into the system, with a nonoxidizing microbicide a


few times per week. The two work together for optimal biofilm control and removal, he says. But Manstedt points out that biofilm control does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s about knowing the facilities, knowing each specific plant, their tendencies and trends regarding biofilm and biological activity, and then applying the best strategies for that specific application.â&#x20AC;? Mattsfield says preventionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;through a thorough understanding of a plant and where the inputs areâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;is of course the best way to control biofilm, though itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not easy. Effective and consistent clean in-place (CIP) strategies also are crucial. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I often tell people that the use of products like antimicrobials are usually important when you have infections, but proper CIP in a plant is probably the first step in trying to minimize biofilm problems.â&#x20AC;?

3-Pronged Approach

Solenis, a specialty chemicals provider, has a specific approach for biofilm removal and protection in ethanol plants. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dubbed ClearPoint and starts with an equipment-based phase that makes use of ultrasound to find biofilm. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We think itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s really a gamechanger and really revolutionizes the industry, in terms of how we can measure and quantify biofilm in real, industrial cooling systems,â&#x20AC;? says Michael Bluemle, senior team leader in the Solenis Water Applications Laboratory. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s called OnGuard 3B and is designed to simulate a fermentation cooler, for instance, in terms of velocity flow and temperature. It continuously sends out an ultrasound signal to monitor the equipment. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If some biofilm does start to build up in the system, we can measure it very early on when thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only microns-thick biofilm and we can react much more quickly with this online measurement, versus other, traditional offline measurements,â&#x20AC;? Bluemle says. Once the biofilm is detected, the next step is chemistry. Solenis has a full portfolio of oxidizing and nonoxidizing biocides, as well as recently developed biodispersents to remove biofilm, according to Bluemle. The perfect cocktail is determined for each customer and then the third step begins: service. Bluemle says Solenisâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; team of trained salespeople and experienced applications staff serves its customersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; specific needs.

Since FSMA, customers have expressed concern about and interest in the raw ingredients in Solenisâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; chemicals, he says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve had to work closely with our customers to understand the regulations and limits, and then work internally within Solenis, within our regulatory group and applications and sales teams, from a technical standpoint, to make sure weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re meeting regularity requirements, but also still providing the kinds of high-performing treatment program that our customers expect. So we have to develop cooling water products that fit the biorefining industry because of the more stringent regulatory demands.â&#x20AC;?

For the Future

In light of changing regulations, Lukanich recommends ethanol plants consider alternative materials such as PVC and plastic piping instead of steel. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll make their lives easier if they consider those.â&#x20AC;? Regulations also have removed a corrosion-inhibiting chemistry for

copper, a metal that already is more susceptible to accelerated corrosion by chlorine than others. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ethanol producers may have to be a little more accepting of slightly higher corrosion rates, which may still be perfectly acceptable.â&#x20AC;? Bluemle says the strict regulations also are infringing on progress to develop new chemicals. â&#x20AC;&#x153;One trend in the industry is there doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t seem to be much innovation around chemistry. We are still working on developing new chemistries where possible, but it can be difficult in a market like biorefining, where regulations are more stringent and it takes more time and money to get things approved.â&#x20AC;? Author: Lisa Gibson Managing Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4920


MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 35




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SUGAR TAP: The trehalase enzyme (shown as large molecule), developed by Novozymes, breaks down trehalose (docked in the active site) into glucose, which conventional yeast can consume. Novozymes says the enzyme boosts yields by 1 percent. PHOTO: NOVOZYMES

38 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018




Liquefaction should be the first focus area in yield improvement efforts. Understanding enzyme enhancements and proper indicators are key to evaluating a plant’s process. By Susanne Retka Schill

Keeping yeast well-fed and happily producing ethanol starts in liquefaction, or cook. It begins the pro-

cess of breaking down the long carbon chains of starch in ground corn into the simple sugar glucose that yeast consume, using heat and enzymes. Getting liquefaction right is the first step to maximizing yields. In cook, ground corn is mixed with fresh water and recycled process streams to make a slurry to gelatinize, or dissolve, the starch. A home cook does this when making gravy, diluting corn starch in warm water and gently stirring. “Industrial operations call for a very heavy slurry and much faster speed,” says Loren Chen, president of Shanghai East Tide Science and Technology and a representative for Hydro-Thermal Corp. Jet cooking is used to speed up the process and, in recent years, more has been learned about how heat and mechanical shear work together. For several years, there was a trend to turn off jet

cookers, Chen explains, primarily because energy conservation measures recovered steam that could be used for slurry heating. “After a couple of years of this new practice, a ‘big data’ review of residual carbohydrates versus cooking practice prompted turning the Hydroheater back on, and a more satisfactory residual carbohydrate level gradually came back.” The industry had long evaluated cook solely through temperature, Chen says, thus overlooking the mechanical shear function in the patented Hydroheater. “The Hydroheater is uniquely designed to channel streams of steam and corn slurry to collide with exact quantity and adjustable force, resulting in nearly 100 percent gelatinization.” In one experiment where he adjusted the mechanical shear force, he determined the effectiveness of optimized shear force can be the equivalent of an increase of 15 percent in the enzyme dose. More importantly, the enzymes were able to get at all the starch to do their work. MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 39

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SHEAR POWER: The patented Hydroheater combines steam with mechanical shear to heat and open the starch molecule for enzymes to do their work. ILLUSTRATION: HYDRO-THERMAL CORP.

Chen and his colleagues at HydroThermal are now examining ways to evaluate cook material immediately, rather than waiting to the end of the process, some three days later, as is done currently by looking at data correlations between ethanol yields and cook operations. One promising method showing good correlations with the level of mechanical shear is to test the liquefaction liquor for speed of filtration. Meanwhile, he continues his work on optimizing jet cooking. “We are still in the process of collecting data to tell the story in a statistically significant way,” he adds. “There are many factors impacting ethanol yields in addition to cook. Thus, correlations are often confounded with other factors and we can only do this with long-term analysis.”

Monitoring Liquefaction

Enzymes are the other critical component of liquefaction. “There are four goals to liquefaction,” says Stephanie Gleason, regional application development leader for DuPont Industrial Biosciences. “Solubilize the starch, reduce viscosity to make the corn mash pumpable and break down the starch molecule to make it available for enzymatic hydrolysis to glucose so it can be fermented.” Alphaamylase enzymes help with those three, along with the fourth, which is to recycle process streams successfully.

As changes are made to improve operations, it’s important to know the plant’s baseline, using solid measurement protocols, she says. “For liquefaction, a couple of good key performance indicators (KPI) are viscosity and dextrose equivalents, or DEs.” Viscosity can be measured by monitoring pump pressures or with viscometers and, while not all plants measure DE, she says, the wet chemistry step is a good measurement for liquefaction performance. Dextrose equivalent gives a measurement of the average starch chain length, she explains, and consistency is important. “As the alpha-amylase is solubilizing the starch, it generates reducing ends, which is where the glucoamylase can act in fermentation.” Monitoring KPIs in liquefaction also helps with early identification of process upsets that can be caused by accumulating levels of fusels or organic acids in the recycled process streams. While bacteria don’t survive the temperatures in liquefaction, she points out, the products of contaminants—organic acids—can, and high levels will stress yeast. Recycled process streams do have benefits, she adds, as most alpha-amylases require cations such as sodium and calcium that are found in backset for good performance. Knowing the baseline, establishing solid performance indicators and achieving consistent operations are fundamental

YIELD MAXIMIZATION in evaluating enzyme performance—important in a time when enzyme providers are offering new lines of improved enzymes and plants want to determine if they are getting the expected results. “As new alphas are developed, we’re getting molecules that can operate in a wider range of cation levels and a wider range of temperatures,” Gleason says. A good liquefaction, she stresses, sets the stage for successful fermentation.

Enzyme Advancements

Just as alphas are being improved to work under broader conditions, new, improved glucoamylases are being introduced to improve fermentation, along with new accessory enzymes. Proteases have been developed that break down protein in the corn mash that can’t be utilized by the yeast into free amino nitrogen that can. Trehalase is a new enzyme that breaks down trehalose, a sugar produced by yeast, into glucose, which conventional yeast can consume. Running trials on new enzymes can be tricky, particularly to verify small gains in a large volume, says Laurie Duval, director of technical services, biofuel for Novozymes.

“We were running a trehalase trial that took a three-month evaluation at all the customers’ sites so they could prove to themselves and see the performance of the trehalase. And, then they redid a baseline without to be sure that’s what they saw. When you’re going for that 1 percent of yield, you really have to make sure you’re making the right product choice.” An important step in working with plants on yield maximization is understanding the plant’s goals, Duval says. For many, location determines the best focus for optimization efforts. It affects the prices paid for corn and received for ethanol and corn oil, she points out. “They really need to be true to themselves as for what the right KPI is for the best profitable business for them. And given the process they have, they need to run good trials on products to make the best decision to deliver on the benefit they’re looking for.” When it comes to enzymes, there are many such decisions to make, weighing the cost versus benefit. “We have come a long way with adding new enzyme activities and getting more ethanol yield, higher through-

put, more corn oil and finding ways to simplify the process,” Duval says. “And we’ve been able to reduce the leftover sugars not going to ethanol.” Starches and sugars that make it through the process unconverted, ending up in the distillers grains, are getting down to increasingly low levels, she says. “The majority of plants are getting much less than 5 percent residual sugar and, in some cases now, less than 2 percent.” Enzyme advancements offer even more opportunity, Duval says. “With these advanced enzymes, we can get 2 to 5 percent more yield. And there’s other things we can get to around fiber that can get us another 10 percent.” Even a 1 percent yield improvement across the industry calculates into major gains, Duval points out. “Looking at the 16.3 billion gallons produced in 2017, a 1 percent gain at today’s relatively low ethanol prices would contribute a little over $200 million in revenue to the ethanol industry.” Author: Susanne Retka Schill Freelance Journalist

© 2018 Buckman Laboratories International, Inc. All rights reserved.

MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 41





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SCAN SCREEN: A scan panel shows readings during an infrared thermography inspection. An infrared predictive maintenance program can prolong equipment life, among other benefits. PHOTO: JTI SERVICES

Breakdown of Benefits Infrared thermography can save money, improve safety and prevent unexpected downtime. By Cody Jackson

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).

44 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | MARCH 2018


As ethanol producers see their facilities surpass the 20year mark across the Midwest, the results of effective maintenance programs can be seen on the bottom line. It’s a well-known

fact that equipment fails. The area where equipment failure is most detrimental to an ethanol plant is the electrical system—the lifeblood of the facility. The good news is failure in electrical equipment can most often be predicted and avoided with the right maintenance program. A good infrared predictive maintenance program (IR PdM) can deliver many benefits for an ethanol producer, including less unexpected downtime, longer equipment life and improved safety, all adding up to cost savings. So what is infrared thermography? The Infraspection Institute defines it as a “noncontact, nondestructive test method that utilizes a thermal imager to detect, display and record thermal patterns and temperatures across the surface of an object.” For an ethanol plant, using infrared thermography allows a thermographer to inspect electrical assets (motor control centers, panels, transformers, etc.) while they are energized and find problems before they lead to unexpected downtime. Problems in an electrical system can be detected by the anomalies in heat signatures—something skilled thermographers are trained to understand. IR PdM programs can be implemented in many ways, from simply purchasing a thermal imager and creating a program, to hiring a specialized outside contractor, or a hybrid of the two. Choosing the right route depends on manpower, infrared training, time and budget. But with many facility services, hiring an expert is often the most effective way to get the job done. Once in place, infrared thermography brings a wealth of benefits to the ethanol industry. Here are a few.

Reduced Downtime

In the ethanol industry, unexpected downtime can cost upwards of $10,000 per

hour. In an electrical system where excessive heat causes problems, infrared thermography can effectively reduce downtime by detecting or predicting small problems, such as loose connections in wire termination points, busbar bolted connections, fuse clips on fuse blocks, overloaded circuits and poor-quality connections made at the manufacturer.

Longer Equipment Life

Maintenance teams at ethanol plants are tasked with keeping several hundred pieces of equipment up and running. Implementing an IR PdM for SEE THE HEAT: Infrared thermography shows a fuse clip with a poor fuse connection inside an industrial compressor the electrical system allows the disconnect. maintenance staff to correct PHOTO: JTI SERVICES small issues in electrical equipment before the equipment management. Performing infrared scans burns up and needs to be replaced. This of an electrical system alone cannot save a allows for longer equipment life, which company money, but implementing an IR translates to savings. PdM followed by timely repairs can proMany ethanol plants have equipment vide huge cost savings. waiting to be replaced. For large and essenWhen infrared inspections for electritial equipment, the cost to replace versus cal systems and timely repairs are successthe cost to fix can be extremely lopsided in fully implemented, JTI Services has seen a favor of the latter. Most electrical equip- return on investment of 400 percent for ment is designed to last decades and with every dollar spent. the proper predictive maintenance proAs ethanol facilities get older, the need grams in place, it can. for infrared predictive maintenance pro-

Improved Safety

Infrared thermography helps keep plants in compliance with National Fire Protection Association code 70B: Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, which includes recommended maintenance practices such as inspection of the electrical system at least once per year. Insurance companies also recommend the inspection, to ensure equipment stays in safe, working order.

Cost Savings

grams increases. Ensuring that the electrical system is in safe, working order should be on every maintenance manager’s agenda if they want to maintain and improve production of an aging facility. Infrared inspections combined with timely repairs can do just that.

Author: Cody Jackson Certified level-III Infrared Thermographer Manager, JTI Services 507.647.7812

For all the maintenance managers hoping to approve an IR PdM for their facilities, the cost savings can be the tipping point toward approval from upper MARCH 2018 | Ethanol Producer Magazine | 45

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2018 March Ethanol Producer Magazine  

Yield Maximization Plus: Bacteria/Biofilm Control

2018 March Ethanol Producer Magazine  

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