2021 March - Ethanol Producer Magazine

Page 1

MARCH 2021


DOUBLEDOWN Pandemic Prompts Maintenance Schedule Transformation PAGE 12


Maintain Nutrition as CIP Aids Evolve PAGE 20

Pilot Scale LandďŹ ll Gas Ethanol PAGE 32












EDITOR'S NOTE Collective Chaos






DRIVE A New Chapter for Ethanol Demand and Policy

Seeing Underground

Schedules changed in 2020 because of COVID-19

Water power helps locate utilities

By Lisa Gibson


By Emily Skor



Shifting Shutdowns

By Lisa Gibson



GLOBAL SCENE Fueling Canada's Path to Net-Zero Emissions


CIP: Coproducts and Compatibility

Additives could impact piping, feed content

By Tom Bryan


Advancements in Technology

By Matt Thompson

Innovations provide CIP optimization for overall performance

By Andrea Kent


GRASSROOTS VOICE It Is About the Money (But Not the Money You Think) By Ron Lamberty






Staff from Midwest Ironworks in Horace, North Dakota, perform shutdown services at an ethanol plant. PHOTO: MIDWEST IRONWORKS

By David Fowlie



Landfill Gas to Ethanol

Process shows economic, environmental benefits By Gary C. Young

Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) March 2021, Vol. 27, 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. ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 3

Editor's Note

Collective Chaos As I put together this magazine, focused on maintenance and cleaning, I sit in my home office—a “temporary workspace” since March—with an acute awareness of the mini disaster around me. I’m a few days overdue for my regular weekend cleaning, and, thanks to the two cats and one dog sharing this house with me, it shows.

Lisa Gibson EDITOR lgibson@bbiinternational.com

I feel safe assuming I’m not the only one whose home and life schedules have been thrown off during the pandemic. And ethanol producers who shook up their planned shutdown schedules in 2020 aren’t alone either. It’s a collective chaos. Our first feature, “Shifting Shutdowns,” starting on page 12, explores the impact the pandemic had on shutdown maintenance in 2020, and which trends might continue. Plants traded spring and fall shutdowns for summer and winter, or even just summer. It spread out the busy season for contractors and shutdown service providers, and might have prompted producers to evaluate the potential of permanently cutting the number of annual shutdowns to one. With a little extra maintenance on crucial equipment like evaps, it might be an option for some plants. The feature explores some interesting opportunities. Also in this magazine, you’ll find coverage of caustic soda replacements—what’s new and what benefits these innovations bring. But you’ll also hear a word of caution from an animal feed expert about the downstream impacts of new additives. Product developers assure that their offerings have no adverse effect on feed, but, nonetheless, producers should be in close contact with their feed customers, says Jerry Shurson, an animal science professor at the University of Minnesota. If you know Jerry, you know he often laments the disconnect between ethanol producers and their feed customers. I think he has a good point. Find out more on page 20. We also have two guest contributions, discussing the overall performance boost that accompanies proper CIP strategies, and an up-and-coming landfill gas-to-ethanol technology. This is an issue packed with informative content. And with this Editor’s Note ready for layout, my next task is to clean my house. Stay safe and be well.




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EDITORIAL Editor Lisa Gibson | lgibson@bbiinternational.com

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PUBLISHING & SALES CEO Joe Bryan | jbryan@bbiinternational.com President Tom Bryan | tbryan@bbiinternational.com Vice President of Operations/Marketing & Sales John Nelson | jnelson@bbiinternational.com Business Development Director Howard Brockhouse | hbrockhouse@bbiinternational.com Senior Account Manager/Bioenergy Team Leader Chip Shereck | cshereck@bbiinternational.com Jr. Account Manager Josh Bergrud | jbergrud@bbiinternational.com Circulation Manager Jessica Tiller | jtiller@bbiinternational.com


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EDITORIAL BOARD Ringneck Energy Walter Wendland Little Sioux Corn Processors Steve Roe Commonwealth Agri-Energy Mick Henderson Aemetis Advanced Fuels Eric McAfee Western Plains Energy Derek Peine Front Range Energy Dan Sanders Jr.

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A New Chapter for Ethanol Demand and Policy

Emily Skor

CEO, Growth Energy 202.545.4000


In keeping with tradition, the biofuel sector kicked off 2021 with its first major annual gathering, hosted by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association in January. While the summit moved to a virtual setting, enthusiasm remained as strong as ever, and I was honored to deliver the keynote address to an audience energized by the opportunities ahead to open a new chapter for biofuels, in a new year, with a new administration. Fortunately, our industry laid a strong foundation during the campaign, ensuring that no path to the White House would be paved without answering to our voters in rural America. Those efforts did not go unrewarded. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris campaigned and won on a promise to promote biofuels, recognizing them as the engine of the rural economy and a vital tool in the fight against climate change. Now, we’re working to ensure Biden keeps those promises by acting swiftly and boldly to meet the current challenges facing rural communities. If he is successful, it will send an unmistakable signal that we have a sincere partner in the White House. That starts at the U.S. EPA, where Biden’s nominee to serve as administrator, Michael Regan, will soon be making his first substantial decisions on the future of biofuels. While Regan has a limited record on biofuels, he doesn’t come to the table with deep anti-ethanol ties. That means we have an opportunity to set the table, on our terms, by educating Regan on the modern American ethanol industry and the impactful role we have in carbon reduction. Under his leadership, EPA must move swiftly to restore integrity to the Renewable Fuel Standard. Sixty-five small refinery exemptions are still under review at EPA, and we won’t let up until the exemption pipeline is shut down, just as the 10th Circuit Court intended. Moreover, EPA must restore 500 million gallons of demand, as ordered by the courts all the way back in 2017, and set strong Renewable Volume Obligations for 2021. Of course, the RFS is only one leg of the stool when it comes to promoting new demand. To create a true step change in domestic demand, we must make higher blends the national commercial success we know they can be. That is why we are proudly working with retail partners, lawmakers and the USDA to bring E15 to consumers in untapped markets expeditiously. Thanks to those efforts, E15 is now available at nearly 2,300 locations. Magellan just made pre-blended E15 a “house recipe” at its terminals, which means lower costs and higher returns for our retail partners. To accelerate that progress, we’re pushing EPA to address the onerous E15 label and limits on the use of existing infrastructure for higher blends. Just this January, EPA released a long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking on these issues. Importantly, EPA’s proposal draws on market data that Prime the Pump has made available to regulators demonstrating the commercial appeal of this high-value product. We’re also pursuing a robust legislative and regulatory agenda in states like Minnesota, where policymakers are considering a climate roadmap that would make E15 the new normal, and Missouri, where lawmakers are considering tax incentives to help us eliminate remaining barriers to E15 growth. As part of these conversations, from Mexico City to Olympia, Washington, we never miss a chance to showcase biofuels as the premier climate and human health solution—one that is available today, compatible with our existing auto fleet, and affordable for communities around the world. That’s the message that resonated last year in Canada, where Ontario amended its clean fuel regulations to boost the volume of renewable content in gasoline from 10% to 15% by 2030. If other leaders hope to drive similar progress, the details matter. An effective climate strategy must recognize the critical role biofuels play in decarbonizing our transportation sector and bring our farmers into the fold in addressing the climate crisis. It must build on the success of the RFS, increase the use of high-octane, low-carbon biofuels, and expand market access for higher blends. And it must reflect the best available science. In fact, the latest landmark study, published by Environmental Health and Engineering, shows ethanol’s carbon intensity score is 46% lower than gasoline. The sooner we can get these fuels to the pump, the sooner motorists—including those living in densely populated urban communities—can enjoy cleaner air and a more affordable commute. Fortunately, we have some great champions by our side, and I know my colleagues across the industry share my excitement as we navigate the challenges of a new year. Together, we will ensure that ethanol is not only the fuel of a rural economic renaissance, but the driving force behind a brighter, healthier future for decades to come.


Global Scene

Fueling Canada’s Path to Net-Zero Emissions

Andrea Kent

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


Equal parts political opportunity and mammoth challenge, climate change has been the crux of Canada’s policy agenda since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the Paris Agreement in 2016. At the signing, Trudeau enthusiastically vowed Canada would “harness the power of renewable energy as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” His government has been working to make that promise a reality ever since. Last December, Canada added to this commitment and joined a growing list of countries pledging to achieve carbon neutrality in emissions, or “net-zero” by 2050. This, despite the fact Canada is the 10thlargest GHG emitter globally. So, how can Canada, with emissions that increased 20% between 1990 and 2018, expect to reach its emissions targets by 2030, let alone net-zero by 2050? The short answer is by using cleaner transportation fuel—a lot more of it. Thirty percent of Canada’s overall GHG emissions come from transportation, a figure similar to the United States’. Governments now realize that climate policy must also be transportation policy and vice versa. Today, a growing suite of regulations seeks to measure fuel not in liters or gallons, but by its carbon intensity and ability to reduce emissions. Canada’s new Clean Fuel Standard is the latest example, and its successful execution is critical to reaching net-zero. The CFS was announced in 2016, and the draft regulation was published in December 2020 with a 75-day consultation period. If adopted, the CFS will replace Canada’s current national blending mandate and would come into force at the end of 2022. The federal 5% minimum ethanol blend requirement will be carried forward in the CFS. Under the proposed CFS, producers and distributors of fossil fuels would have to reduce the carbon content of products like gasoline and diesel by 2.6% by 2022, scaling up to a 13% carbon reduction by 2030. Carbon intensity is measured on a full life-cycle basis, so fuel suppliers can meet the obligations by lowering the carbon emissions at the crude oil refinery, or through increased biofuels blending, or through creating other low-carbon options for consumers. The CFS will also create a credit trading scheme, where fuel suppliers that are not meeting carbon intensity reduction requirements can buy credits generated by companies with excess credits through producing fuels that are even cleaner than the minimum standard in the CFS. If it works as intended, the CFS will cut carbon emissions, spur investment in clean-energy technology and see higher biofuels-blending levels. Like other low-carbon fuel standards, the CFS will require more stringent reductions in carbon intensity over time. For the policy to work, the market needs robust renewable fuel production and obligated parties need available and affordable low-carbon alternatives to petroleum. Ethanol comes in strong on both counts. Under the CFS, the government projects an additional 2.8 billion liters (nearly 740 million gallons) of ethanol demand in 2030. This projection complements higher ethanol blending requirements in some provinces also coming online in 2030, like in Ontario. The final CFS regulation will be published later this year. Some important details remain to be seen, but overall, the CFS shows positive signs of aligning Canada’s renewable fuels industry and international trade goals and obligations with the U.S. Our industry also continues to advocate for parameters that would ensure ethanol producers and grain growers continue to see the economic benefits of their process improvements, innovations and efforts to reduce their own carbon footprints. While policies like the CFS and net-zero emissions are “new” to some, they still ring true for renewable fuel producers. Like the first ethanol RFS, they confirm that the most effective climate policies are, at their core, investment policies. And second, to succeed, they need to situate biofuels as an essential pathway to emissions reductions and creating a robust, resilient—and ultimately, net-zero—economy. ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 7

Grassroots Voice

It Is About the Money (But Not the Money You Think)

Ron Lamberty

Senior Vice President American Coalition for Ethanol 605.334.3381


Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow on Groundhog Day in 2020, which, according to legend, meant an early spring. Phil nailed it. Then March came in like a lamb (except in Nashville, where they had several tornadoes) and while the weather was lamb-like at the end of the month, most of the world wasn’t talking about weather. Instead, it was focusing on the rabid COVID-19 lion that entered in midMarch, started tearing things up (like the rare tornadoes in Hawaii at the same time), ate the lamb, and was looking to do more damage. As it did so, the ethanol industry, which had already been gutted by prices driven below cost by a manufactured oil supply glut, was brought to its knees by a sudden 50% drop in worldwide fuel usage. Yet fuel retailers stayed open, selling the other half of the fuel to those who could still use it, and c-stores became a critical piece of keeping us safe and healthy during the darkest early days of the pandemic. Some chuckled when convenience stores were called “essential services” during the shutdown, but when c-stores were often the only places open for gas, groceries, and in some areas, the only place to get a prepared meal, everyone understood. Those same convenience stores will now be “essential services” if the ethanol industry is to return to normal, even after we found strengths and markets we didn’t fully appreciate before 2020. The pandemic showed ethanol’s value as a product to protect public health, and the fact ethanol sales didn’t drop as far or fast as gasoline during the pre-pandemic Russia/Saudi slap fight proved ethanol’s octane has value. And as a new Congress and administration focus on carbon in energy and environmental discussions, we have an opportunity to show elected officials today’s ethanol is “not your old man’s” ethanol. It’s a clean, low-carbon fuel that in many areas can be as clean or cleaner than electric vehicles, if we’re allowed to sell blends with more ethanol and less gasoline. That’s where convenience stores become so important, especially if liquid fuel volumes decrease as some have predicted. We have to show how ethanol is essential to them. About 95 of 100 vehicles on the road today can use E15, and one in 11 is a flexible-fuel vehicle. Even with extraordinary recent growth in electric vehicles the past few years, one in 165 cars is a plug-in electric, and most of those could plug in at home. That’s why the most successful E15 and/or flex fuel retailers switched. Yes, money for equipment draws attention, but the bottom line is… the bottom line. There are far more potential new customers driving E15 and flex-fuel vehicles today than any other alternative fuel vehicle, and that will be the case for a long time. Coupled that with EPA’s acknowledgement in its proposed E15 labeling and tank compatibility rule that much of the equipment in stations today is compatible with ethanol blends above 10%, and we’ve got a compelling case for retailers, even without free equipment money. EPA even cites ACE’s FlexCheck compatibility tool on flexfuelforward.com to show current infrastructure might already be higher-blend compatible. Pearson Fuels in San Diego has sold more new gallons of ethanol through retail customers than any marketer in the nation the last several years, while paying a much smaller portion of customers’ equipment costs than our industry typically has. How? Pearson shows retailers E85 makes them money and prospective new retailers keep contacting Pearson for help getting into the E85 business. Maybe the concept of “teaching someone to fish” is just easier to grasp when you live by an ocean.



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Ausdal joins USGC Isabelle Ausdal joined the U.S. Grains Council gal studies from American University,” said Brian as manager of ethanol trade policy and economics Healy, USGC director of global ethanol market dein the organization’s Washington, D.C., headquarvelopment. “Her professional background includes ters. significant writing and analysis experience, includIn this role, Ausdal will assist in trade policy ing briefings, policy analyses and research related to and economic analysis of market and policies as agriculture and environmental policy.” they relate to global ethanol and feed grain markets Before joining USGC, Ausdal held multiple and USGC activities. Ausdal will be focused on progovernment relations and policy roles including as viding data-driven decision support to the director a law clerk, as an intern for John Deere and as a Ausdal of global ethanol market development. policy intern for the National Association of State “Isabelle is a native of Illinois and comes to us from a farm- Departments of Agriculture. For the past year, she has been a ing background, holding a bachelor’s degree in agricultural eco- policy analyst with Strategic Conservation Solutions. nomics from University of Illinois and a master’s degree in le-


The Andersons announces Trade and Processing Group senior leadership The Andersons Inc. has updated the senior leadership of its Trade and Processing group, which is comprised of its trade and ethanol business segments. Scott Mills and Jim Pirolli have taken on expanded leadership roles as senior vice presidents. Mills and Pirolli will report to Bill Krueger, president of The Andersons Trade and Processing group. “Over the past two years, we have experienced an abundance of change,” Krueger said. “In 2019, we focused on integrating Lansing Trade Group and Thompsons Ltd. into The Andersons. In 2020, we reduced costs and streamlined our business groups. I am excited to implement this new structure, as it positions The Andersons Trade and Processing Group for growth in 2021 and beyond. Scott and Jim both have extensive experience across our industry segments and have been exceptional leaders for The Andersons. This new structure aligns our resources and talent to better serve our customers and achieve our vision of being the most nimble

and innovative North American ag supply chain company.” In his new role, Mills will oversee The Andersons’ Western Corn Belt, feed ingredients, and food and specialty operations. Mills started at Lansing Trade Group in 1997. During his time there, he served as executive vice president of merchandising. He joined The Andersons as senior vice president of trade when it acquired Lansing in 2019. Before Lansing, he worked for DeBruce Grain Inc. and before that, The Scoular Co. Pirolli will continue to lead The Andersons’ ethanol business and will assume responsibility for eastern grain, cross-country trading and containerized exports. He joined The Andersons in 2017 as vice president and general manager of ethanol and has led that business segment since 2019. Before The Andersons, he served as vice president of fuels for Kum & Go convenience stores and held various leadership roles with ADM.


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The pandemic in 2020 affected many aspects of ethanol production, including shutdown schedules. The updated, staggered timelines might remain in place, as plants and service providers evaluate their benefits. By Lisa Gibson

Western Plains Energy in Oakley, Kansas, only implemented one of two planned shutdowns in 2020. COVID-19

concerns forced deviation from its traditional spring and fall shutdown schedule for cleaning and maintenance. Plant Manager Rick Holaday says it’s a course many ethanol plants found themselves taking during the pandemic. “Before 2020 rolled around, I wouldn’t have had the guts to do one shutdown,” Holaday says. “It did help us a little bit because we were slowed down for the month of April and part of May. We weren’t pushing the plant as hard as we normally would, so we were fine with one.” In a normal production year, just one shutdown would be a bit concerning, he says. The strife in 2020, and even that of 2019, changed business for shutdown service providers and contractors performing the cleaning and maintenance, too. Moving

ELITE COMBUSTION: ICM Inc. offers maintenance at ethanol plants across the Midwest, with experts spread out to offer “local” service to as many plants as possible. Pictured is combustion equipment at Elite Octane in Atlantic, Iowa. PHOTO: ICM INC.


Maintenance forward, some ethanol plants might opt to maintain those shifted timelines, or even stick to a reduced number of shutdowns as a cost-saving measure where applicable.

Trends in Timing

Ethanol plants commonly schedule their two annual shutdowns in the spring—April or May—and fall—October. “We aim for two days but plan for three,” Holaday says of shutdown length. It all happens on the same schedule each time: Monday night, staff works to shut down the plant, emptying and draining, so it’s ready for contractors by 7 a.m. Tuesday. “It’s basically organized chaos,” Holaday says. Then the contractors come in to hydroblast evaporators, replace pipelines and conduct any extra projects coinciding with the shutdown, such as tank floor replacements. In 2020, the spring shutdown was


delayed until July, and the fall shutdown wasn’t done. It wasn’t a budget crunch that adjusted the schedule, Holaday says, but concerns about having so many contractors on-site. And July in Kansas is not ideal, he adds, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This year, Western Plains is looking at April and August shutdowns, Holaday says. While the July shutdown won’t stick, Western Plains has considered adjusting its shutdown schedule. It would help spread the work of contractors who service several ethanol plants during the common spring and fall shutdown schedules, Holaday says. “It’s not just for efficiency, but other plants use the same vendors. There is quite a bit of cooperation between us and our marketing department and local contractors to be able to stagger it enough.” ICM Inc.’s James Weber, manager, reliability services, and Kirsten Gordon, director, aftermarket services, saw the shift

in shutdown scheduling during 2020, as well. “A lot of these plants stuck to the fall and spring,” Weber says. “It was engrained in them that they had to shut down in the fall and they had to shut down in the spring. We did a lot more work in the summer months (in 2020) than what we normally do and we’re seeing a lot more this winter.” Whether the new schedule stays in place is yet to be determined, he adds. ICM provides maintenance services including internal tank repairs, conveyor work and dryer inspections and repairs. Gordon says 2020 was overall a bit slower because of tighter margins, but Weber adds ICM primarily stuck with its main services. The work at plants, however, differed, many opting for little projects versus larger shutdowns, he says. With extra maintenance in place for vulnerable equipment like evaporators, some plants might even explore one shutdown per year, amounting to a significant

DRYER DOUBLE: ICM staff conduct dryer maintenance during a planned ethanol plant shutdown. PHOTO: ICM INC.

cost savings. Western Plains pays about $65,000 to contractors per shutdown. But when Western Plains is at full capacity, “Two is better than one,� Holaday says.

A Shift in Services

Midwest Ironworks in Horace, North Dakota, provides shutdown services to

ethanol plants, including tie-ins for future projects, regenerative thermal oxidizer maintenance, pump alignments, gear box rebuilds and removal of relief valves to prepare for another party to rebuild and replace them. “The part that we’re involved with usually involves piping disconnects,� says Ryan Haugo, president of Midwest Ironworks. “Then we come back

after the shutdown to help button it all back up.� Haugo says most of Midwest Ironworks’ ethanol clients plan for four- or five-day shutdowns, “From shutting the boiler down to warming the boiler back up.� He says his workload decreased a bit in 2020, as plants with tight margins did their own shutdowns, in lieu of hiring

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SPARE STOCK: ICM’s warehouse is stocked with more than $1 million of critical spare parts. PHOTO: ICM INC.

help. Some plants he works with already do just one shutdown per year, normally in the spring. Into 2021, Haugo expects a return to the normal spring and fall schedule, but he has updated his offerings to accommodate one more major trend from 2020. “We’re seeing a shift where a lot of the plants are trying to spend some capital money on producing higher-grade alcohol. So we’re getting involved on the front end of a couple of those projects right now.� Midwest Ironworks will be the general contractor on one such project in Illinois, adding a couple more evaporators and other equipment for the new coproduct, headed for food and pharma markets. The new service added to Midwest Ironworks’ portfolio will open new doors, Haugo says. “We would sub out some of the facets of the project, and the tasks we normally do we would still perform.�

While a few plants are working with Midwest Ironworks to evaluate production of higher-grade alcohol, the Illinois project is the first where Haugo’s team is “boots on the ground,� he says. “And it’s great for the plants. If they have the capital to spend on it, now is the time to spend it because margins are low and downtime doesn’t hurt you as much. Once they can produce it, their margins are much better.�

Trust in Timelines

“The biggest part is they want someone they trust has enough staff and the hours to get it done,� Haugo says of providing shutdown services. “The biggest problem is contractors going past startup time. It’s a big issue.� Trustworthiness goes a long way, Weber and Gordon agree. “The big difference in using someone like us and using a local re-

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LIGHT REPAIRS: Piping work constitutes a large portion of the shutdown services provided by Midwest Ironworks in Horace, North Dakota. PHOTO: MIDWEST IRONWORKS

pair shop is the local repair shop might only work in two ethanol plants in their local area,” Weber says. “We work in 60, 70 plants a year. So we see a lot more, we hear a lot more and, overall, we have a lot more tribal knowledge.” Many plants opt for local contractors to avoid mobilization costs. “We try to use local because we’re out here in the middle of nowhere, so we save a little bit of money,” Holaday says. “It really depends on expertise. So we’ll go for the group that has the most experience doing some of these projects.” Luckily, Holaday adds, Western Plains has a nearby ICM location and taps

its expertise for projects. ICM has service providers spread throughout the Midwest to avoid mobilization costs, Weber says. Even so, the trust in experience of a longtime provider can offset any mobilization costs, Gordon says. ICM’s experts often detect needs during their pre-shutdown inspections that plant managers were unware of. “We’re using our senses: What do we hear, what do we see? Are there things we’ve seen at other plants that we can suggest they do? Are we hearing a knocking noise when we walk by a conveyor?” Gordon says. “All of those things help us help the plant develop what the scope of the shutdown needs to be.” ICM’s experts will also ensure the plant has the right parts to complete all shutdown maintenance and projects on the timeframe they’ve slotted, she adds. “Every inspection that we go in and do, we find stuff that is going to need repair that they did not notice or didn’t find,” Weber says. “The guys that are going out and doing inspections have been working in these plants for a long, long time. They pick up on things.” Gordon adds, “We’re always trying to provide additional knowledge.” The experts providing that additional knowledge learn on the job, he adds, starting out “turning wrenches” to become familiar with ethanol plants before performing inspections. Haugo, Weber and Gordon will continue to provide their teams’ expertise, whether it’s reduced to once per year per plant, or on a more staggered schedule. A continuation of 2020’s spread-out work schedule “would make everyone’s life easier,” Gordon says. Author: Lisa Gibson Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4920 lgibson@bbiinternational.com

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CATTLE COMPATIBLE: As cleaning products evolve, animal nutritionists suggest ethanol plants maintain contact with their feed markets, updating them on any content changes. PHOTO: ISTOCK



COPRODUCTS AND COMPATIBILITY New product rollouts in clean-inplace processes ease burdens on plants, but proper care to analyze impacts downstream is crucial.

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By Matt Thompson

As more ethanol producers seek to remove caustic soda from their CIP processes, they’re forced to consider all aspects of their plants, from the composition of piping to potential impacts on DDGs and other coproducts.

Brian McCluskey, biofuels sales manager at Hydrite Chemical Co., says his company’s introduction to the ethanol industry of Hydri-Maize CRC-152— an acid cleaner that can replace caustic soda in CIP processes—was born out of a desire to help ethanol plants with their cleaning processes. “Really, it came down to just wanting to do a better job,

and change up the [CIP] program,” he says. Hydrite took a cleaning cue from the food processing side of the business, McCluskey explains. “Cleaning with an acid-based product is commonplace in the food industry. It can do a better job keeping things clean and so we just took that ideology and created a formula that can be used in ethanol and it grew from there.” Hydri-Maize CRC-152 isn’t an untested solution for ethanol plants. Several are using it in place of caustic. And through those various trials and case studies, Hydrite discovered that CRC152 does its job almost too well. “Given the nature of the product, it does aggressively go after scale deposits,” Mc-



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FERM FOULING: Hydrite Chemical Co. says its new CIP product initially led to some extra fouling in fermentation, but product polishing has alleviated that issue. PHOTO: STOCK PHOTO


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Hydrite says lactic and acidic were reduced by at least 40%, the need for both bulk caustic and sulfuric acid were eliminated and antibiotic use was reduced by about 44%.

Cluskey says. “Those scale deposits, when they break free, they end up right in the fermenter, and they harbor a lot of bacteria.” After about two weeks of trials with CRC-152, plants saw infections in their fermenters. But, McCluskey says, there is a solution. “One of the things that we’ve implemented moving forward is bringing in one of our GRAS-approved paracetic acid blends, Hydri-Maize 2759, an antimicrobial for further protection. Because now we know that we do expect that to happen in the future, so at least we can be prepared for it.”

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Real Results

A Nebraska ethanol plant, whose managers have asked to remain unnamed, has been using Hydri-Maize CRC-152 for about a year and a half, and confirms initial issues with fermentation. “Our lactics did jump up a little bit and that’s just because it was breaking off some of the minerals that were stuck inside our associated piping and fermenters,” says one plant official. “So we did see lactic elevate initially, and then they worked back down to a more reasonable, if not lower, baseline.” Since then, the plant has been pleased with CRC-152’s performance

and the benefits realized, the main one being the cost reduction from eliminating caustic. “CRC-152 is a reduced cost to what we would normally spend,” the plant official says. “That’s definitely the main benefit.” A second benefit is that CRC-152 reduces the amount of flushes the plant performs. “Before, you had to do a water flush, then an acid flush, then a water flush, then a caustic flush,” he says. “This is a much simpler process.” He adds that it prevents sanitation water from going to the beer well and diluting the beer. McCluskey says the benefits that the Nebraska plant has seen are comETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 23


mon to the other plants using CRC152, as well. “They’re seeing cleaner ferms; they’re seeing lower organic acids; they’re saving money. The variable cost [of caustic] has virtually disappeared,” he says. During one trial at an ethanol plant, the results of which were released during the summer of last year, Hydrite says lactic and acidic were reduced by at least 40%, the need for both bulk caustic and sulfuric acid were eliminated and antibiotic use was reduced by about 44%. In addition, there are no negative effects to distillers grains, McCluskey says. “There’s been absolutely zero impacts, even as plants are doing coproduct generation with high-protein coproducts, there has been absolutely no issue.” The Nebraska plant also reports no changes in its DDGs. Like other solutions that seek to rid ethanol plants of their caustic soda, Hydri-Maize CRC-152 has some limitations. Mainly, some plants aren’t able to use it. “The challenge that we’re running into with an acid-based product is a lot of the plants out there still contain a fair amount of carbon steel,” McCluskey says. “They’re interested in the technology, but they just can’t use it because of the carbon. That’s been the biggest drawback.” But that might soon change. McCluskey says Hydrite is working on a solution for plants that haven’t yet switched to stainless steel. “A CIP program that is going to be more friendly to those customers that still have carbon steel infrastructure will be rolling out in 2021,” he says.

Downstream Impacts

Jerry Shurson, a professor in animal science at the University of Minnesota, has been researching and providing education on distillers grains for over 20 years. He says he hasn’t


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PROTEIN PILE: As ethanol plants transition to new and better cleaning aids, it’s important to evaluate changes to animal feed. Hydrite says its new acid cleaner does not adversely impact feed nutrition. PHOTO: STOCK PHOTO

studied the effects of these caustic-alternative CIP methods, but offers some advice for ethanol plants. One is to keep animal scientists and nutritionists apprised of process changes. “I continue to struggle with this disconnect between what goes on in processes in ethanol plants and the impacts they have on the final coproducts that our ethanol plants are becoming very reliant upon from a revenue point of view,” he says. “That kind of communication is not happening with the animal feed world to help us understand, are those changes positive, are they negative, and do we need to make adjustments in our formulations?” he says, giving an example of sulfur levels in coproducts. “Sulfur’s always been a scary topic for ethanol producers because of some

historic cattle kills, as I call them, from unfortunate feed of wet distillers grains that was really high in sulfur content causing (Polioencephalomalacia) PEM in cattle,” he says, adding that many nutritionists who aren’t familiar with ethanol production don’t understand where the sulfur in DDGs comes from. McCluskey says CRC-152 contains no sulfur. He also says that caustic replacements need to have the proper approvals. “Whatever is used to replace [caustic soda], it’s got to be GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) listed,” he says. “It’s got to be approved for its intended use from a food or feed safety point of view to be considered compliant with FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) regulations.” There are also considerations in ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 25


'[DDGs] is not as consistent as many nutritionists would like, but it’s gotten better and more predictable and we’ve developed enough prediction equations and prediction tools, as I call them, to help end users capture as much value as they can for different species.' Jerry Shurson University of Minnesota

terms of how the nutritional properties of DDGs are going to be impacted. “Are the products, or is the product that’s going to become the substitute, does it bring with it high concentrations of some chemical compounds, whether its minerals, whether it’s something else, that is going to adulterate or negatively impact the nutritional value of the coproduct in some way? I mean, is the concentration going to be high enough to even matter?” Shurson says. While caustic substitutes may not change the nutritional value of the coproduct, some chemical compounds could affect the measurement of certain compounds in DDGs. Shurson uses crude proteins as an example. Those proteins, he says, aren’t measured directly, but are

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estimated by measuring nitrogen levels. “Let’s say some substitute compound added some significant amounts of nitrogen,” he says. “You could inflate your protein content of your coproducts and say ‘Oh, look at this, this is great. I can get a greater market value for it.’ While that may be acceptable for cattle, monogastric animals may be negatively affected. I think it depends on the context and what the components are of whatever products are going to be used.”

The Importance of DDGs

Hydrite reiterates the importance of its products not impacting DDGs, as plants become more reliant on distillers grains as a revenue source. “As you read reports and so on, particularly over the last several years, ethanol profit margins have been flat or negative, and it’s really put a lot of pressure on ethanol plants to rethink other coproduct streams,” Shurson says. And ethanol plants are more consistently able to produce high-quality DDGs, he says. “I think as the industry has matured in recent years, its consistency has improved,” Shurson says. “It’s not as consistent as many nutritionists would like, but it’s gotten better and more predictable and we’ve developed enough prediction equations and prediction tools, as I call them, to help end users capture as much value as they can for different species.” And that’s a trend Shurson expects to continue. “[Ethanol plants] are becoming much more reliant on revenue streams from coproducts than they have been on ethanol in the past,” he says. “And I think going forward, that’s going to continue to be the case.” Author: Matt Thompson Freelance Writer m.thompson2005@gmail.com


Spotlight BY TOM BRYAN

Seeing Underground

National Hydro-Excavation Services specializes in locating and exposing utilities in advance of construction projects and emergency repair. While ethanol producers have, for years, used hydroblasting contractors, Omaha-based National Hydro-Excavation Services is now applying the power of water to other critical projects, from precision excavation to emergency cleanup. National Hydro can and does assist ethanol plants with jobs like tank cleaning and spill remediation, but its specialty is hydro excavation— precision digging with water to locate and expose on-site utilities. “Our main role is usually to support construction or repair,” says Sam Fenderson, who manages the operation. “We can locate underground infrastructure such as communication lines or high-voltage power lines without the customer having to worry about damaging those utilities.” In addition to excavation, National Hydro offers dry vac services, line-jetting and more. “We can do it all with one truck,” Fenderson says.

“In fact, we could go from hydro-excavating a utility to cleaning up spilled corn to power washing equipment in the same visit.” The company takes pride in being responsive. “We’ve had situations where, for example, a water line has burst and we’re called out to excavate immediately,” he says. “We’re typically able to complete those digs before the contractor arrives, so when they do, they know exactly where the problem is.” National Hydro excavates with a highpressure sprayer that cuts through the ground at 4,000 psi, while a corrugated hose, mounted to a boom and connected to a powerful vacuum, sucks the slurry out of the hole and into the truck’s debris tank. The size of each dig varies—some holes are narrow, and others are wider and tiered—but most are a story deep. “It’s based on whatever needs to be seen,” Fenderson says. “When con-


tractors can visually see the depth of utilities, and how they run, their work can be done safely and efficiently.” National Hydro typically serves producers within 150 miles of Omaha. “There are several ethanol plants within our range and we’re happy to support them,” Fenderson says. “If they need something done—excavating, trenching, debris removal or anything else—we’re here to help.” For more information on the company’s services, visit www.nathydro.com.


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OPTIMAL INNOVATIONS: Advancements in cleaning technology, including data availability, enhance overall performance. PHOTO: STOCK PHOTO

Advancements in Technology Advanced CIP, dosing technology improvements and data analysis illustrate the significant impact cleaning strategies have on overall performance. By David Fowlie As ethanol producers position themselves for continued success under challenging market conditions, the impact cleaning programs have on overall plant performance has become a major focus in their efforts to optimize profitability. The introduction of advanced clean in

place (CIP) and foulant prevention chemistries, implementation of more accurate and consistent dosing equipment, and a data-driven focus to measure the impact of CIP strategies on plant performance have fueled innovation in CIP management.

Distinct Operational Units

Historically, ethanol plants widely adopted a standard cleaning approach utilizing commodity chemistries such as caustic and sulfamic acid to clean all sections of the plant. This approach does not take into account the distinct cleaning challenges

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).


presented by different operational units within the plant or the specific cleaning goals of these operational units and their impact on overall plant performance. The foulant challenges for different sections of the plant vary widely, requiring different approaches to control the rate and type of foulant formation. Producers are now approaching each plant operational unit as a unique environment to optimize CIP chemistry, duration and frequency. For example, controlling fouling in the liquefaction mash flow through the mash banks presents very different challenges compared to the thin stillage process flow in the evaporators. Implementing a CIP program focused on controlling organic deposit buildup in the mash banks to positively impact fermentation kinetics, while applying a different CIP strategy to control both inorganic and organic fouling in the evaporators to optimize heat transfer, will result in the most positive impact on overall plant performance.

inhibitors, organic deposit control agents, detergent cleaners and oxidation agents optimizes CIP processes and addresses the specific challenges presented by different plant operational units. Scale inhibitors and organic deposit control technologies help plant operations run more consistently for longer periods of time between CIP events, reducing the

frequency and duration of CIP, leading to improved productivity and lower total CIP program costs. The addition of an organic deposit control agent to plant mash banks can provide improved mash flow, lower liquefaction differential pressures and increase heat transfer to beer. The use of scale inhibitors to evaporator systems can reduce

Optimizing CIP cost and performance will have a significant impact on the continued success and profitability of ethanol plant operations as the industry adopts more advanced technologies and CIP strategies. Prevention First

The introduction of advanced foulant prevention and cleaning formulations has provided plant management with a range of technology options for their CIP programs. The use of scale ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 29




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the formation of inorganic scale, slowing the rate of pressure buildup within the evaporators. This can provide improved heat transfer and evaporator efficiency while reducing CIP frequency, duration and cost. Adoption of detergent cleaners used either on their own or in combination with caustic- or acid-based CIP has had a significant impact on CIP efficiency. Detergent cleaners enhance the penetration of cleaning solutions into plant deposits and improve cleaning performance through chemical dissolution and physical cleaving of foulants from plant surfaces. These formulations provide po-

tential cost savings through optimization of cleaning cycles, facilitate the reduction of required CIP concentrations, and help preserve the stability of CIP solutions to extend their service life. As the industry has become more aware of the dynamics and challenges related to managing caustic-based CIP solution stability, more plants are choosing to eliminate caustic CIP and adopt a low pH CIP system. The use of low pH cleaning systems combining strong oxidizers, such as nitric acid, with detergent cleaners can provide a more effective CIP program at lower cost.

Equipment and Automation

Upgraded CIP dosing and control systems also have provided plant management with better tools to optimize their CIP programs. The use of more accurate dosing skids controlled with automated PLC systems capable of capturing program application details improves control and consistency. Accurate tracking of CIP dosing inputs equips management teams with the ability to track CIP costs in real time and optimize programs based on application cost and performance. This more modern approach to applying CIP chemistries has created more scope for plants to improve CIP efficiency and optimize its impact on plant performance. (See Figure 1.)

Performance-Driven CIP

An effective CIP program will enhance fermentation performance, improve energy efficiency and help optimize plant yields, including ethanol, corn oil and protein. Plant management strategies increasingly rely on data tracking to measure the impact CIP programs have on plant performance. The ability to track key performance indicators for specific plant operational units through data collection and analysis provides management with the tools needed to adopt a results-driven approach to optimizing CIP programs. This allows optimization of CIP chemistry, frequency and duration for each section of the plant. As an example, data collected as shown in Figure 2, provides plant management with information regarding the rate of pressure buildup and heat transfer efficiency in their evaporator system. The data show a clear operational performance improvement as evidenced by a decrease in the rate of pressure buildup while using Phibro’s TCP system compared to previous performance while using an alternate evaporator cleaning system. Data analysis can also be applied to determine the frequency and duration of cleaning events and equip plant management to make informed decisions on

which areas of a plant require the most attention. Detailed analysis of plant operational parameters, such as delta lactic and acetic levels, heat exchanger and evaporator pressures, and corn oil and protein separation efficiency, can lead to optimized CIP and, therefore, optimized overall performance. With continued focus on controlling costs and optimizing plant performance, the impact of CIP initiatives will continue

to be a key feature of a successful plant management program. Optimizing CIP cost and performance will have a significant impact on the continued success and profitability of ethanol plant operations as the industry adopts more advanced technologies and CIP strategies. Author: David Fowlie Product Manager, Processing Aids Phibro Ethanol Performance Group 704.430.9604 david.fowlie@pahc.com


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LANDFILL LOGISTICS: Bio-Thermal-Energy Inc. is in early talks with the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for an installation of its landfill gas-to-ethanol plant at a city landfill. PHOTO: STOCK PHOTO

Landfill Gas to Ethanol Mixed with steam, run through a reformer and fermented, landfill gas proves an economic and environmentally beneficial feedstock for ethanol production. By Gary C. Young A patented technology to convert landfill gas to ethanol has been garnering attention, most notably from the City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Plans are in the works to contract an independent engineering firm to conduct a technical, economic feasibility study for the technology at one of the city’s landfill sites. The process was developed and patented by Bio-Thermal-Energy Inc. of Cedar Rapids, specifically to improve economics and reduce environmental impacts of landfills. Studies suggest the new process generates a net annual revenue, without a subsidy, and reduces carbon emissions from the landfill by more than 50%. Landfill gas is generally composed of carbon dioxide and methane. If the feasibility study at the Cedar Rapids landfill demonstrates environmental benefits and profitability, the next step will be a pilot or commercial project.

The Process

Landfill gas, typically 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide with some impurities, is cleaned up before entering the catalytic reformer with steam for conversion to syngas. After syngas cleanup, the syngas is fermented to ethanol using an existing commercial process similar to corn ethanol

In short, B-T-E’s process combines landfill gas and steam in a reformer. The syngas produced, composed of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, goes into a fermenter. The result is ethanol.


B-T-E’s CO2 Conversion Technology (Catalytic Reformer)

SYNGAS Cleanup

Landfill Gas (CO & CH4) Steam (H2O)

Clean SYNGAS (CO & H2)


Fermentation Ethanol to Ethanol

PROVEN PROCESS: Bio-Thermal-Energy Inc.’s landfill gas-to-ethanol process produces a syngas that is fermented into ethanol. SOURCE: BIO-THERMAL-ENERGY INC.


landfill as required by regulatory agencies even after closing of the landfill operations. Landfill gas is produced, typically, for more than 20 years after a landfill is closed.

Economic Analysis

ETHANOL IMPLICATIONS: Producing ethanol from landfill gas carries economic and environmental benefits. PHOTO: STOCK PHOTO

fermentation. A carbon balance about the entire process from landfill gas to ethanol indicates that about 56.9% of the carbon is contained in the finished product—ethanol. That’s 56.9% of the carbon from the landfill gas not emitted to the atmosphere. In addition, leachate from the landfill can create additional landfill gas for production of more ethanol. Leachate is the liquid that exists in landfills, formed when rainwater infiltrates and percolates through the degrading waste. Recycling the leachate reduces the need to truck it to a waste treatment plant for processing and final disposal of solids to a landfill. The landfill gas-to-ethanol process also provides funds for maintaining the

The economics of the landfill gas-toethanol process was estimated for a system with landfill gas produced at a rate of 1,200 standard cubic feet per minute, and considered as waste with no cost. The total production cost for the plant was $0.946 per gallon for the ethanol, with an estimated production of 20.37 million gallons per year and totally installed cost (TIC) of $144 million. Electrical cost is estimated at $0.05 per kilowatt hour (kwh). TIC includes inside battery limits (IBL) and outside battery limits (OBL), with OSBL at 50% of ISBL, which is typical of a greenfield plant. In the economic analysis, total capital expenditures include ISBL and OSBL, capital at 6% and 20 years. Operating expense includes labor and maintenance. In addition to the production of 20.37 million gallons of ethanol per year, the plant would produce 3.4 megawatts of power for net export to the local grid. From a preliminary economic analysis, a net revenue (revenue minus cost of production) of $11.65 million per year is estimated, with ethanol selling at $1.5175 per gallon and no subsidy considered. With a subsidy of $0.815 per gallon, per the Chicago Board of Trade for D5 renewable identification numbers (RINs), net revenue jumps to $28.25 million per year. B-T-E’s landfill gas-to-ethanol conversion technology has several patents, both U.S. and foreign. The technology has also been proven in a proprietary pilot application. Author: Gary C. Young President, Bio-Thermal-Energy Inc. 319.373.5191 gycoinc@aol.com

A new report from Environmental Heath & Engineering, Inc. found that greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol are 46% lower than gasoline, emphasizing ethanol ’s key role in our nation’s climate goals on decarbonizing the transportation sector and reducing GHG emissions. Learn more at GrowthEnergy.org/datahub

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). ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 33

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