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EDITORIAL

ADVERTISER INDEX

Editor Lisa Gibson | lgibson@bbiinternational.com Associate Editor Matt Thompson | mthompson@bbiinternational.com Copy Editor Jan Tellmann | jtellmann@bbiinternational.com

ART

2020 Int'l Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo

3

Battelle

40

D3MAX LLC

22-23

DSM Bio-based Products & Services

41

DuPont Industrial Biosciences

44

Ethanol Producer Magazine's Webinar Series

7

Fagen Inc.

14

Vice President of Production & Design Jaci Satterlund | jsatterlund@bbiinternational.com

Fluid Quip Technologies, LLC

39

Graphic Designer Raquel Boushee | rboushee@bbiinternational.com

Growth Energy

2

Hengye, Inc.

21

Hydro-Thermal Corporation

15

ICM, Inc.

33

CEO Joe Bryan | jbryan@bbiinternational.com

Interra Global Corporation

29

J.C. Ramsdell Enviro Services, Inc.

38

President Tom Bryan | tbryan@bbiinternational.com

Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits

9

McC Inc.

37

MoistTech

19

Mole Master Services Corporation

31

Phibro Ethanol Performance Group

43

POET LLC

11

Solar Turbines Incorporated

32

Trinity Rail Group

13

Trislot USA, Inc.

18

Victory Energy Operations, LLC

20

Visionary Fiber Technologies

36

PUBLISHING & SALES

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 Marketing & Advertising Manager Marla DeFoe | mdefoe@bbiinternational.com Marketing & Social Media Coordinator Dayna Bastian | dbastian@bbiinternational.com

EDITORIAL BOARD Ringneck Energy Walter Wendland Little Sioux Corn Processors Steve Roe Commonwealth Agri-Energy Mick Henderson Aemetis Advanced Fuels Eric McAfee Western Plains Energy Derek Peine Front Range Energy Dan Sanders Jr. Customer Service Please call 1-866-746-8385 or email us at service@bbiinternational.com. Subscriptions Subscriptions to Ethanol Producer Magazine are free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge for anyone outside the United States. To subscribe, visit www.EthanolProducer.com 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 service@bbiinternational.com. 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 service@bbiinternational.com. 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@bbiinternational.com. Please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space.

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4 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020


Contents

16 MAY 2020 VOLUME 26

ISTOCK

4

AD INDEX

6

EDITOR'S NOTE

7

EVENTS CALENDAR

8

DRIVE

12

KIRSTEN WRAY PHOTOGRAPHY

34

COMMONWEALTH AGRI-ENERGY

ISSUE 5

DEPARTMENTS

10

24

FEATURES 16 POLICY

LCFS in the Midwest

White paper outlines implementation, recommendations By Matt Thompson

‘Hangin’ in There’ By Lisa Gibson

Innovation Through the Now, Near and Next By Jennifer Aurandt-Pilgrim

24

GRASSROOTS VOICE

Don’t Lose Heart or Courage By Brian Jennings

14

BUSINESS BRIEFS

42

MARKETPLACE

FEW Technical Sessions Planner

A guide to the world’s largest ethanol conference By EPM Staff

GLOBAL SCENE

How to Make Sure the EU Doesn’t Backtrack on Biofuels By Emmanuel Desplechin

EVENT

34

TECHNOLOGY

Bearing New Information Mounted sensors track temperature, vibration By Matt Thompson

ON THE COVER

The industry is planning to meet safely at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Omaha, Nebraska, August 24-26, 2020. PHOTO: ISTOCK

Ethanol Producer Magazine: (USPS No. 023-974) May 2020, Vol. 26, Issue 5. Ethanol Producer Magazine is published monthly by BBI International. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Ethanol Producer Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203. ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 5


Editor's Note

‘Hangin’ in There’

Lisa Gibson EDITOR lgibson@bbiinternational.com

This ed note comes to you from a makeshift workspace I’ve set up in the guest room of my home. I’m writing it during a break from calling producers to verify data for Ethanol Producer Magazine’s upcoming plant map, but the discussions I’m having don’t focus on RINs or nameplate capacity. We’re in the midst of a pandemic and the latest figures show 41 plants idled and 66 more reducing production, for a total reduction of about 4 billion gallons. The country is being encouraged to stay home, many of us are working remotely and many others have lost their jobs. I don’t like to throw around the word “unprecedented,” but... Most of you report to me that you’re “hangin’ in there,” and attitudes are positive. You’re telling me you’re trying everything to keep your employees on staff, even if your plant has temporarily idled. You’re donating or selling alcohol to help meet the soaring need for hand sanitizer. You’re finding new markets in distilleries. You’re persevering. We’re hangin’ in there with you and delivering the industry news you need to know. Check our website, ethanolproducer.com, for daily updates. We’ve kept up with all the relevant COVID-19 news, and other industry news that gets a bit buried by it. And, of course, we’re printing our magazine and sending it out to you. This month, we’ve focused on the potential of a Midwest low-carbon fuel standard. The Great Plains Institute recently released a paper that explores what would be needed for implementation, and what it could include. One area where it would differ significantly from California’s legislation is in credit for farmers’ low-carbon practices. Find out more on page 16. Next, we preview the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo. Originally scheduled for mid-June in Minneapolis, the show has been moved to late August in Omaha as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But while the date and location of the 2020 FEW have changed, the selected presentations have not. Read all about it, starting on page 24. Last, we take a detailed look at bearing sensors that wade through temperature and vibration data, and send it in a readable form to mobile devices via Bluetooth. Turn to page 34 to find out how they work. Our industry still churns on, with innovations and developments unrelated to COVID-19. This issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine illustrates that. Hang in there.

FOR INDUSTRY NEWS: WWW.ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM OR FOLLOW US: 6 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020

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Upcoming Events

Live + OnDemand

www.EthanolProducer.com/pages/webinar

2020 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo August 24-26, 2020 CHI Health 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 commercialscale ethanol production—from quality control and yield maximization to regulatory compliance and fiscal management. The FEW is the ethanol industry’s premier forum for unveiling new technologies and research findings. The program is primarily focused on optimizing grain ethanol operations while also covering cellulosic and advanced ethanol technologies. 866-746-8385 www.FuelEthanolWorkshop.com

Biodiesel Production Technology Summit

August 24-26, 2020 CHI Health Center Omaha Omaha, Nebraska The Biodiesel Production Technology Summit is a new forum designed for biodiesel and renewable diesel producers to learn about cuttingedge process technologies, new techniques and equipment to optimize existing production, and efficiencies to save money while increasing throughput and fuel quality. 866-746-8385 www.biodieseltechnologysummit.com

2021 International Biomass Conference & Expo

WEBINAR SERIES

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March 15-17, 2021 Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center Jacksonville, Florida Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true one-stop shop – the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all biomass industries. 866-746-8385 www.biomassconference.com

Please check our website for upcoming webinars www.ethanolproducer.com/pages/webinar

Contact us today for more information service@bbiinternational.com or 866-746-8385. ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 7


Drive

Innovation Through the Now, Near and Next

Jennifer Aurandt-Pilgrim Director of Technology Marquis Energy

jenniferaurandt@marquisenergy.com

We are living in unprecedented times. In February, industry leaders convened at Growth Energy’s Executive Leadership Conference, coming together to share ideas on how we can innovate and drive the ethanol industry forward. Today, however, looks a little different because of the global pandemic: Our same colleagues are coming together virtually to share best practices and innovation in managing decreases in demand and infectious disease scenarios in their plants. It’s a trying time for all, but one thing I have learned from this experience is that no matter the hurdle, the ethanol industry adapts and pulls together to overcome. Given the recent turn of events, we are all forced to ask ourselves: What choices can we make today to better prepare ourselves for the future, and how can we come out of this stronger than before? A proven approach to innovative solutions for our industry is the “Now, Near and Next” approach. It’s an understanding that innovation is not as simple as investing in a technology or choosing a vendor for a known need; rather, to truly innovate, companies must take into account both the larger industry market and the wealth of resources in our own facilities. Those resources include our feedstock, products and, importantly, our people. But the real value comes from knowing how to maximize them. That’s where the “Now, Near and Next” approach thrives—in understanding the mission and vision for our industry, we can design strategies that steer our plants to the right path. First is recognizing the “Now” need: What can we do now to drive revenue? This does not always mean investing in new technologies. It can be revamping employee management. For example, supporting the workforce through changes in work-life balance scenarios can help retain critical team members. In the longterm, this drives revenue through avoiding lost production resulting from untrained staff. Identifying the “Near” involves planning how we manage our plants to overcome short-term margin loss with declining fuel demand. What decisions can be made in the near-term to decrease operational costs, maintaining safe and efficient operations? The “Next” is, “What can we do now that will position us to be stronger when the crisis passes?” For example, can we focus on diversification of revenue streams through investing in technologies when margins get stronger? Can we look for other applications of our products in the market, thereby growing the market demand? Asking these questions now can help drive stability in the years ahead. As an innovator, we follow a strategic system for identifying the best opportunities to commercialize new technologies, called the Technology Readiness Scale. For example, if technology has only been demonstrated in a lab, it’s a level one or two. If it has been demonstrated to be economically feasible and technologically sound at pilot scale, it’s moved to level four or five. If it has been installed at one plant and is running fullscale semi-continuously, we would rank that at a seven or eight. Once it is operational at multiple plants, there is clearly less risk with a commercialized technology. In these uncertain times, employing the “Now, Near and Next” approach can help companies prioritize investments in technology and innovation. Diversifying revenue “Now” translates to investing in commercialized technology that can offer proven returns. The “Near” and “Next” aspects allow companies to take calculated risks on investing in pilot- and lab-scale technology to mine the vast resources at our facilities. Partnering with vendors and innovators in investment and risk in “Near” and “Next” technologies is critical to the long-term success of our industry. Using these techniques to better plan for our future, the biofuels industry can not only get through this crisis together, but also continue to support our rural economies, producing a clean-burning fuel, and driving the renewable fuels industry forward.

8 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020


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Global Scene

How to Make Sure the EU Doesn’t Backtrack on Biofuels

Emmanuel Desplechin

Secretary General ePURE, the European Renewable Ethanol Association desplechin@epure.co

The European Union’s Green Deal, an ambitious plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, has put emissions reduction at the forefront of Brussels policymaking. The coming months will see a significant rethinking of EU energy and environment legislation—and offer opportunities to right some wrongs when it comes to biofuels. But by reopening debate on issues like the sustainability of certain biofuels and on which low- and zerocarbon technologies should be favored in transport, the Green Deal could risk slowing down progress. It’s important for policymakers to consider what has been successful at reducing dependence on fossil fuel— such as renewable ethanol—and find ways to build on that progress in the coming months and years. Through the Green Deal, over the next couple years, several major pieces of EU legislation will be revisited— and, presumably, heavily tweaked. The measures most directly related to biofuels policy include a revision of the recently adopted (and still being implemented) Renewable Energy Directive II, Energy Union Governance, the carbon dioxide (CO2) for cars and vans regulation, the CO2 for trucks regulation, the Clean Vehicles Directive and the Alternative Fuels Directive. Throughout this process, the urgency of the climate crisis and the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic will make it challenging for EU policymakers to chart a course and stick to it. Here are some guiding principles the EU should follow as it drives the Green Deal forward: • Increase ambitions for greenhouse gas (GHG) savings from transport fuels and renewable energy use in transport. Crop-based biofuels have been the main source of renewable energy in transport. The current RED artificially inflates the contribution of other renewable energy sources through the use of multipliers—“virtual” renewables. Such multiple counting should be eliminated. • Ensure policy continuity. After several years of debate over the sustainability of various feedstocks, RED II has given biofuels producers in the EU a moderate level of certainty. But the sustainability question keeps getting raised again. As the Green Deal moves forward, it should commit to meeting the 2020 and recently agreed upon 2030 renewable energy targets, including the dedicated subtarget for advanced biofuels. • Unleash the potential of sustainable crop-based biofuels by promoting their use beyond the current caps. Crop-based biofuels are an immediate and cost-effective tool to decarbonize the existing and future light- and heavy-duty vehicles. Their use should not be limited to transport modes that cannot be electrified. • Continue the progressive deployment of advanced biofuels. Policies to promote advanced biofuels should build on existing legislation and industry, to secure the investor confidence required for any new investment into renewable fuels. Advanced biofuels should be seen as a complement and not simply a replacement for crop-based biofuels. • Make it easier to deploy biofuels blends. In recent months, several member states have adopted E10 to reduce emissions, bringing the total number of EU countries using the petrol standard to 13. Rolling out E10 across the EU would bring instant results and incentivize higher blends. • Incentivize better fuels by correcting the restrictive tailpipe emissions approach. The current CO2 standards for vehicles only account for tailpipe emissions (tank to wheel). The EU should progressively consider an approach that accounts for the nature of the energy powering vehicles (well to wheel), as well as the production and end-of-life emissions. Biofuels continue to be the predominant renewable energy source in transport in Europe. We still need lowcarbon liquid fuels such as ethanol as a main part of the energy mix, even beyond 2030. Policymakers need to keep that in perspective to make sure the Green Deal does not backtrack on biofuels.

10 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020


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Grassroots Voice

Don’t Lose Heart or Courage

Brian Jennings

Executive Vice President, American Coalition for Ethanol 605.334.3381

bjennings@ethanol.org

Remember being optimistic this year would be better than 2019? Before COVID-19 and an oil price war entered the fray? Hopefully we can salvage 2020, but as I pen this column on March 24, the new reality for millions of Americans is to work from home and do their part to “flatten” the coronavirus curve, slow its transmission, and avoid overwhelming hospitals. About one-third of the U.S. population is under a shelter-in-place order. This social distancing means millions of people in the retail, restaurant, entertainment and travel industries are currently unemployed. As our economy grinds to a halt, prices for oil, gasoline and ethanol have cratered—ethanol prices fell to all-time lows in March, leading plants to either slow down or shut down. All by itself, coronavirus is destroying demand for ethanol, but just to make matters worse, Russia and Saudi Arabia are fighting to see who can flood the market with cheaper oil. Demand destruction could be on steroids for several weeks. Some forecasts estimate the lack of gasoline consumption caused by COVID-19 could reduce ethanol demand by billions of gallons and cut corn grind by hundreds of millions of bushels, taking money from the pockets of farmers and ethanol producers. For ethanol producers already harmed by trade wars and the U.S. EPA’s abuse of small refinery exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard, the new crisis is yet another headwind. The big unknown: How long will it last? While conditions seem grim, I encourage us to consider something Winston Churchill said during World War II that has resonance now. “It would be foolish to disguise the gravity of the hour. It would be still more foolish to lose heart and courage.” Let’s not lose heart. Ethanol’s octane value means refiners will still need it to make sub-octane v-grade base fuel useable in cars. Those in the industry who have experience with industrial ethanol can pivot and supply the growing demand for hand sanitizer in response to coronavirus. What’s more, ethanol producers have diversified, enabling them to adjust and produce for low-carbon fuel markets or increase coproduct output in response to market signals. Now more than ever, we need to exploit any advantage we have in a market. Nevertheless, none of these advantages offset the demand destruction we will experience on the sale of fuel ethanol across the U.S. and abroad, and we will undoubtedly see a rash of plant closures unless we are able to get emergency assistance from the federal government. Let’s not lose courage. The American Coalition for Ethanol is working hard, urging our elected leaders to act and mitigate the staggering impacts these unprecedented conditions will place on our industry. When the Trump administration was quick to buoy Big Oil’s concern about low crude prices by pledging federal purchases to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, we immediately told the president and Congress they will also need to take action to help ethanol producers, and the farmers supplying them corn, who are suffering a proportional economic disaster. We are helping key congressional allies advance emergency legislation to provide financial assistance to our industry, including a provision to increase funding for the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation and make dollars available to ethanol producers. We have heard from many producers who are concerned about keeping their workforce in the face of shutdowns, which is a common concern from other sectors of the economy dealing with COVID-19, so we are also talking to Congress about making certain that renewable fuel producers qualify for the kind of financial and unemployment assistance that other industries are likely to receive during this unprecedented time. These are but first steps. As the crisis unfolds, ACE will pursue other actions to support the industry. All we ask from you is to be safe and don’t lose heart or courage.

12 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020


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BUSINESS BRIEFS PEOPLE, PARTNERSHIPS & PROJECTS

Ace Ethanol receives Part 80 registration for D3MAX plant Ace Ethanol in Stanley, Wisconsin, has been granted Part 80 registration by the U.S. EPA for its D3MAX facility. With the EPA approval, Ace Ethanol can now produce cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber and generate D3 renewable identification numbers (RINs). “Receiving Part 80 registration approval from EPA for the D3MAX plant at Ace Ethanol in Stanley, Wisconsin, is the last major hurdle for the first commercial D3MAX plant,” said Mark Yancey, chief technology officer for D3MAX. “With this EPA approval, Ace can now begin to sell cellulosic ethanol and generate D3 RINs by converting their corn kernel fiber to ethanol.” Ace Ethanol owns and operates the plant, which utilizes D3MAX technology under license. Construction of the plant was completed earlier this year and the facility has been successfully op-

erating for several months. “Ace Ethanol has done a tremendous job in commissioning and starting up the first commercial D3MAX plant,” Yancey said. “January is not the best time to start up a new process in Wisconsin as the brutally cold weather froze lines and made start up more difficult. The Ace startup team worked very long hours and did a fantastic job. Within weeks, the D3MAX plant was operating at 80 percent of design capacity and 70 percent of design yield, which is quite the achievement for the startup of a new cellulosic ethanol process.”

USGC announces new global programs coordinator Sadie Marks joined the U.S. Grains Council as the global programs coordinator in the organization’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. In this role, Marks will provide administrative support to the global programs team as well as USGC’s Marks

14 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020

overseas offices, handling details, logistics and followup needs associated with USGC programs and consultants. “We are excited to have Sadie join the global programs team,” said Cary Sifferath, USGC senior director


Business Briefs

of global programs. “Her addition brings us to a fully-staffed department as we ramp up programming globally in 2020.” Before joining USGC, Marks worked in the dean’s office of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois while she finished her bachelor’s degree in agricultural and consumer economics and minor in international development.

She also worked as an intern at the National Association of Conservation Districts in Washington, D.C., last summer and has studied and worked abroad in Kenya, Ireland, Israel and the Dominican Republic.

ERI Solutions acquires Bloc Environmental Solutions ERI Solutions LLC acquired Bloc Environmental Solutions LP, a San Antonio, Texas-based health, safety and environmental compliance services provider. “Bloc’s great industry reputation, service offerings, top-notch team and better-than-average service delivery made them a top target for ERI,” said Nathan VanderGriend, president and CEO of ERI. “We believe that with this integration that 1 + 1 = 3+ and the acquisition will lead to business growth providing opportunities for the members of the team to grow professionally and for our shareholders’ value to increase.” “We are excited about our future together with ERI,” said Colin K. Sheffield, president and CEO of Bloc. “Our customers can still expect excellent service as we strengthen our companies with a more

diverse service line.” The two companies have shared values and a vision to bring the best risk control and compliance services to the market as they combine their product lines. ERI will maintain its headquarters in Colwich, Kansas, and continue to operate remotely out of multiple locations, including those acquired with Bloc. All Bloc owners and team members will come over to ERI as part of the transaction. Bloc will continue under the current brand as a division of ERI for the immediate future.

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 15


Policy

LCFS IN THE MIDWEST

A coalition assembled by the Great Plains Institute is working to bring a policy like California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard to the Midwest. By Matt Thompson

It just makes sense to keep more ethanol in the Midwest, says Brendan Jordan, vice president of transportation and fuels for the Great Plains Institute. Jordan emphasizes that while California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard has benefited Midwestern ethanol producers who are able to transport their product to the state, a Midwestern version of the LCFS would keep that fuel—and its economic impacts—closer to where it’s produced.

That’s the mindset behind the Midwestern Clean Fuels Policy Initiative’s push to produce a similar standard. The initiative is a coalition of groups from various industries, brought together by the Great Plains Institute, intent on promoting climate-healthy goals. It’s this approach—collaboration among agencies with potentially disparate goals—that Jordan sees as critical to enacting such a policy. “I think you need to build that broader coalition and I think doing it around something like a clean-fuel policy is a way that we can get more people to the table,” he says. More organizations bring more ways to win, he adds. In January, the Great Plains Institute and the Midwestern Clean Fuels Policy Initiative released a white paper, “A Clean Fuels Policy for the Midwest,” outlining recommendations for implementation. The white paper recommends including fair life cycle assessment for all fuel types, using the GREET model, and considerations for expanding clean fuels infrastructure. “Broad consumer access to cleaner fuels should increase and accelerate the benefits of a clean-fuel policy,” the paper says. “States should consider allowing credit generation for underutilized infrastructure for fuels with under-

MAPPING A MIDWESTERN LCFS: Using California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard as a model, a coalition is planning a similar policy for the Midwest. Such a policy would differ from California’s in a few key areas. PHOTO: ISTOCK

16 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020


ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 17


Policy

ENVIRONMENTAL OPPORTUNITY: This figure shows the gradual reduction of the fossil standard (gasoline or diesel depending on the substitute fuel) as compared to two example low-carbon fuel pathways. The space below the standard creates an “opportunity zone,” within which the lower carbon fuel pathway generates market credits. SOURCE: GREAT PLAINS INSTITUTE

served passenger car populations, including E85 and mid-level blends, [electric vehicle] charging stations, and hydrogen fueling.” In addition, Jordan says, the Great Plains Institute recognizes that many states and municipalities already have policies in place. “I think this clean-fuel policy is really intended not to replace any of those things, but to build on them and keep us moving forward as a region; and continue to assert

Midwestern leadership in the biofuels sector,” he says.

‘Technology-Neutral’

A key tenant of the white paper is that the policy shouldn’t favor a specific technology or fuel, Jordan says. “There is certainly a perception that California has picked their favorite technologies and has taken some steps to favor them in life cycle assessment

and rules of the program,” he says. That approach is something stakeholders involved in contributing to a Midwest LCFS have avoided. “[That’s] been really important for our stakeholders,” Jordan says. Donna Funk, principal at K-Coe Isom, agrees. “CARB (California Air Resources Board) has not really necessarily made it a secret that their long-term goal is no liquid fuels, period,” she says. “I don’t think the Midwest will go to that extreme, but will look at it more from a total fuel option mix of what makes the most sense given the industry, given the economics, given just the population factor and what does that really mean from an infrastructure standpoint.” That could include electric and hydrogen, she says. “But what’s the right whole blend and mix, versus 100 percent liquid fuel with a goal of zero percent liquid fuel?” David Ripplinger, assistant professor at North Dakota State University’s Department of Agribusiness and Applied Economics, and North Dakota’s bioenergy and bioproducts economist, agrees. “If your goal is lower carbon emissions, if that’s corn ethanol, great. If that is hydrogen, great,” he says. “If that is still gasoline to some extent, great.” Funk says producers are increasingly interested in taking part in California’s LCFS in recent years, and there’s interest in

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a Midwestern version, too. “From the producers’ standpoint, I think there is support for a Midwest low-carbon standard.� But producers want to proceed with caution, she adds, to ensure the policy is right and doesn’t create a rush to overproduction or fail to entice the market as it’s intended to. A Midwest LCFS-type program could also give growers credit for their carbon reductions. Ripplinger says California and CARB are only interested in accounting for farms’ carbon if CARB has a field-level understanding of carbon sequestration or carbon release. “And the science isn’t there yet,� he says.

Growers’ Perspectives

While Ripplinger says a Midwestern LCFS would strive to give benefits to farmers who are able to lower the carbon intensity of their operations, a standard, and the lack of a reliable way to measure carbon on farms is a barrier. Measuring diesel consumption, fertilizer and yield are straightforward, but determining metrics such as how much carbon is stored in the soil are much more difficult. “The actual long-term sequestration or carbon release, in any particular real-world situation is tough to measure,� Ripplinger says. “That’s why you’re seeing a lot of investment and interest in this by USDA, Department of Energy,

COUNTING CARBON: This figure depicts a series of representative, modeled fuel carbon intensity scores. These are example theoretical values, as the potential policy would not assign but instead accept certified LCAs on each facility. SOURCE: GREAT PLAINS INSTITUTE

CARB—because, at least in California, they want to see the same type of precision that they get from a corn ethanol refinery, which is different.� Ripplinger says once a metric for agricultural carbon measurement is determined, the logistics of rewarding farmers for prac-

tices like no- or low-till, precision fertilizer application and yield increases should be decided. Research on how to do that is ongoing, he adds. “When you introduce a low-carbon fuel standard, it’s anything and everything that could be on the table,� Ripplinger says. “And again, nobody’s dictating

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Policy

SPREADING THE MESSAGE: Brendan Jordan, vice president of transportation and fuels for the Great Plains Institute, speaks about a Midwestern clean fuels policy at the 2020 National Ethanol Conference in Houston, Texas, earlier this year. PHOTO: RENEWABLE FUELS ASSOCIATION

what that might be. You essentially add that carbon price to every input and every operation, and you’ll see farmers will react to that.� Funk agrees that rewarding farmers should be a key component of Midwestern policy. She says it will be important to look at the entire transportation impact, the real indirect land-use component, and assess whether farmers are getting credit for sustainable practices they’ve implemented. “It’s really more about looking at what I would call the total picture of what really all plays into that.� Ripplinger says tillage practices and fertilizer applications are areas where farmers stand to benefit the most under cleanfuels policies and carbon reduction. “Farmers are already incentivized to efficiently use nitrogen because it’s expensive,� he says. “Tillage is by far the biggest opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You can sequester a massive amount of carbon over time by having those practices, and so that’s clearly the biggest opportunity.�

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‘Education and Outreach’

Following the release of the white paper, Jordan says reaching out to other stakeholders and policy makers will be the next step. “The real key right now is education and outreach,” Ripplinger says. “Not everybody’s well-informed on this policy, so we’re going to have a lot of work to do just on the stakeholder side, but also starting to educate policy makers and build support. And we’re going to be working in multiple states and at the federal level to just create more awareness about this approach.” Part of that outreach will be releasing modeling information, Jordan says. When Jordan spoke with Ethanol Producer Magazine in February, modeling information hadn’t been released yet, but he offered a preview. “We modeled a 20 percent carbon intensity reduction over a 10-year period in the Midwestern states, and that resulted in an average ethanol blend in 10 years reaching 20 percent,” he says. “I just think it’s really notable that increasing blending has been a goal for the industry for a long time, but we’ve demonstrated that if you achieve those blending increases through a clean-fuels policy, you can build strong environmental community support.” While farms stand to benefit from a Midwestern LCFS, Ripplinger says biofuels policy in general isn’t top of mind for growers right now. “I would say most are probably unfamiliar with California’s LCFS, as important as it is to the corn ethanol industry as a whole,” he says. “In general, they’re not familiar with what its impacts are on fuel markets, and then pushing back to them.” He adds that factors such as trade disputes, as well as poor growing, planting and harvesting conditions are the important issues for farmers in the near-term. But, he says, farmers’ knowledge of biofuels policy isn’t a roadblock for a Midwestern LCFS. “I frame it as an opportunity,” he says. “I think that farmers can and will be assembled and educated on this and when they are, I think they’ll be a powerful force and will complement other stakeholders in getting policy enacted at the state level in the Midwest.” He also adds that there are many farmers who have ownership in ethanol plants and those groups likely recognize how important the LCFS is for some plants, and what a Midwestern version could mean for others. “The ethanol industry’s clearly under a bit of financial duress with overcapacity, and for those folks who can supply that California market, it’s a really great opportunity,” he says. “Adding that extra incentive might be the thing that keeps their corn ethanol refinery continuing to produce.” Jordan says the ethanol industry has already provided crucial support for a Midwestern policy, and he expects it will continue to do so. “I think there’s been so much leadership in the ethanol industry and so much innovation on technologies that lower the carbon intensity of ethanol and there’s just a lot of great ideas out there,” he says. “So, it’s just really clear to me that if we set up the right policy signals, this industry will deliver.” Author: Matt Thompson Associate Editor, Ethanol Produce Magazine 701.738.4922 mthompson@bbiinternational.com


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FEW Technical Sessions Planner The 2020 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo offers concurrent panel discussions. This guide will help attendees determine which ones to take in. By EPM Staff

PHOTOS: BBI INTERNATIONAL / KIRSTEN WRAY PHOTOGRAPHY

As BBI International, the parent company of Ethanol Producer Magazine, collected and reviewed abstracts for the 2020 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, low carbon was the standout topic. Weeks later, as the agenda was

built, those plants focused on low carbon had switched gears and were donating or selling alcohol to make hand sanitizer in the middle of a pandemic. Everything changed, and as millions of Americans sheltered in place to “slow the spread” in late March, it became increasingly evident that holding the FEW in June, as originally planned, was neither practical or prudent. In late April, working closely with its sponsors, exhibitors and speakers, BBI announced that the date and location of the 2020 FEW had been changed to August 24-26 in Omaha, Nebraska. “The show will go on,” says Tom Bryan, president of BBI. “The industry has resoundingly told us they

24 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020

want ethanol’s flagship summer conference to happen—they’re counting on it—and we will move onward in Omaha.” Bryan says the FEW agenda, already complete, includes an unprecedented cache of content—more than 150 presentations— reflecting the industry’s untiring interest in new technologies, solutions and services that will boost plant efficiencies in this lowmargin environment. “We know it’s hard for producers to talk about operational efficiency when some are fighting to make payroll, but the FEW and everything it represents— the search for solutions, for innovation, the quest—will continue when our industry rises up and comes together in late August.” Again, the agenda is full, with experts in their fields ready to share their insights and information, and the overwhelming number of abstracts submitted on low-carbon topics warranted a day-long workshop. The Low Carbon Fuel Production Workshop will be held alongside the traditional Ethanol 101 preconference, and the new Biofuels

Environmental, Health & Safety Forum on Monday, June 15. Along with two new preconferences this year, FEW also introduces its partner event: The Biodiesel Production Technology Summit. Sessions in the summit will run concurrent with FEW sessions. FEW again takes a thorough look at the ethanol process, with emphasis on the most crucial aspects. “Building the FEW agenda is an annual reminder that an attention to the fundamentals of fermentation are the beating heart of this industry,” says Tim Portz, program developer for BBI. “Our agenda is dotted with panels about yeast strains, yeast health, optimizing fermentation conditions and driving down the risk of bacterial infection. While the topics have been a part of the FEW for years, seeing the yearly innovation within those topical areas is so impressive. We’re thrilled to feature those presentations and discussions at the FEW.”


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AUGUST 24-26 2020 Omaha, NE

FuelEthanolWorkshop.com

WHERE PRODUCERS MEET Co-Located & Preconference Events

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 25


TUESDAY, AUG. 25

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

TRACK 1: PRODUCTION AND OPERATIONS

Reviewing the Ongoing Effort to Develop Yeast Strains that Increase Yield while Reducing Overall Operational Expenses

Plant operational teams spend considerable time, energy and money limiting or eliminating threats and impediments to yeast populations or their overall productivity. Conventional yeast strains are sensitive to variances in temperatures and organic acids, and producers are keen to find new strains more suited to withstand the conditions that come along with commercial-scale ethanol production. This panel showcases advances in yeast strains that exhibit not only the robustness producers have been longing for, but also offer an opportunity at greater yield while reducing overall fermentation expenses. TRACK 2: LEADERSHIP AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

A Framework for Producers Working to Prioritize Long-Term Production Goals and Deploy Their Capital Accordingly

Ethanol plant management teams know that regular capital investment in their operation is vital to keep pace with an evolving industry. While management teams understand that sound technology investments are the best way to unlock new revenue streams, the right way to navigate the decision-making process about which investments to make is less clear. This discussion will offer producers guidance on how to best build financial models that offer a clear picture of the relative risk of a project, the new revenues that can be anticipated and the sensitivity of the investment to a broad range of input costs and marketplace scenarios. TRACK 3: COPRODUCTS AND PRODUCT DIVERSIFICATION

Production Approaches Available to Operational Teams Looking to Liberate Inbound Protein to Capture Its Full Value

In the industry’s ongoing effort to capture as much value from inbound corn as possible, technology developers have turned their focus to increasing protein concentrations in plant DDGS streams. The presentations in this panel will bring attendees up to speed on the separation approaches being considered and

26 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020

REGISTRATION READY: Attendees of the 2019 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo check in at the registration desk upon arrival at the show in Indianapolis.

deployed in the ethanol sector today. The panel will highlight the leading separation technologies while also looking at how to best predict protein capture rates, the overall impact of protein separation to a plant’s overall coproduct portfolio and some thoughts from nutritionists on realizing the full potential of this high-value feed product. TRACK 4: INFRASTRUCTURE AND MARKET DEVELOPMENT

A Clean Fuels Policy for the Midwest

This panel will assert that low-carbon fuel policy need not be only the domain of distant coastal fuel markets. Why shouldn’t states rich in ethanol production lead the way in developing policies that reward the low-carbon aspects of the fuels produced within their own boundaries? Built on the foundation of an early 2020 white paper, this discussion will outline for attendees the practical aspects of deploying such a policy as well as the overall impact on biofuel demand should it find traction in ethanol- and biodiesel-producing states.


3:30 pm – 5:00 pm TRACK 1: PRODUCTION AND OPERATIONS

Our Happy Home: The Rewards of Optimizing Fermentation Conditions to Guarantee the Health and

Vitality of Plant Yeast Populations All ethanol production hinges on yeast populations surviving and thriving in a fermentation environment beset with conditions not optimal for propagation, health or productivity. Working to help producers maximize yield, biotechnology providers have focused their innovation into two main areas. The first is to develop yeast strains more tolerant of the harsh conditions of industrial ethanol production, while the second focuses on boosting the chances of the current suite of available yeasts by focusing on nutrients and the timing of propagation cycles. This panel makes room for each and will offer attendees a chance to ask if their current fermentation strategy is making the most of the advancements and innovation available to them.

Before the Flood: Deploying Common Sense Maintenance Protocols Now to Reduce the Risk and Cost of an Unplanned Outage

Plant management teams know that the working components of their facilities have a life span and will eventually need to be replaced. The art for maintenance teams is moving from a reactive to a proactive posture in their replacement and repair protocols. This discussion will focus on both disciplines and technologies available to producers hungry to move toward predictive maintenance. Presentations will feature not only technologies like conductivity and vibration sensing, but also a discussion about the value of more thorough and regular visual inspections of plant energy centers. TRACK 2: LEADERSHIP AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

A Comprehensive Look at Risk Management for Ethanol Producers in the Context of an Increasingly Turbulent Marketplace and Policy Environment

Plant leadership teams understand that while their priority is managing risks at the plant level, they cannot afford nor avoid considering the risks facing the industry at large. This panel begins with two presentations aimed at helping producers do what they can to limit their risk exposure at the plant level before pulling back to offer a broader look at the industry and the policy

READY TO LAUNCH: Tim Portz, BBI International program director, and Angus Ballard, president and general manager of Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits, cut the ceremonial ribbon to open the welcome reception at the 2019 FEW in Indianapolis. Lallemand sponsored the reception.

and marketplace risks facing the sector. Management teams will appreciate this opportunity to consider their plant’s risk management posture in the context of an honest assessment of the overall health of the industry. TRACK 4: INFRASTRUCTURE AND MARKET DEVELOPMENT

Anticipating and Eliminating the Drag that Fuel and Coproduct Specifications Can Have on Efforts to Open New Ethanol and Distiller’s Grains Markets

Most industry professionals have long ago forgotten the painstaking state-by-state regulatory work to get ethanol approved for inclusion in gasoline blends. Thankfully, those lessons remain in the minds of the professionals who did the work and are being brought to bear on the effort to open new foreign markets. This panel will remind attendees of the critical importance of anticipating and overcoming fuel specification bottlenecks to fully access promising foreign markets. Attention will also be paid to new feed markets and their attendant specification requirements.

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 27


WEDNESDAY, AUG. 26

8:30 am â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 10:00 am

TRACK 1: PRODUCTION AND OPERATIONS

Deploying Best-in-Class Analytical Methods to Optimize Fermentation, Control Infection and Increase Overall Ethanol Production

Ethanol producers know that the financial success of their operations correlates tightly to their ability to maximize yield one fermentation at a time. Maximizing yield requires close observation and analysis of each fermentation so, should conditions begin to stray from optimal, producers can intervene and mitigate disruptions before they can impact yield. The challenge for ethanol producers has always been the quality of information they can gather and the speed by which it can be obtained. The presentations in this panel highlight the leading approaches that allow lab personnel to gain a better understanding of the upsets facing their fermentation in a more timely fashion, enabling them to take meaningful corrective action and preserve yield.

The Technologies Available to Producers Today Looking to Manufacture Higher-Value Fuel and Chemical Products

The impulse to diversify primary and coproduct streams was strong before a prolonged trade war with China tamped down global ethanol demand. Now, as producers face unprecedented uncertainty in demand for their traditional product offering, producers are hungry for an opportunity to access alternative mar-

kets, shoring up plant balance sheets with new revenue streams. The presentations in this panel showcase the technologies currently available to producers hoping to break out of the ethanol/DDGS box and redirect a portion of their output to new industrial chemical and feed markets. TRACK 3: COPRODUCTS AND PRODUCT DIVERSIFICATION

The Technologies Available to Ethanol Producers Looking to Broaden Their Coproduct Portfolio and Derive Increased Revenues from It

Ethanol producers and technology providers alike know there remains unrealized value within plant coproduct streams. Presenters in this panel bring that notion into sharp focus, sharing the leading pathways available to producers eager to innovate within their coproduct offering. Rather than settle for business-asusual coproduct strategy, these presentations will get producers thinking about producing more specialized feed products that could garner higher prices from feed markets typically closed to traditional DDGS volumes.

FRONT AND CENTER: The general session panel at FEW 2019 focused particularly on policy. From left: Tim Portz, BBI International program director; Robert White, vice president of industry relations for the Renewable Fuels Association; Chris Bliley, senior vice president of regulatory affairs for Growth Energy; Ron Lamberty, senior vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol; and Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council.

28 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020


10:30 am â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Noon TRACK 1: PRODUCTION AND OPERATIONS

Assessing the Control Options Available to Ethanol Producers in Their Never-Ending War Against Bacterial Infection

Protecting an ethanol plant from bacterial infection has always required continuous attention from producers. Fortunately, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been supported by nearly continuous innovation around optimized control strategies. This panel will serve as a showcase of the ongoing effort to design, test and deploy effective control measures for commercial-scale ethanol production. Presentations cover a range of topics including the importance of designing solutions specific to the problematic microorganism populations, the use of hops to control infection and focusing cleaning efforts on the areas most conducive to bacterial outbreaks.

How Effective Dehydration and Water Treatment Strategies Can Drive Down Operational Expenses, Improve Carbon Intensity Scores and Increase Plant Throughput

Effectively managing water usage is a herculean task for plant production teams. It requires massive amounts of energy to heat, move, treat, separate from ethanol, cool and return to the process or discharge. The good news for producers is the economic value for technologies that increase the efficiency of any of these process steps continues to spur incredible innovation. This panel features innovation in water management from dehydration all the way through wastewater treatment, providing producers with different pathways to drive down the overall cost of their operationsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; water programs. TRACK 2: LEADERSHIP AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

Building a Results-Oriented Plant Culture that Inspires Your Team, Increases Production and Reduces Costly Employee Turnover

While plant leadership teams have no trouble imagining the impact a fully invested, excited and empowered team could have on their operation, intentionally building such a culture has proven more difficult. This panel promises to push past the leadership clichĂŠs and offer producers real strategies they can begin deploying today to inspire their people and align their team with the operational and financial goals established for the plant by its board of directors.

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WEDNESDAY, AUG. 26

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm

continued

TRACK 1: PRODUCTION AND OPERATIONS

Capturing and Bringing Abundant Operational Data to Bear on Your Plant’s Overall Operational Strategy

If operational data is captured but never informs future production iterations, was it worth capturing in the first place? This panel will help producers move beyond data collection to informed action. Buoyed by presentations rooted in mining data to optimize process efficiency, the panel will also make room for presentations that focus on ensuring the data plant teams gather is accurate and reliable, as well as the growing potential of artificial intelligence in ethanol production. Panelists will make the case that the plants achieving the highest yields tomorrow will be those who make a commitment to data-based operational decision-making today.

Minding the Tight Correlation Between Plant Cleanliness, Plant Efficiency and Ethanol Yield

Curbing bacterial contamination events may be the most obvious motivation behind robust plant cleaning programs, but it certainly isn’t the only one. Biofilms and mineral deposit impede cooling capacity, slow beer feed rates and significantly reduce the expected lifespan of expensive components. Not surprisingly then, effective plant cleaning has become an art and this panel features providers who continue to push toward more cost-effective cleaning approaches and protocol. Ethanol producers can expect to hear about the enhancements and refinements ready to be deployed into their cleaning programs, packed with data about the efficacy of these novel approaches and the demonstrated financial impact of their recent deployments. TRACK 2: LEADERSHIP AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

Position-Specific Training Approaches to Increase Employee Effectiveness Across Your Operation

The presentations in this panel assert that targeted, job-specific training can simultaneously increase the value that staff add to a plant while also creating a more meaningful and valuable work experience for the employees. Presentations range from the ways training can fill very specific skill gaps all the way to the importance of lab personnel understanding how their daily tasks inform and impact the production efforts of the 30 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020

SPEAKING FROM SIRE: FEW 2019's keynote speaker, Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, delivered his address via video conference from Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy in Council Bluffs. President Donald Trump visited SIRE that day to address the industry.

whole plant. Together, these presentations will make it clear that best-in-class training simultaneously benefits both the plant and its employees. TRACK 3: COPRODUCTS AND PRODUCT DIVERSIFICATION

Rebooting the Industry’s Vision on the Opportunities for Coproducts within Global Food and Feed Markets

As the ethanol industry scaled, having a relatively limited market for its feed coproduct didn’t do much to limit industry growth. DDGS volumes found their way into ruminant rations and producers were satisfied with the revenue streams the beef and dairy markets offered. Now that the industry has reached maturity, the need to diversify and capture even more value from coproduct streams is paramount. The presentations in this panel will underscore the importance of developing new feed products for different markets, getting them tested and validated and jump-starting their regular inclusion in feeding regimens in swine, poultry and fish markets.


WE CLEAN

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm TRACK 1: PRODUCTION AND OPERATIONS

SILOS

Back to the Basics: Why Profitability Ultimately Hinges on a Plant’s Ability to Maximize Starch Conversion Via Efficient Fermentation

This back-to-the-basics panel will take an in-depth look at the critical importance of bringing high-quality starch into a plant and making as much of it available for fermentation as possible. The panel will begin by looking closely at inbound grain quality and how that reverberates through the entire production cycle. The conversation then pivots to strategies for maximizing starch availability for fermentation via improved solubilization before concluding the discussion with a presentation on a new approach of predicting ethanol yield, fermentor by fermentor. TRACK 2: LEADERSHIP AND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

Management Strategies Aimed at Efficiently Aligning Team Member Skills with Operational Needs

To fully capture the potential of each plant employee, management teams must do their part to ensure they are both competent and empowered; having one without the other diminishes the potential value of each team member. This panel will ask plant management teams to consider not only how they deliver timely and regular skills training, but also if their operation cultivates a workplace culture that rewards employees willing and able to raise their performance and do their part to drive toward ambitious plant goals. TRACK 3: COPRODUCTS AND PRODUCT DIVERSIFICATION

Available Biological and Technological Pathways to Increased Corn Oil, Protein and Fiber Capture

The rise and proliferation of corn oil capture from plant distillers grains streams changed forever coproduct strategies for ethanol plant teams. What was once viewed as a singular feed product for a limited market is now viewed as an amalgam of individual components that would likely carry more value if they could be isolated and captured. The presentations in this panel focus on the technologies available to producers to better isolate and capture greater quantities of corn oil and protein, while also showcasing a biological pathway to increased ethanol volumes via cellulose liberated from corn kernel fiber.

TRADE TALK: Attendees of FEW 2019 in Indianapolis gather and converse on the trade show floor. The expo hall featured almost 300 exhibitors.

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Technology

34 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020 34 | ETHANOL PRODUCER MAGAZINE | MAY 2020


BEARING NEW

INFORMATION Commonwealth Agri-Energy in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, uses bearings coupled with sensors to monitor vibrations and temperature. By Matt Thompson

PHOTOS: ABB

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 35 ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 35


Technology

Jonas Spoorendonk, global product manager for ABB’s Ability Smart Sensors, compares his company’s sensors for mounted bearings to a fitness tracker. “You just put it on and then you get good monitoring of your condition, your steps and your calorie consumption and maybe your sleep patterns.” In the same fashion, ABB’s sensors are easily installed and can give users data about a bearing’s temperature and vibrations almost immediately. “It’s not new in the sense that we’re doing something that couldn’t be done before,” Spoorendonk says. “It’s new in the sense that it’s become a lot easier and more affordable.” He adds that the sensors are universal. “Generally, you can get good ben-

efit from monitoring any type of machine, having these sensors on the bearings.” The sensors connect to the cloud and send data wirelessly. “We are doing some calculations on the sensor, and then we finalize the calculations in the cloud,” he says, adding that this method minimizes data transfer and optimizes the sensors’ battery life. For about nine months, Commonwealth Agri-Energy’s maintenance manager, Jeff Radford, has been using the smart sensors on the plant’s hammer mills. Commonwealth is a 45MMgy ethanol plant in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. “I’ll download what [the sensors] took for that week, and then I’ll upload it to their cloud,” Radford says. “Basically, ABB’s program looks at all the information; they’ll

SIXTH SENSE: ABB’s smart sensors for mounted bearings collect data on temperature and vibrations to be analyzed by the company's mobile app. PHOTO: ABB

give me a green, a yellow or a red indication, saying it was good, warning, or red—something’s really, really bad.” He adds that he can also compare data and see trends in how the

equipment has been operating over a specific period. That analysis is a key part of how the system works, Spoorendonk says. “The analysis is a critical component

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because we use the equipment’s raw data, such as vibration and temperature, to calculate meaningful information on the condition and performance of the bearing,” he says. “By understanding the health of the asset, maintenance can be planned before a problem occurs.” Radford says Commonwealth first installed the sensors on the plant’s hammer mill bearings to help monitor and diagnose vibration issues. While vibration monitoring was the primary driver, Radford says plant personnel typically monitor temperature. “It can tell us a little bit of information if we’re needing to change the screens in the hammer mills,” he says. “It’ll pick that up, so they are pretty sensitive.”

In Control EASE OF INSTALLATION: ABB’s smart sensor is easy to install and configure. PHOTO: ABB

While the sensors are Bluetooth capable, they’re not yet tied into Commonwealth’s distributed control system (DCS), Radford says. But that could change. “[ABB

offers] a Bluetooth-type network that you can put out there and it can automatically query these things for you,” he says. “We’re not anywhere near that right now, but if this thing works the way that it’s supposed to, we might do that in the next couple of years.” Spoorendonk says connecting the sensors to the DCS is easy, as it mostly involves updating software. “The way you do that is through a standardized cloud interface, what the software people call an API— an application and processing interface,” he says. “This is nuts-andbolts for the software people. You just show them where they can find it and then they can sit down and start to integrate the data.” Dennis Uhl of Stover Controls says that while he hasn’t worked with ABB’s sensors, Emmerson offers sensors that can measure temperature and vibrations as well. Connecting those sensors to a DCS can be done in a variety of ways. “If it’s a wireless unit, that wireless unit

ETHANOLPRODUCER.COM | 37


Technology

goes to what they call a gateway, and then that gateway can send out the information via mod bus, ethernet IP, OPCUA, there’s a variety of different ways to pull that information, communicate it back to the DCS,” Uhl says. And he says using sensors on assets helps manage equipment reliability and improves safety at plants. Measuring factors like vibrations and temperature allows personnel to recognize and respond to potential equipment failures before they become catastrophic, Uhl says. “Maybe there are corrective items you can do to extend that time before you hit functional failure and get you to a point where you have a scheduled outage or scheduled shutdown,” he says. “By identifying that problem earlier, you drive down the cases of

safety-related instances. Having that plan and schedule provides a safer work environment, plus the work gets done faster.” In addition to monitoring individual bearings, ABB offers sensors for pumps and motors. Those sensors go beyond just reporting and measuring temperature and vibrations, Spoorendonk says. “Here we are monitoring an electric motor, for example, with two bearings and other things, and we are using the information we get—including the magnetic field and vibration—to analyze the health of those bearings. So, this is a slightly more sophisticated sensor in terms of the data you are getting.” Spoorendonk adds that many customers choose to add sensors to mounted bearings, motors and pumps. “In a lot of cases, we certainly recommend us-

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ing both,” Spoorendonk says. Many customers also add more sensors after testing them during a pilot phase. “Very typically, they start monitoring one type of equipment—like the bearings—and if they like the concept, then they expand into other areas,” he says. Being able to expand and scale up equipment monitoring is part of ABB’s wider solution for ethanol plants and other manufacturers, Spoorendonk says. “[Customers] buy the sensors because they see how we are helping them follow this path toward predictive maintenance. This is something our customers appreciate.” And that’s true for Commonwealth, Radford says. He has plans to include four more of the Smart Sensors in other areas of the plant, including the regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) and dryer fans. “That’ll give us a little bit more information,” he says. Uhl says Stover Controls is seeing more interest in sensors and predictive maintenance, but more plants could be using the technology. He says with the current margin environment, coupled with other capital expenditures, plants may not prioritize predictive technologies. “PDM technologies, a lot of times, get pushed off to the side because they don’t see the immediate benefit to it,” he says.

Predicting the Future

Spoorendonk says next steps for ABB include monitoring systems, like an electric motor and two bearings that may make up a fan assembly. The grouping of those individual components into a larger system for monitoring is called a power train, Spoorendonk says. “[These individual assets] belong together in a bigger assembly, in a bigger unit,” he says. “So the power train is looking for anomalies: if the motor is doing this, then the bearings should be doing this. This is a very


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WORKING WIRELESSLY: Commonwealth Agri-Energy has been using ABB’s sensors for mounted bearings, like the one pictured here, for about nine months. The sensors can relay information to the cloud, which can be accessed via Bluetooth.

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big step going forward—progressing from this stage where we are looking at individual assets to the next level where we are looking at assets that belong together.” He says the technology is available for plants now, but further development is ongoing. And, Spoorendonk says, while predictive maintenance is an everadvancing area of the industry, the technology, in many cases, isn’t up to expectations. But, he adds, sensors like ABB’s are a step closer. “[Customers] buy the sensors because they see how we are following this path toward predictive maintenance, and this is some-

thing people are appreciating,” he says. “New features, new functionality are coming. And I think this is pretty important also for them because they need to adapt their ways of working.”

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Author: Matt Thompson Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine 701.738.4922 mthompson@bbiinternational.com THE LEADER IN BIOFUEL AND BIOCHEMICAL TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND PROCESS SOLUTIONS

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