2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop opens in Minneapolis

By Susanne Retka Schill | June 01, 2015

About 2,000 ethanol industry representatives are gathering in Minneapolis for the 31st annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, opening Monday evening, June 1 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Billing itself as “The Place Where Producers Meet,” representatives from roughly 200 ethanol plants are meeting at the FEW to network with service and equipment providers and to attend educational workshops. Besides a solid representation from the U.S. and Canada, there were producers attending from operating and proposed ethanol facilities in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Mexico, Hungary and Thailand.

Ron Beemiller, CEO of WB Services, cut the ribbon to open the doors for the welcoming reception in the expo, after deferring to Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis. In his brief remarks, Buis was critical of the U.S. EPA’s proposed renewable volume obligations announced Friday, while praising USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement of a new round of infrastructure grants to expand the availability of higher ethanol blends. “If you see Secretary Vilsack, be sure to thank him. That was a bold move,” he said.

Tuesday’s keynote presentation by Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen is expected to focus on the EPA’s proposed RVOs and the potential impact on the ethanol industry, even as it is widely said that the uncertainty created by the long delay has already critically dampened investment in new technologies. Following Dinneen’s remarks, Brooke Coleman, executive director of the Advance Ethanol Council, will talk about the state of the advanced ethanol industry.

About 140 speakers in all will be making presentations at the general and breakout sessions in four concurrent tracks on Tuesday and Wednesday covering multiple topics on production and operations, leadership and financial management, coproducts and product diversification and cellulosic and advanced ethanol.

On Monday, the FEW was preceded by an all-day Ethanol 101 seminar. Most of the 60-some attendees have worked in the ethanol industry for two years or less. Presenters gave an overview of the ethanol industry from several angles, describing the process, workforce, capacity and ownership, coproducts, markets, new technologies, and advanced ethanol and biofuels.

The breakout sessions and expo for the FEW conclude on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday, a busload will be touring Poet Biorefining-Lake Crystal and stopping at Hennen’s Auto Service, a carrier of the Minnoco brand of midlevel ethanol blends.

The 2016 FEW is being planned for June 20-23 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.