EPA approves Green Plains Bluffton as 53rd efficient producer

By Susanne Retka Schill | March 31, 2016

Green Plains Bluffton LLC has achieved efficient producer status with a 21.2 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction compared to the baseline. The 120 MMgy plant in Indiana is the fourth Green Plains plant to apply for the U.S. EPA’s efficient producer petition program (EP3). The Green Plains plants in Atkinson, Nebraska, Ord, Nebraska, and Shenandoah, Iowa, were named to the list earlier.

The latest EP3 approval brings the total to 53 corn ethanol plants that have demonstrated their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are at least 20 percent lower than the baseline gasoline since November 2014. The EP3 status allows those plants to register and generate RINs (renewable identification numbers) for nongrandfathered ethanol from corn starch.

The renewable fuel standard (RFS) limited existing ethanol production to the volumes registered under the 2010 final rule, unless the ethanol producer could demonstrate GHG reductions of at least 20 percent. In 2010, the EPA’s life cycle emissions modeling found the industry average to be 16.8 percent. While the RFS established a procedure for plants to demonstrate better efficiency, it wasn’t until 2014, when the agency streamlined the petition process, that more than a handful of plants applied. Where previously it took months for the agency to review petitions, the Green Plains Bluffton approval letter indicates the petition was submitted Feb. 22 and approved less than a month later on March 16.

In the EP3 petitions, plants supply EPA with data on the bushels of corn processed, gallons of ethanol produced and the energy used in the process. Those figures are plugged into an EPA spreadsheet that calculates the upstream emissions from feedstock production and transportation, the process and downstream emissions from the fuel production and distribution and lifecycle emissions which include indirect land use modeling.

While efficient producers can expand production beyond the volume grandfathered in, they must document ongoing GHG reductions by collecting data on a daily basis that is used to calculate a rolling daily average GHG value using the EPA spreadsheet.

For the last article covering the EPA’s efficient producers list, and links to previous articles, click here. To view the completed pathway assessments on the EPA website, click here.