FEW: Bigger and Better Than Ever in its 32nd Year

The FEW, sponsored by Ethanol Producer Magazine and produced by BBI International, will be held in the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee June 20-23. Nearly 25 percent of the 2,000 expected attendees will be ethanol producers.
By Ann Bailey | April 07, 2016

It seems only fitting that the 32nd annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop and Expo will be held in Milwaukee’s Wisconsin Center, a building that boasts some of the world’s most attractive architecture and newest technology. After all, the event is sponsored by an industry that prides itself on using the latest technology to preserve the beauty of the environment by reducing carbon footprints across the globe.

The FEW, sponsored by Ethanol Producer Magazine and produced by BBI International, will be held in the Wisconsin Center in downtown Milwaukee June 20-23. Ethanol industry professionals from across the United States and around the world are expected to gather for the event that draws 2,000 men and women. Nearly 25 percent of the attendees will be ethanol producers who typically represent about 85 percent of U.S. production capacity. Forty-one states, Canada’s seven provinces and 33 countries were represented last year at the FEW, the largest and longest running ethanol event in the world. The United States’ robust ethanol industry annually produces about 15 billion gallons valued at $44 billion.

This year will be the largest gathering of biofuel professionals and producers in 2016 with the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo being colocated with the FEW. Targeted at industry professionals producing, deploying and developing advanced biofuels, the advanced biofuels conference will cover cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules. All attendees of the FEW can attend the advanced biofuels tracks.

Another change this year is that cellulosic and advanced ethanol panels, which in years past had been the fourth track of the FEW, will be part of the advanced biofuels conference. In its place, the fourth track of the FEW will cover infrastructure and market development, two issues that are critical for the industry to realize the vision of 36 billion gallons in the renewable fuel standard.

The ethanol industry’s growth is predicated upon its ability to open market pathways, and then leverage them in a way that will increase market share and move more gallons. In the new FEW track, infrastructure and market development panels will be made up of industry professionals who work on this important job. It will feature presentations on the state of flex-fuel vehicles, midlevel blends and the practicality of E85 as a way to achieve near-term market growth.

A Sample of Panels
Among the many presenters, Mike O’Brien, vice president of market development at Growth Energy, will discuss “Growing the Market: 10 million gallons of Potential” during the “Our Next Step” in the Infrastructure and Market Development track.

Prime the Pump, a collective industry effort to bring E15 into the marketplace, targets 20 top chains that represent more than 60,000 retail outlets. More than 200 locations in 23 states already sell E15 and, this year, 700 stores are prepared to launch the biofuel, says O’Brien. Initial sales average 12 to 15 percent at a given retail site. Retailers on this panel will talk about the competitive advantage E15 brings to their businesses and the choice it provides for their customers who are fueling up their vehicles.

While the Infrastructure and Market Development track is new this year to the FEW, the other three tracks—Production and Operation, Leadership and Financial Management and Coproducts and Product Diversification—remain the same, featuring presentations on a wide variety of topics.

The Production and Operations track, as the title implies, is aimed at industry professionals and focuses on plant optimization, process control, advanced maintenance, compliance, quality control, safety and other areas of facility operations. Category topics include yield management, environmental and regulatory compliance and maintenance.

A new face among presenters in the Productions and Operations track, Paul Cook, vice president, Painters USA Inc., will speak on “Protecting Your Infrastructure, the Capital Investment in Your Facility, and Compliance in the Ethanol Industry.” If not managed properly, the damaging effects of corrosion and environmental wear on steel and concrete surfaces can have a major financial and operations impact on ethanol facilities. Using the right coatings and preparation processes lead to long-term savings in maintenance budgets and lengthen the life cycle of capital investments of ethanol producers, he says in his abstract. It is always more cost-effective to maintain tanks, pipe and piping racks, concrete and other exterior structures than to replace ones that have eroded.

Cook’s presentation will explain how protecting a plant’s infrastructure from moisture and contaminants is vital to operational efficiency and look at how the immediate impact of a proper maintenance program has a financial and practical purpose. A maintenance program also adds to the overall safety of an ethanol plant, its employees and its surrounding community.

Paula Emberland, of ERI Solutions Inc., will join Cook in the panel looking at proactive measures for aging facilities. In her presentation, “Understanding Biointegrity,” she will discuss the importance of a comprehensive mechanical integrity program for an ethanol plant that will help the facility to ensure regulatory compliance, continued plant efficiency and reduced maintenance at plants as they age. The presentation will identify how ethanol plants, many of which are approaching 10 years old, can utilize a mechanical integrity program to identify asset deterioration that results from daily operations and environmental conditions. The presentation will include information about ways in which internal inspections, infrared and thermal testing and other nondestructive testing can be used to determine if there is an issue before having to deal with an unplanned shutdown or operational instruction.

The FEW’s Leadership and Financial Management track is designed for ethanol industry executives, board members, directors and top-tier facility managers who oversee finance and management, with presentations on topics like workplace trends, hiring practices and risk management.

Conference attendees responsible for producing or marketing distillers grains and plant executives exploring product diversification strategies such as fractionation and corn oil extraction will want to attend FEW’s Coproducts and Product Diversification track. The track will include a cross-section of issues from production technology to international trade.  Commodities managers, risk managers, distillers grain merchandisers, lab managers, researchers and animal nutritionists will want to hear about topics including production trends, drying technology and enhanced separation technologies.

Those are just a handful of about a hundred speakers who will give a variety of presentations in the four FEW tracks. The National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo, meanwhile, will feature about 50 additional speakers.

Besides the informational sessions at the FEW, attendees will have an opportunity to network outside of the Wisconsin Center. The annual FEW golf tournament will begin at 8 a.m., Monday, June 20, with a shotgun start. The tournament will be held at Brown Deer Golf Course, a classic design, 18-hole facility with bent grass fairways, tees and greens that has hosted an annual PGA tour event, USDA national championships and now hosts the PHC Classic, a Symetra Tour event.

At the free Wednesday evening event on June 22, FEW attendees will have an opportunity to tour the Harley Davidson Museum, one of Milwaukee’s top tourist destinations. More than 450 motorcycles and artifacts, dating back to Serial No. 1, the oldest known Harley Davidson, are housed on the 20-acre museum campus along Milwaukee’s river front.

Tours and one-day seminars bookending the event are still under development. Watch for more details on www.fuelethanolworkshop.com.

Author: Ann Bailey
Associate Editor, Ethanol Producer Magazine