FEW Technical Sessions Planner

With 30 panels—five at a time—at the world’s largest ethanol conference, attendees must pick their spots. This guide to FEW technical sessions appears in the May print edition of Ethanol Producer Magazine.
By Tim Portz and Tom Bryan | April 20, 2017

With a cache of new ethanol technologies rising against the backdrop of growing markets and brisk regulatory maneuvering, the industry prepares for the 33rd International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, June 19-22, in Minneapolis.

 The largest, longest-running ethanol event in the world is again colocated with the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo, bringing not just one, but all advanced biofuels under one tent for a big summer roundup. The paired events will share an exciting general session June 20—keynoted by Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen—before breaking into the equivalent of five tracks featuring 30 panels and 120 speakers at the Minneapolis Convention Center. 
As always, the FEW will be teeming with ethanol producers. More than a quarter of the show’s 2,000 attendees will be plant employees, executives or directors, making it the top educational and networking forum for plant personnel. True to form, the show will focus on solutions that improve ethanol production from grain and cellulosic feedstocks. This year’s technical tracks include: (Track 1) Production and Operations; (Track 2) Leadership and Financial Management; (Track 3) Coproducts and Product Diversification; and (Track 4) Infrastructure and Market Development; as well as the National Advanced Biofuels Conference, which includes two panels on cellulosic ethanol from corn fiber.
Here’s a look at each of the 30 breakout sessions unfolding at this year’s FEW and National Advanced Biofuels Conference.

1:30 pm | Tuesday, June 20
How to Get the Most out of the Lab Equipment that is Guiding Your Plant’s Operational Decisions

Ethanol plants rely upon the analysis of fermentation samples in their labs to guide production decisions, monitor yeast health and identify fusel compounds that may place a drag on fermentation. The challenge for producers is to ensure that their lab equipment is maintained, optimized and calibrated in such a way that it delivers maximum visibility of the compounds lab managers are most interested in measuring. This panel will examine the opportunity for lab teams to better align their instruments with their unique process nuances and production goals. Speakers: Mike Smith, Novozymes; Jim Mott, Shimadzu Scientific; Caleb Ogden, Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits; Nathan Anderson, Novozymes. 

3:30 pm | Tuesday, June 20
Harnessing the Industry’s Best Science on Yeast Health and the Factors that Impact It to Maximize Yield

Ethanol plant yield is tightly correlated to the level of yeast health a plant can not only attain, but also maintain. When yeast cannot access the nutrients they need to thrive and propagate, or are inhibited by bacterial contaminations, fermentation can slow or grind to an altogether profit-sapping halt. This panel will dive into the means available to producers to simultaneously maximize the nutrients available for their yeast populations, supplement those nutrients when necessary and protect yeast populations from bacterial contamination. Speakers: Jenny Forbes, Phibro Ethanol Performance Group; Dale Earls, Novozymes; Dennis Bayrock, Phibro Ethanol Performance Group.

3:30 pm | Tuesday, June 20
Utilizing Strategic Data Capture and Analysis to Improve Production Predictability, Optimize Yield and Grow Plant Profits

As the industry approaches the theoretical yield limits for ethanol production, incremental gains are becoming harder and harder to find. Increasing throughput now will require producers to capture, analyze and react to the massive amounts of production data available to them. The presentations that make up this panel promise to offer value to both producers looking to launch a robust data program and those who need to sense check one they have already deployed. Speakers: Rachel Burton, Novozymes; Ben Fuchs, DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Zac Bauer, Emerson Process Management; Brett Baker, ICM Inc. 

8:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
Ethanol’s Better Mousetrap: Developing New Yeast Strains as a Means to Increase Plant Yields

Because the value of even the smallest of gains delivered by new strains may ultimately be multiplied across billions of gallons of production, a strong effort persists to develop yeasts that yield more ethanol, require fewer nutrients and produce less low-value byproducts. Attendees who make a point of staying abreast of the latest in engineered yeasts will appreciate this annual update from the world’s leading developers of industrial yeasts and their thinking on the strain characteristics most beneficial for ethanol production. Speakers: Pauline Teunissen, DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Matt Richards, Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits; Kerry Hollands, DuPont Industrial Biosciences.  

8:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
How to Move Your Operation Toward a Proactive Approach to Asset Management and Plant Maintenance

In this era of record production, no producer can afford to have production slowed or even idled because of an unplanned outage. This, coupled with the fact that a sizeable number of plants are over a decade old, means that asset management and maintenance programs require the attention of plant management teams and boards. There is a way to proactively manage and complete required cleaning, maintenance and nondestructive testing and still attain production goals but it requires the kind of strategic planning outlined by the presenters in this panel. Speakers: Erica Montefusco; Green Plains Inc.; Dave Schneider, Novaspect; Bob Garstki, Lechler Inc.; Jay Beckel ERI Solutions Inc. 

10:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
The Liquefaction Waypoint: Analytical and Process Options Available to Producers Hoping to Avoid Common Yield Limiters During this Critical Production Step

Producers know that effectively cooking their corn flour slurry and making starches more available for enzymes to saccharify them is crucial to achieving their yield goals. This same process step continues to invite process tweaks and enhancements all aimed at greater access to simple sugars for yeast populations during fermentation. This panel will look at both novel thermal and enzymatic process enhancements available to producers who have identified an opportunity for increased yield in their liquefaction/saccharification step. Speakers: Loren Chen, East Tide Science & Technology; Martijn Scheffers, DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Matt Hawkins, Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits.

10:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
How Data can be Used by Ethanol Producers to Increase Yield, Optimize Required Maintenance, Manage Regulatory Burdens and Identify Top Operators

Producers are well-aware of the yield gains available to them using data capture and predictive control approaches. That said, finding the sweet spot where the delivered yield returns and production efficiencies are proportional to the investment to get them is complicated. Producers reluctant to gather and use data more extensively because they fear giving up control of plant operation to some nameless program will appreciate this panel’s focus on process control software as an enhancement to, and not a replacement for, skilled and intuitive human operators. Speakers: Andrea Foglesong, RTP Environmental Associates Inc.; Ed Thomas, Honeywell Process Solutions; Hank Brittain, OPX Control; Anne Chronic, Phibro Ethanol Performance Group. 

1:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
Cost-Effective Strategies Available to Reduce the Risk of Bacterial Contamination at Your Plant

Ethanol plants are forever walking the tightrope of creating an operating condition where some micro-organisms survive and thrive while others are kept entirely at bay. Management teams do have multiple options at their disposal including antibiotic and nonantibiotic measures. This panel will feature presentations from purveyors of both, but will also offer a more holistic view of microbial control including the implementation of a culture of plant hygiene that seeks to cost-effectively control bacterial outbreaks, regardless of the treatment pathway a plant intends to deploy. Speakers: Dennis Bayrock, Phibro Ethanol Performance Group; Allen Ziegler, Archangel LLC; Tera Stoughtenger, Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits; Stacey Campbell, BetaTec Hop Products.  

1:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
Engineering and Technological Approaches Available to Plant Teams Looking to Debottleneck Their Facility and Make the Most of the Production Asset They Already Have

Most ethanol plants have been operating for a decade or longer and have been working to debottleneck production since the plant was commissioned. As a result, wringing additional yield out of mature plants is becoming more and more difficult. Nevertheless, plant teams that manage to boost throughput with minimal capital expenditures are rewarded with the lowest-cost production increases they could hope to find. This panel will investigate the potential that both engineering audits and new technologies have to get the very last drop of product out of existing plants. Speakers: Neal Jakel, Fluid Quip Process Technologies LLC; George Baskin, Burns & Mc Donnell; Trond Heggenhougen, Whitefox Technologies Ltd.; Mayumi Kiyono, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings America Inc.

3:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
The Startling New Science on How Biofilms Can Negatively Impact Your Plant and How to Get Them Under Control

Ethanol producers have been working to control biofilm formation within their facilities and limit their negative impact on yield since the industry began. With the advent of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, the number of arrows in a management team’s biofilm control quiver has been reduced. Presentations in this panel will outline the best path forward for biofilm control within the context of FSMA regulations, as well as the efficiency gains available to those producers looking to aggressively attack this ongoing production bottleneck. Speakers: Andrew Ledlie, Solenis LLC; Kim Lukanich, U.S. Water; Greg Hoffpauir, GE Water & Process Technologies; Wayne Mattsfield, Phibro Ethanol Performance Group.

1:30 pm | Tuesday, June 20
Training Strategies that Ask and Receive More from Ethanol Plant Employees   
A well-trained workforce is an ethanol plant’s top asset, but some producers still struggle to produce cultures that reward learning and demand uniformity. Find out how to tap into progressive training systems that yield plant-wide benefits, from lab to load out. Speakers on this panel will explain procedural development—grafting personnel with a deep knowledge of how and why things are done—how training and reliability strategies can be linked, and why sharing select financial information with employees can boost plant profitability. Speakers: Wade Rummel, Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits; Jason Shannon, GP Strategies Corp.; Ron Faciane, K-Coe Isom.

3:30 pm |Tuesday, June 20
Spending Money to Make Money: Finding Capital and Gauging the Payback on New Technologies

Today’s uncertain regulatory landscape shrouds the usual bullet list of items ethanol producers consider when evaluating ROI on new technologies. Big capital expenditure decisions have always been—and still are—based on cash flows, lending, permitting and payback. But, for some, perceived regulatory impermanence now clouds the numbers. On this panel, speakers will explain how to build a great capital projects team, evaluate the short- and long-term impacts of plant upgrades within the confines of regulatory permitting, and move projects forward on time and on budget.

Speakers: Matt Haakenstad, U.S. Energy Services Inc.; Justin Mentele, K-Coe Isom; Adam Anderson, ICM Inc.; Ron Pagel, Power Engineers.

8:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
How Successful Ethanol Plant Boards Predict and Adjust for the Future
Ethanol plant board members are often asked the impossible: to predict the future. Reacting in real time is no longer ample. Directors have to anticipate almost everything: regulations, tax reform, markets and trade. Making accurate predictions requires organizational intelligence. Acting on predictions requires agility. In this session, you’ll learn how to leverage new ways of thinking about management, positioning your business for success as you adopt better strategies to buy, produce, sell, hire and lead. Panelists will discuss the merits of proactive management, great leadership, and improved financial reporting. Speakers: Donna Funk, K-Coe Isom; Scott McDermott, Ascendant Partners Inc.; Connie Lindstrom, Christianson & Associates PLLP.

10:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
Preparing for New and Indefinite Policy, Regulatory and Tax Code Modifications 

As the Trump administration makes good on its pledge to reverse certain Obama-era environmental regulations, the ethanol industry is scrambling to keep up and influence outcomes where it can. This panel will serve as a summary of new and changing federal regulations that affect ethanol plants. Speakers will explain updates to the RFS—the REGS rule, in particular—and the potential impacts of proposed tax code changes. Attendees will also be briefed on the EPA’s tightened sulfur limits, which will require producers to maintain tighter control of sulfur in their fuel. Speakers: Jessica Karras-Bailey, RTP Environmental Associates Inc.; Donna Funk, K-Coe Isom; Monty McCoy, U.S. Water; Ernie Pollitzer, Clean Energy Consultants.

1:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
Protecting Ethanol Plants From Incidents Before and After They Occur

While ethanol plants are safe workplaces, no industrial facility is immune to the risk of incidents, including employee injury, property damage, fire and accidental environmental release. This session will include a detailed review of a decade of data on ethanol plant incidents, providing context for the associated risks of mishaps. Speakers will also discuss tank fire mitigation solutions, how ethanol plants can build money-saving relationships with their insurance providers, and effective plans for managing media relations, if and when spills, accidents and emergencies happen. Speakers: Nathan VanderGriend, ERI Solutions Inc.; Erica Montefusco, Green Plains Inc.; Henry Persson, SP Fire Technology; Daniel Deboer, ERI Solutions Inc.    

3:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
Expanding Your Risk Management Playlist with New and Alternative Tracks  

Beyond managing margins on inputs and outputs, today’s ethanol producers must incorporate all manner of potential regulatory exposures into their book of risk stratagem. On this panel, speakers will explain how and why specific risk measures are taken, while others are avoided, to stay profitable and secure new financial opportunities when they arise. Panelists will also discuss interrelated policy, trade and commodity dynamics that could impact future crush margins, as well as ancillary risk management activities like safeguarding ethanol plants and equipping them with solar as a green energy hedge. Speakers: Chip Whalen, Commodity & Ingredient Hedging LLC; Will Babler, Atten Babler Risk Management LLC; Jay Beckel, ERI Solutions; Nicholas Franco, U.S. Energy Services Inc. 

1:30 pm | Tuesday, June 20
Each to Their Own: The Argument for Isolating Individual Components of a Corn Kernel to Increase Ethanol and Coproduct Yield

As the ethanol industry continues to mature, increasing attention is being paid to maximizing the revenue potential of inbound corn. Ethanol plants have moved well-beyond simply producing ethanol and a distillers feed coproduct and the drive to increase the overall value of the ethanol product suite continues. This panel will look at the impact component separation technologies have on plant yield and feed coproduct quality all while keeping an eye on the requirements for their operation laid out in the Food Safety Modernization Act. Speakers: Michael Reiger, Cereal Process Technologies; Jeremy Javers, ICM Inc.; George Bolton, Harvesting Technology LLC; Jesse Spooner, ICM Inc.

8:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
The Continuing Innovation in Corn Oil Extraction and Conversion and How to Make the Most of It at Your Plant

While the practice of corn-oil extraction has become common across the ethanol industry, each plant’s extraction efficiency remains unique. This panel will begin with an analysis of the factors that impact corn oil extraction rates before moving on to an investigation of the technologies and process approaches available to move producers beyond their current rate of capture. The discussion will conclude with a close look at a bolt-on technology available for producers looking to put these increased corn oil streams to work while also diversifying their final product mix. Speakers: Speakers: Min Wang, Croda Inc.; Jennifer Aurandt, Valicor Inc.; Virginia Klausmeier, Sylvatex Inc. 

1:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
Beyond Distillers I: A Look at the Innovative Ways Ethanol's Number One Coproduct is Being Reimagined to Deliver More Overall Value

Producers not satisfied with the market conditions or price trends for distillers grains will appreciate this panel’s focus on production approaches that promise to open markets that so far have eluded the industry. In particular, presentations will draw a dotted line between the protein that already exists in plant coproduct streams and the sizeable aquaculture market. In another presentation, a field study examining the possibility of using distillers coproduct streams as an alternative source of phosphorous fertilizer will be presented. Speakers: Maura Warner, KnipBio; Jasper Teboh, North Dakota State University; Peter Williams, Fluid Quip Process Technologies LLC; Bryan Tracy, White Dog Labs.  

3:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
Pathways Available to Producers Looking to Get Their Coproduct Program Out of the Commodity Trap and Into Value-Add

Ethanol producers manufacture over 40 million tons of distillers grains per year. The associated revenues from this product often propel plant balance sheets into the black. Still, DDGS has become a globally traded commodity that has faced recent downward price pressure. For that reason, the science of producing distillers grains rich in the compounds that contribute significantly to animal health is advancing rapidly. This panel will explore the pathways available to producers today, as well as those still under development, that hold exciting promise. Speakers: Ryan Mass, ICM Inc.; Douglas Tiffany, University of Minnesota; Scott Kohl, White Energy; Charles Hurburgh, Iowa State University.

1:30 pm | Tuesday, June 20
Home Cooking: Why the Fuel Market in Your Own Backyard Deserves Your Attention and Effort
Whether through direct selling or working with local retailers, producers are showing an increasing appetite to interact more directly with local fuel buyers. This how-to panel will walk attendees through the process with a focus on business planning, regulatory challenges and the different business models currently being pursued by other producers. Using a recently released Renewable Fuels Association guidebook as its principal source, this panel is a must for plant management teams considering a move into local markets. Speakers: Robert White, Renewable Fuels Association; additional speakers TBA.

3:30 pm | Tuesday, June 20
Game Changers: Disrupting the Establishment as a Means to Move Higher Blends of Ethanol

This panel promises to turn the conventional thinking about expanding the market opportunity for ethanol on its head. Panelists will ask if it is time to abandon the thinking that the industry growth from here forward will advance slowly and incrementally, or if a different approach might once again usher in a new era of rapid market expansion. The discussion will focus on how the industry can leverage ethanol’s clean, high-octane values with consumers and auto manufacturers to create the kind of demand that will help the industry grow to the size and scope prescribed in the RFS. Speakers: Trevor Klein, Future Fuels Strategies; Adam Gustafson, Boyden Gray & Associates; Alec Hohnadell, Formula Drift Circuit Racer.

10:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
The Impact of Foreign Markets on U.S. Ethanol Production and the Efforts to Find and Grow New Ones

Export markets currently consume less than 10 percent of annual production, but many industry stakeholders see these markets as the best opportunity for near-term growth. Establishing an interest for ethanol in these new destinations requires a thorough understanding of the energy and public health goals of each potential marketplace. This panel will examine where ethanol has already won market share, where the industry is most actively working to win new opportunities and which value propositions are finding the most traction with foreign buyers. Speakers: Jim Miller, Growth Energy; Mike Dwyer, U.S. Grains Council; Fahran Robb, USDA; Sophie Byron, Platts.

3:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
Strategies to Ensure Domestic and Foreign Fuel Specification Requirements Don’t Limit Marketplace Access for Ethanol

The struggle to introduce and grow demand for E15 serves as a perfect case study for the drag that fuel specifications and ill-conceived regulation can place on market growth. In the absence of an RVP waiver, E15 remains a seasonal fuel that has retailers hesitant to introduce it to their customers. Similar and even more vexing challenges face the industry as it seeks to open and expand new export markets. International fuel specifications matter and producers are wise to understand the subtle differences in specifications and testing while folding them into their QA protocols. Speakers: Shon Van Hulzen, Poet; Kristy Moore, KMoore Consulting; Chris Bliley, Growth Energy.

1:30 pm | Tuesday, June 20
The Future is Fiber I: The Argument for Converting Material Our Plants Already Handle into the Cellulosic Gallons the RFS is Calling For

It is hard to argue against corn fiber being the most logical feedstock for a practicable, near-term cellulosic ethanol production build-out. This material is already handled at significant scale and delivered to ethanol plant gates on a daily basis. The feedstock supply chain piece of the puzzle is already in place. What remains are cost-effective approaches to isolate this fiber, saccharify its bound up carbohydrates and ferment them into ethanol. This panel will kick off a two-session exploration of the cellulosic feedstock everyone is talking about. Speakers: Michael Franko, Fluid Quip Process Technologies LLC; James Ramm, EcoEngineers; Marina Chow, DuPont Industrial Biosciences.

3:30 pm | Tuesday, June 20
The Future is Fiber II: Why Corn Fiber is the Best Platform Upon Which to Build the Industry’s Next Great Era

In this second session on corn fiber, the discussion will move on to conversion approaches for this feedstock that couldn’t be more compositionally different than corn starch. The sugars in corn fiber are tightly bound up and the developers of fiber conversion technologies will present their approaches to making these sugars more available to the waiting yeast colonies downstream. The race to crack the fiber code is on and this session will give producers a front row seat to the home stretch. Speakers: Marina Chow, DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Mark Yancey, D3MAX LLC; Kurt Creamer, Novozymes North America. 

8:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
The Compelling Argument for Carbon Reduction or Capture Strategies at Ethanol or Biodiesel Plants

Markets that reward low-carbon fuels are already here and forecast to grow worldwide as countries work to drive down the carbon intensity of their economies. Conventional biofuels already offer a lower carbon profile when compared to their fossil fuel equivalents, but technologies do exist to substantially increase those reductions. This panel will look closely at carbon capture or reduction approaches available now and under development, while also asking whether existing marketplace premiums are able to justify their cost. Speakers: Brendan Jordan, Great Plains Institute; Sai Gollakota, U.S. DOE; Daniel Sanchez, Carnegie Institution for Science; Troy Shoen, Renewable Energy Group.

10:30 am | Wednesday, June 21
Examining the Advanced Biofuels Market Through the Lens of RIN Production and RIN Markets

The production of advanced biofuels RINs and the marketplace for those RINs is a crucial piece of the economics of any advanced biofuel production venture. Presenters in this panel will explore the relationship between RIN prices, volumetric production requirements and RIN waivers, and what it means for producers considering an advanced biofuel investment. This panel is a must for any producer looking to bring clarity to their return-on-investment calculations for efficient production or advanced biofuel investments. Speakers: Larry Schafer, Playmaker Strategies LLC; Ashley Player, Weaver and Tidwell LLP; Lily Wachter, Edeniq Inc. 

1:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
Innovations in Biodiesel Processing, Quality Testing and Products

In the cutting-edge world of biomass-based diesel technology and processing, new industrial techniques are continuously developing to keep up with demand for lower-cost biodiesel production, tighter quality specs, and broader options in biofuels and chemicals. This panel will feature several experts in the field who will cover the spectrum of this growing industry’s most recent developments, including a new approach to phase separation, testing as related to improving consistency of fuel quality and performance, novel products development, and an emerging renewable diesel process. Speakers: Kurt Holecek, Energia Tech; Richard Heiden, R.W. Heiden Associates LLC; Atul Deshmane, Whole Energy Fuels Corp.; Bernadette Burkus, Axens.

3:30 pm | Wednesday, June 21
Imagining Your Plant’s Future in Advanced Biofuels Production and the Technologies Available Now to Get You There

Established biofuel production facilities with a history of success and healthy cash flows offer a compelling opportunity for the developers of bolt-on technologies. Similarly, bolt-on technologies offer existing facilities a capital-light pathway to new markets that may provide a healthier margin than the markets they are selling into now. Representatives of emerging, bolt-on technologies working to prove the economic viability of their processes will present their business cases to producers ready to make advanced biofuels production a piece of their operating strategy. Speakers: Mark Fashian, Biodiesel Analytical Solutions; Neal Jakel, Fluid Quip Process Technologies LLC; Jayant Godbole, Praj Industries Ltd.; James Kacmar, Edeniq.