FEW: Challenges and Possibilities

FROM THE AUGUST ISSUE: Presentations and trade show conversations at the 2017 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo centered around technology, policy barriers and hope for the future of the ethanol industry.
By Lisa Gibson | July 25, 2017

On a stage in front of a packed auditorium, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen acknowledged that the U.S. ethanol industry has some challenges to overcome in current policy structures. But he urged teamwork and perseverance, while expressing hope and positivity for timely changes such as the Reid vapor pressure waiver for E15.

Dinneen was the keynote speaker for the 33rd annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo, held June 19 to 22 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The event drew about 2,200 attendees, including more than 300 exhibitors. It was colocated with the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo.

“We know that the challenges before us are large,” Dinneen told his audience. “We also know that unless we’re working together, our chances for success are greatly reduced. You need to continue making the juice. You need to continue to work the way that you always have. You’re doing your job. We need Washington to do its job.”

The FEW kicked off with Ethanol 101, a day of presentations geared toward fresh faces in the ethanol industry, and ended with a tour of Poet Biorefining in Lake Crystal, Minnesota. In between, attendees took in panel discussions focused on production and operations, leadership and financial management, coproducts and product diversification, and infrastructure and market development, as well as NABCE’s biofuels-focused panels.

Exports were a hot topic throughout the event, made even more relevant by Mexico’s announcement days before that it would increase its ethanol blend allowance to 10 percent. On the heels of that news, a general session panelist participated in the discussion via Skype, live from Mexico City. It’s a $1.2 billion new market for ethanol, said Kristy Moore, principal with KMoore Consulting, before signing off to get back to work.

The 2017 FEW attracted more than 540 biofuel, ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and biochemical producers from around the globe, by far the highest figure since records have been kept. Here’s just a snapshot of all the excitement at this year’s show.