Energy, Enzymes and Eco-Friendly Efforts

FROM THE JULY ISSUE: Managing editor previews this issue of the magazine including features about energy efficiency-boosting methods for plants, energy efficiency improvement data, how far combined-heat-and-power applications have come and more.
By Lisa Gibson | June 25, 2018

“Efficiency” has long been a buzzword in the ethanol industry. But it’s vague enough that it can apply to multiple systems and components of production. In this issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine, we focus on efficiency as it relates to energy, emissions and yield. They’re all interwoven.

In our cover story, “Gallons Gained,” starting on page 20, we explore some of the most common energy efficiency-boosting measures plants can employ. They are an investment, but producers say the savings—both in natural gas and cash—and the hike in capacity are more than worth it. It comes down to numbers and dollar signs.

In light of the strong industry-wide efficiency push, one might ask: What are we gaining? Do figures show that the efforts and investments are making a clear impact on the industry as a whole? In the page-28 feature, “Proof of Improvement,” we tell you. Data do show ethanol production overall has increased yield per bushel, energy usage and natural gas usage in the past 10 to 14 years. In some cases, the numbers show significant improvement. With updated efficiency and strides in numerous areas, including life-cycle emissions, it remains crucial to implore government agencies—namely the U.S. EPA—to consider credible statistics that show substantially better progress than figures currently used to craft legislation. The proof is there. We just need ethanol outsiders to pay attention.

Our second focus in this issue is cellulosic ethanol, and we explore the topic in two feature articles. It can be difficult to get an accurate report of how many gallons are being produced, but some analysis of EPA data helps. In “Zero to 10 Million in 5 Years,” on page 36, freelancer (and retired former managing editor of EPM) Susanne Retka Schill pieces together a portrait of what the cellulosic sector looks like in gallons. It’s been slow to start, but looks to be showing signs of growth. And on page 42, “Sweet-Spot Search” looks at enzymes for cellulosic ethanol production, including efficacy gains and cost reductions.

Finally, we veer back to energy in the page-50 feature, “A Shift in Power.” Combined-heat-and-power applications are more attractive now than they were when the industry first ramped up, because of market changes and new technologies. Dryer exhaust recovery systems also are on the market, and wind power applications complete with utility partnerships are changing the power generation picture, too.

Topics under the cellulosic ethanol and energy efficiency umbrellas are vast. We had a sea of solid ideas when planning this issue, but with the help of our invaluable editorial board, we think we’ve chosen a few of the most interesting and relevant.

Author: Lisa Gibson
Managing Editor